American Airlines cancelled 3% of its flights on Sunday, and about 2% already today. Cancellations appear to continue, and I’d guess will last through the end of the month until we hit the airline’s planned 1% pulldown of capacity for the first half of July.
If you’re flying a Boeing 737 especially this hits you hardest, since that’s the fleet type that’s been hardest hit by pilot shortages.
The good news is that in cancelling flights in advance customers can get rebooked, they aren’t dealing with as many changes at the airport. The bad news is that flights are already fairly full, so rebooking options aren’t ideal in most cases.
Since the planned 1% pulldown of scheduled flights runs only into the first half of July, presumably American expects the current situation to resolve itself by then (as they continue to qualify more pilots). However it’s hardly the only operational strain they’re facing.
DFW is out of control with no manpower and infrastructure issues. Hundreds of agents and rampers have been hired over the last few months but many have already quit….too much work and abuse from passengers and too hot on the ramp. They can make more at Buc-ee’s and be in the air condition[ing].
The problem now is there isn’t that many business travelers mostly all VFR and family vacations and with that comes far more baggage than before along with more domestic widebodies which eat up too much manpower due to the massive amount of connecting baggage coming off them. Too many passengers arriving in the morning and their connecting flight doesn’t leave for 3 or 4 hours…no room to store all those hundreds of bags. The bagroom belts can’t keep up and the systems are always jammed up or shutting down.
People are checking in for their mainline flights at the Envoy ticket counters at the E and B terminals due to shorter TSA lines, but Envoy isn’t staffed to handle hundreds of bags that need to be taken over to A..C..and D. Many other manning issues due to LUS managers trying to run DFW like it’s a[n] America West spoke station.
Staffing is a major issue for American, as it is for other carriers too. And remember that Delta had mass cancellations over the last several holiday periods as they ramped up schedules without the crew needed to operate that schedule.
Among more junior and lower-paid employees, airline employers have the same challenges Chipotle has in finding workers, as workforce participation rates haven’t gone up materially in a year even as demand for workers has returned. That’s expected by many to work itself out by fall as pandemic unemployment rolls off and schools re-open.
However the pilot shortage is more complicated, but still a mess of each airline’s making. American retired several fleet types (Embraer E-190s, Boeing 757s and 767s, Airbus A330s). Pilots of those aircraft types move over to other aircraft. Senior pilots moving over bump junior pilots, who need to qualify on a new aircraft. Plus pilots who weren’t flying weren’t kept current – despite billions of federal dollars specifically meant to keep everyone ready to fly. The airline didn’t spend money going full force on qualifications in advance of consumer demand, and they got caught flat-footed.