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American Airlines Reduces Flight Cancellations But Staffing Challenges Continue to Disrupt Travel

American Airlines plane
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
  • More than 136,000 customers were affected by the disruptions on Sunday, according to a company tally.
  • A lack of available crew was listed as the reason for most of the cancellations, tallies from American Airlines showed.

American Airlines on Monday canceled more than 460 flights, or 16% of its mainline schedule, as the carrier scrambled to stabilize its operation after reporting staffing shortages that led to travel disruptions for tens of thousands of people over the weekend.

The Fort Worth-based airline canceled more than 2,300 mainline flights since Friday, blaming the issues on high winds on Thursday and a shortfall of crews. On Sunday alone, it canceled more than 1,000 flights, or 30% of its operation, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware. That affected more than 136,000 customers, according to a company document, which was viewed by CNBC.

A lack of available crew was listed as the reason for most of the cancellations, tallies from American Airlines showed.

The union that represents American's flight attendants over the weekend said it received an "alarming number" of cabin crew assignments that go beyond monthly maximums.

"The fact that there is inadequate staffing to cover the operation as it is currently structured is not the fault of Flight Attendants," the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said in a note to members on Saturday.

The airline didn't provide additional comments. The carrier's Tuesday schedule appeared closer to normal, with just 28 flights canceled, or 1% of the mainline trips scheduled, according to FlightAware.

American's is the latest major disruption to hit air travelers over the last few months as airlines struggle to cater to growing travel demand after urging thousands of workers to take buyouts or leaves of absence during the depths of the pandemic last year.

Staffing shortages have made it difficult for airlines to recover from routine issues like bad weather. At the same time, many airlines ramped up schedules to capitalize on a surge in travel demand.

Southwest Airlines said flight cancellations earlier this month cost it $75 million and forced it to cut its remaining 2021 schedule for a second time so it can avoid further strains. Spirit Airlines had similar issues over the summer that cost it about $50 million, according to the company.

Southwest, Spirit and American have each trimmed their schedules after flight disruptions.

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