American Airlines said on Sunday it had canceled more than 1,600 flights over three days, citing blustery conditions in Texas and a shortage of flight attendants.
The disruptions were similar in initial cause and size to problems suffered in early October by Southwest Airlines, raising questions about whether major airlines are prepared for the holiday travel period.
By early afternoon Sunday, American had canceled more than 800 flights almost 30% of its schedule for the day after scrapping nearly 900 flights on Friday and Saturday, according to tracking service FlightAware.
American’s troubles began late in the week, when high winds at times stopped the airline using all runways at its busiest hub, Dallas/Fort Worth international airport.
That made it difficult to get crews in position. Cancellations and delays grew worse through Saturday and Sunday.
“To make sure we are taking care of our customers and providing scheduling certainty for our crews, we have adjusted our operation for the last few days this month by proactively canceling some flights,” David Seymour, the airline’s chief operating officer, said in a note to employees.
Seymour said American was able to put most travelers on other flights the same day.
A spokeswoman for American said the airline expected considerable improvement starting on Monday, although there would be “some residual impact from the weekend”. By midday Sunday, American had canceled nearly 50 Monday flights, according to FlightAware.
Earlier in October, Southwest canceled more than 2,000 flights after disruptions that started with weather problems in Florida were compounded by staffing shortages.
Airlines were barred from laying off workers during the pandemic as a condition of billions in federal relief. That did not stop them persuading thousands of employees to quit voluntarily. American temporarily furloughed 19,000 workers when the money lapsed last year, but reversed the furloughs when aid was restored. American, Southwest and others are now hiring to replace some who left.
Seymour said American was staffing up, with nearly 1,800 flight attendants returning starting on Sunday and others on 1 December, and at least 600 new hires onboard by the end of the year. He said the airline was stepping up hiring for other jobs including pilots and reservations agents, in time for the holiday season.