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Aviation Leaders Monitoring Trends, Adjusting Flight Schedules as Pandemic Changes Demand

Dallas Morning News reports Fort Worth-based American Airlines has cut 83,000 domestic flights from its October schedule during the last two weeks

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Aviation leaders continue to monitor travel trends, as airlines announce adjusted flight schedules to match demand.

Dallas Morning News reports Fort Worth-based American Airlines has cut 83,000 domestic flights from its October schedule during the last two weeks. Other airlines are taking similar actions, according to aviation reporter Kyle Arnold.

“83,000 flights at American. Southwest is also cutting back about 35,000 flights during that month, so they’re going to really try to slim it down. It’s really going to be really interesting if you’re a passenger,” Arnold said. “October for American, and all the other airlines, is actually going to be a down month. Not only is the congressional money running out from the last stimulus act, but it’s also one of the toughest months of the year because people aren’t on vacation anymore so they’re really cutting aggressively.”

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines told NBC 5 Thursday, the airline has been revising their schedule month-to-month and will continue to do so as travel demands remain fluid. The 35,000 cuts were processed in early August, according to Southwest Airlines.

A statement from Southwest Airlines to NBC 5 reads:

“We’re maintaining service uninterrupted at all of our airports in the U.S. and have a thinner schedule of service among them based on forecasted travel, with a reduction of just more than 40% of flying in our flight schedule, versus the previous Sept./Oct schedule. Some journeys that had been nonstop might now require a stop or a connection and we’ve reached to any Customer already booked and impacted by changes. Our outreach to them included their new itinerary, our apologies for any inconvenience, and our gratitude for their flexibility, a theme of 2020 for all of us. We’re asking our customers who plan to book future travel to consult Southwest.com for the day they way to travel to see what our options are for that day from where they want to start to where they need to travel.”

Jeff Pelletier is a managing director Dallas-based Airline Data, Inc. The company works with airlines and airports to provide aviation data ranging from passenger statistics to airline schedules.

“All of the airlines whether you’re talking Southwest or American or Delta, they’ve all become in the last six months much more in-depth at turning on a dime to correct their schedules and to adjust to the demand,” Pelletier said. “If the passengers and the demand aren’t there, the aircrafts aren’t going to fly and airlines are going to do whatever it can to maintain their cash. That is why unfortunately they’re doing more close in, ‘one month before’ adjustments to their schedules.”

Pelletier said until traffic stabilizes, that will be a reality for the foreseeable future.

“In all my conversations with my airline partners, is they’re looking for stability. They’re looking for something that will give them a greater feel for that where the traffic is no longer on a roller coaster. It’s not going to be up and down and up and down,” he said.

According to a DFW Airport spokesperson, the Labor Day holiday weekend saw nearly 200,000 passengers per day during the travel period which runs between Thursday and Tuesday. This year, they expect to serve a little more than half of that.

Briefing the DFW Airport board Thursday, airport CEO Sean Donohue said the post-Labor Day weekend travel period is when “business traffic” typically returns. However, they anticipate overall post-Labor Day demand to be lower than what they saw over the summer.

“It’s fair to say we’re not expecting to see much recovery,” Donohue said. “We look forward to the return of traffic. We know it’s coming. We don’t know exactly when but we’ll obviously be ready when it does.”

While they continue to be prudent with operating expenses, Donohue said there are still ongoing projects.

“There are several projects from a capital perspective that continue as we brief the board. Several airfield projects, other gate projects and I just wanted to highlight to the board,” he said. “Those projects are generating approximately 4,000 construction jobs in the airport so those are important jobs. Those are good-paying jobs and we will continue to have the right balance.”

Workforce decisions such as flights being cut back from schedules are solely based on the airline, according to DFW airport.

Pelletier said while flights may be reduced, there are still flights available between every major city. Passengers may have to be flexible, he said.

“Passengers are still going to get to where they want to go. It just may take them a couple extra hours to get there but the airline only survives - it doesn’t matter which airline - they’re only going to surprise by taking passengers from point A to point B,” Pelletier told NBC 5.

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