US Airline Flight Cancellations
Marisa Dellatto / Jemima McEvoy
November 2, 2021
American's Weekend Disruption.
American Airlines cancelled more than 300 flights on Monday, adding to over 2,000 that were called off over the weekend, a disruption that affected tens of thousands of passengers across the country. At the time of writing, American had cancelled 332 flights on Monday, or 11% of their total flights that day, according to Flight Aware, a service that tracks cancelled and delayed flights.
On Sunday, the airline called off over 1,020 flights, amounting to 36% of its daily flights, the largest daily total of cancellations since issues started on Thursday, again according to FlightAware. Over 1,200 flights were cancelled by the airline on Friday and Saturday.
The airline said that the disruptions were caused after bad weather on Thursday grounded several flights, including in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, its largest hub, leaving flight crews unable to get to their next destinations.
Starting on Monday, 1,800 American flight attendants are returning to work after time off because of the pandemic, CNN reported, with the channel also saying that 10% of the airline's flights had been grounded over a four-day period.
American changed its cancellation and delay policy in September. Instead of rebooking passengers whose flights had been cancelled or whose flights were delayed by at least four hours, American will now reimburse the traveller for the cost of their flight. Hypothetically, this change could leave passengers stranded at the airport or paying a costly last-minute fare.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic when travel came to a halt, airlines offered staffers buy-outs to save money during the crisis. Now that the industry is getting back to full swing, some airlines are struggling to keep their planes fully-staffed. Last month, Southwest cancelled over 2,000 flights, a disruption that was widely rumoured to be the result of staff protesting the airline’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate. However, CEO Gary Kelly said the issues, which cost the company $75 million, were instead caused by a traffic management program implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration (see below).
American, like most major US airlines, implemented a vaccine mandate. President Robert Isom said that “most” employees had received it, but declined to give a number, the Miami Herald newspaper said.
Images - Kevan James
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly on Tuesday vehemently denied rumours that the mass cancellations of flights at his airline in recent days were caused by an internal protest over its Covid-19 vaccine mandate, saying while controversial, he has found “no evidence” of correlation between the mandate and the disruptions.
Speaking with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Kelly reiterated the company’s explanation from recent days: that the over 2,000 flight cancellations through Monday were the result of a traffic management program imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He said Southwest was more impacted than other airlines because over half of its fleet “touches the state of Florida,” which is where the FAA programs were targeted.
It is typical that it would take “several days” to adjust to these changes, Kelly added, noting that “things are pretty much well back to normal” with only a few more cancellations than usual on Tuesday.
Image - Tyler McDowell
Kelly recognized that Southwest’s vaccine mandate is “controversial” and “not anything I would wish for our company.” However, he stressed the order is from the federal government “and we’re doing our best to comply with that according to the deadlines that have been set.”
The slew of cancelled flights over the weekend sparked speculation that Southwest’s employees were protesting its fast-approaching November 24 vaccine mandate. The company has been under mounting pressure from the federal government to get its employees vaccinated or risk losing lucrative contracts. And the requirement has already stirred internal opposition, with the pilots union on Friday asking a court to block Southwest from implementing the mandate. However, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has also insisted cancellations were not caused by vaccine-related demonstrations. “We can say with confidence that our pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions,” the union said in a statement.
Nonetheless, Republicans in Congress have been quick to criticize Southwest and side with its employees. Senator Ted Cruz immediately declared the cancellations at the Dallas-based company the result of “Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate at work.” Meanwhile, fellow Texas Republican Chip Roy called for the airline to be shut down.
© Marisa Dellatto and Jemima McEvoy / Forbes
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