American Airlines cutting flights as summer season starts

DALLAS — American Airlines will cut hundreds of flights over the next three weeks to avoid overloading its operation as demand for summer air travel rises faster than once expected.

Spokeswoman Sarah Jantz said Tuesday that the cuts could average 50 to 60 flights a day the rest of June and between 50 and 80 a day in the first half of July. That is potentially more than 1% of its schedule.

On Tuesday, the airline had scrubbed 130 flights and more than 200 others were delayed by afternoon Central time, according to tracking service FlightAware.

Jantz said the cuts are “building in additional resilience and certainty to our operation.” She said American is making the most cuts on routes where it has multiple flights to provide backup options for rebooking passengers on other planes.

Leisure travel is picking up as more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and states continue to ease travel restrictions. More than 2 million travelers passed through airport security checkpoints Sunday and again Monday, with Sunday’s crowds marking the highest number in 15 months, although still below 2019 levels.

American and other U.S. airlines have been barred from furloughing workers during the pandemic as a condition of billions they received in federal aid to help cover payrolls. However, American encouraged thousands of workers to quit or retire and now finds itself with a smaller staff as travel demand approaches pre-pandemic levels.

Jantz said American has employees on reserve, but bad weather at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina can cause crews to exceed federal limits on how long they can work. She said the airline is also affected by labor shortages at vendors that provide catering drivers and people who push wheelchairs.

The cutbacks come after American moved aggressively to restore service that was cut during the pandemic. American had scheduled around 5,800 flights a day through July, about 87% of its schedule for the same period in 2019, according to data from aviation researcher Cirium.

The airline industry’s difficulties this month haven’t been limited to American, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas. Last week, technology problems caused Dallas-based Southwest Airlines to delay several thousand flights and cancel hundreds more. More than 400 Southwest flights were running behind on Tuesday, according to FlightAware.