Hundreds of American Airlines Flights Cancelled Due to Pilot Shortage
This past weekend, American Airlines were forced to cancel several hundred flights, primarily due to a shortage of pilots. Approximately 100 flights on Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all cancelled, along with hundreds of additional delayed flights – all due to the same cause.
In a statement made to AirlineGeeks, an ‘incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand’ was blamed by American Airlines, as TSA Passenger throughput this weekend exceeded 2.1 million daily passengers – record highs following COVID and down only 20% compared with the same period in 2019.
Other factors, such as weather, were mentioned for impacting these flight cancellations, however, with the majority of the flights canceled being operated by Boeing 737s, it is speculated that pilot availability for that aircraft was the primary factor. These cancellations accounted for 30% of all AA 737 flights on those days, and as much as 10% of American Airlines’ total routes.
This news is a stark contrast to just a few months ago when airlines were offering early retirement and leaves to their pilots, as they looked to reduce their short term costs. However, with travel recovery happening quicker than the airline’s training organizations can handle, airlines are now struggling with the opposite problem. With limited simulator capacity, and as many as five days of training for pilots to be recertified, this doesn’t look like a problem that can be quickly solved by American Airlines, and is likely to be experienced by other airlines too in the coming weeks and throughout summer.
In fact, with a pilot shortage forecasted for the coming years and decades, and over 200,000 new pilots needed in the next 20 years in North America alone, airlines are going to have to aggressively recruit and train pilots to avoid these issues. Major Airlines will continue to pull from Regional Airlines, like AeroGuard partner SkyWest Airlines, in order to avoid having to cancel flights like this again, the alternative being incurring huge costs in both lost revenue and their brand image.
Likewise, SkyWest, and other Regional Airlines, will have to continue to focus on pilot recruiting and development to keep flights operating themselves. This makes it a great time for aspiring commercial airlines pilots to enter training.