American Airlines Eyes ‘Continued Improvement’ As Cancellations Continue

AA planes at DFW
Credit: Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

American Airlines is anticipating “continued operation improvement” on Nov. 2 after cancellations blamed on weather and cascading effects of out-of-place flight and cabin crew peaked at more 1,000 flights on Oct. 31, the airline said. 

The Fort Worth-based airline said it cancelled 2,433 flights from Oct. 29-Nov. 1, or about 11% of its total schedule. After peaking at 1,060 cancellations Oct. 31, the airline said it scrubbed 482 flights Nov. 1. 

Executives pointed to two days of high winds at the airline’s massive Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport hub as the catalyst for the disruptions. The weather cut the airport’s arrival capacity by more than half, forcing cancellations and leaving the airline particularly susceptible to irregular operations elsewhere. American reacted by canceling even more flights to help re-set its operation. 

“We have adjusted our operation for the last few days this month by proactively canceling some flights,” COO David Seymour said in an Oct. 30 note to employees. 

American said help in the form of new staff members is on the way. Some 1,800 flight attendants on leave started to return Nov. 1, and the airline said it will hire 4,000 total staffers by year end. 

The disruptions come on the heels of what was the airline’s most reliable September since its merger with US Airways “based on completion factor, on-time departures and on-time arrivals,” American Airlines President Robert Isom said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call Oct. 21. Executives expressed little concern that staffing issues would contribute to operational problems, as they did when weather hit DFW in early August

“We have done a tremendous job of making sure that we’re set to fire our schedules,” Isom said on the call. “The schedule we’re going to fly around the holidays is actually larger than what we had flown during the summer. All we’ve done since that time has been able to add more resources to make sure our partners are better positioned and that we’re better equipped to handle whatever may come our way.” 

CFO Derek Kerr added that the hiring American is doing now “is for summer of” 2022. 

“We’re very confident having enough resources to run [U.S.] Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Kerr added. “We already have those people onboard.” 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.