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American Airlines Operational Meltdown Getting Worse

by Gary Leff on June 20, 2021

On Saturday morning I was first to cover the ongoing issue American Airlines is having mass-cancelling flights. They logged about 125 cancellations on Saturday after a big cancel day on Friday. That’s about five times as many flight cancellations as United Airlines and Delta combined.

Today is worse than yesterday with 176 cancels already. That’s nearly 50% more than Saturday. And there are already about 100 cancels on the books for Monday.

The issue centers around Boeing 737 aircraft, and the internal reason listed for the cancels is mostly “FLIGHT CREW UNAVAILABLE.” That’s even commonly the case for ‘right start’ flights which receive a special emphasis from American – first flights of the day where if those delay or cancel there are knock-on effects throughout the schedule.

American Airlines is normally prompt with a response or statement, but more than 24 hours after being asked about their mass cancellation of flights they’ve yet to respond. The airline has said they needed to hire more pilots for fall but it appears that the issue here is a lack of 737 pilots available to operate their current schedule. As of about a week ago only half their inactive pilots had received the 5 day course (2 days in class, 3 days in simulator) needed to requalify for flying duty.

One 737 pilot who told me, “we’re incredibly short staffed” reports that,

Crew Scheduling has been offering premium pay like candy. For us, premium pay is essentially extra work paid at 150% of our hourly rate, all in addition to our monthly guarantee. We have an app that allows us to request trips at premium pay on our off days.

Nonetheless American hasn’t been able to adequately crew its 737 trips. Until we know more about when this situation will be resolved, it would seem advisable to stick to Airbus equipment and regional flights for domestic travel on American if possible.