Hundreds of flights were canceled by American Airlines over the weekend due to a shortage of staff, followed by bad weather conditions. As a result, many passengers were unable to reach their destinations on time. On Friday, the airline canceled 376 flights, followed by 551 cancelations on Saturday and 480 cancelations on Sunday.
In a memo to employees written on Saturday, American Airlines Chief Operating Officer David Seymour stated that the weekend would be challenging. “With additional weather throughout the system, our staffing begins to run tight as crew members end up out of their regular flight sequences,” Seymour wrote. He added that most customers who had their flights canceled were rebooked the same day.
According to internal airline figures seen by The Wall Street Journal, much of the flight cancelations were due to the lack of crew members, specifically flight attendants. Paul Hartshorn Jr., a spokesman for the American Airlines flight attendants union, said that the staffing situation remains strained. For many months, flight attendants have been complaining about difficulties finding transportation and hotels, last-minute schedule changes, and several other challenges.
In the memo, Seymour stated that the company will be hiring more flight attendants ahead of the upcoming holiday season. 1,800 flight attendants are expected to return from leave, while over 600 new flight attendants will be joining the company by December.
In addition, the airline will also be adding more airport workers, pilots, mechanics, reservation agents, and other workers. The flight cancelations were not well-received by many customers, including longtime customers of American Airlines.
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“The whole weather thing irritates me because that’s how they get out of financial responsibility. I feel sorry for the folks who are stuck some place and (American) won’t give them a hotel voucher… It’s clear to me they have got staffing issues,” Craig Beam, who works in real estate for health care companies, said to AP.
Dakota Staren from Washington D.C. was on her way to the airport when she learned that her flight to Phoenix was canceled just 90 minutes before departure. Her efforts to rebook on the American Airlines app and via phone were unsuccessful. Due to the flight cancelation, she ended up missing a funeral. “I was on hold for an hour and a half with no avail,” Staren said to NPR.
American Airlines is not the only company struggling to maintain smooth operations. In August, Spirit Airlines canceled around 2,000 flights due to scheduling issues. That same month, American Airlines also canceled hundreds of flights.
In early October, Southwest Airlines canceled around 1,800 flights. The cancelations, which cost the airline 75 million dollars, were blamed on staff shortages, air traffic control issues, and bad weather. The company had announced lightening its 2021 schedule to prevent more disruptions.