American Airlines put a pin in the dreams of hundreds of would-be travelers across the United States over the weekend after they canceled over 300 flights. A main reason for the cancellations seems to be the fact that the airline is facing a company-wide staffing shortage, a problem that was exacerbated this weekend due to maintenance and other issues, inclement weather in Texas and North Carolina, and the sudden increase in the number of people traveling again.
Ultimately, 123 flights, which equates to four percent of American Airlines’ total flights, were canceled on Saturday, and 180 flights, or three percent of total flights, were canceled on Sunday, according to CNBC. A lack of flight crews is reported to have contributed to those specific cancellations. As a result of the ongoing setbacks, American Airlines announced that they will continue to cancel flights through mid-July. Spokesperson Shannon Gilson notes that those cancellations will equal at least 50 to 80 cancellations a day.
"The first few weeks of June have brought unprecedented weather to our largest hubs [Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport], heavily impacting our operation and causing delays, canceled flights, and disruptions to crew member schedules and our customers' plans," Gilson told CNN on Sunday. "That, combined with the labor shortages some of our vendors are contending with and the incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand, has led us to build in additional resilience and certainty to our operation by adjusting a fraction of our scheduled flying through mid-July."
Like other industries impacted by the pandemic, American Airlines furloughed many of its pilots last year, according to CNBC. Sarah Jantz, another spokesperson for the company, told the outlet that they are retraining both the pilots and the aviators who have returned to work as a part of their regularly scheduled training to get them back in the cockpit.
The airline has already notified or will soon notify customers booked on American Airlines' flights through July 15 about any cancellations, so they have enough time to change their travel plans, according to Gilson.
As the number of adults who are vaccinated continues to increase throughout the U.S. — officially up to 50%, according to President Joe Biden in May — the desire to indulge in pre-COVID activities is stronger than ever. As multiple states lift restrictions at restaurants, gyms, and entertainment hubs like movie theaters, concert venues and sports stadiums, people now want to jump on a plane and take the trips they postponed in 2020. For certain American Airlines customers, however, they’ll have to wait just a little bit longer.
In a statement sent to Refinery29, an American Airlines spokesperson said: “Our focus this summer — and always — is on delivering for our customers no matter the circumstance. We never want to disappoint, and feel these schedule adjustments will help ensure we can take good care of our customers and team members and minimize surprises at the airport.”