American Airlines canceled nearly 2,000 flights over Halloween weekend, with high concentrations of flight disruptions at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
A spokesperson said the Fort Worth-based carrier canceled 1,044 flights on Sunday alone, bringing the total to 1,935 cancellations since Friday.
American said the airline expects considerable improvement starting Monday, although there will be “some residual impact from the weekend.”
American’s troubles began Thursday and Friday, when high winds at times shut down its busiest hub, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and prevented the airline from using all runways there. That made it difficult for American to get crews in position for upcoming flights, and caused disruptions. The number of canceled and delayed flights grew larger in number and geographic sweep throughout the weekend.
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“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 on Saturday.
About two-thirds of Sunday’s cancellations were due to a lack of flight attendants in the right places, with almost all the remaining cancellations due to a shortage of pilots, according to internal figures seen by The Associated Press.
The cancellations on Sunday represented 18% of the total scheduled flights for American Airlines.
American canceled 548 flights on Saturday and 342 flights on Friday.
According to the flight-tracking website FlightAware, the airline experienced another 404 flight delays on Sunday, 398 on Saturday and 737 delays on Friday.
"This week saw two days of severe winds in DFW, with gusts of up to 50 mph on Thursday, creating crosswind limitations that sharply reduced arrival capacity by more than half," American Airlines said.
According to American Airlines, most of the customers impacted by the flight cancellations are being rebooked the same day.
Some travelers changed airports either on departure or arrival to better their chances of making it to their destination.
“I got notified about 7 o’clock last night that that flight was canceled and that they were going to put me on a 5 a.m. flight to Chicago with a four-hour delay and then get me in here in the afternoon. That would’ve been an 8 1/2 journey," said Kim Canfield who was traveling to Flower Mound from Harrisburg.
Instead, she caught a flight out of Baltimore. Still, she arrived hours after she'd originally planned.
“It was a lost day. I’m here to help my mom, and we had people here overnight, so they’ve had a whole day of stuff that I was not included in, unfortunately," Canfield said.
One family said they were grabbing an Uber to try their luck at Dallas Love Field.
The nature of the debacle — starting with bad weather in part of the country before spinning out of control — was similar to disruptions at Southwest Airlines in early October. Together, the twin failures raised ominous questions about whether major airlines are prepared for the busy upcoming holiday travel period.
American says it will be when nearly 1,800 flight attendants begin returning to their jobs starting Monday. At least 600 new hires will be on board by the end of the year. The airline is also hiring pilots and reservations agents in time for the holidays.
Airlines were barred from laying off workers during the pandemic as a condition of billions in federal pandemic relief — American temporarily furloughed 19,000 workers when the money lapsed last year, but reversed the furloughs when aid was restored. That, however, didn’t stop the airlines from persuading thousands of employees to accept cash incentives and quit voluntarily. American, Southwest and others are now hiring employees to replace some of those who left in 2020.
American’s labor unions have warned for months that the airline was scheduling more flights than its pared-down workforce can handle, leaving employees spread too thinly when bad weather snarls air travel.
Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines pilot and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, said the union had not seen such a high level of cancellations after storms had passed.
“Since the spring we have been warning of these post-weather management failures to recover, and it’s just getting worse,” he said. “We continue to be very concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming winter holiday travel season.”
American planned about 2,600 flights Sunday, not counting regional affiliates that fly as American Eagle. That number is scheduled to jump to more than 3,000 flights on eight days around Thanksgiving and early December, according to aviation-data firm Cirium.
Earlier in October, Dallas-based Southwest canceled well over 2,000 flights after disruptions started with weather problems in Florida and were compounded by staffing shortages. Southwest’s chief operating officer said the airline was pursuing “a very aggressive hiring plan” but was “still not where we want to be with staffing,” especially pilots.