By DAVID KOENIG AP Airlines Writer
DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines struggled to fix its operation Monday but still canceled more than 400 flights as disruptions caused by staffing shortages at the big carrier continued for a fourth straight day.
American accounted for more than half of all canceled flights in the U.S., and by mid-afternoon another 500 of its flights were running late, according to tracking service FlightAware.
Monday’s performance was an improvement over Sunday, when American scrubbed more than 1,000 flights — more than one-third of its schedule.
Like other airlines, American encouraged thousands of workers to quit last year when air travel collapsed during the pandemic, only to be caught short-staffed this year when travel recovered faster than expected.
“Flight attendant staffing at American remains strained and reflects what is happening across the industry as we continue to deal with pandemic-related issues,” said Paul Hartshorn Jr., a spokesman for the union representing American’s flight attendants.
Flight attendants said many reached their maximum allowable hours for October during the final days of the month, leaving many flights without cabin crews. About two-thirds of American’s cancellations Sunday were due to a lack of flight attendants, with most of the rest due to pilot shortages, according to internal airline figures.
American’s troubles started Thursday and Friday, when high winds reduced flights at its busiest hub, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. American was unable to get pilots and flight attendants in position for upcoming flights, leading to about 1,900 cancellations nationwide from Friday through Sunday, according to FlightAware.
David Seymour, the airline’s chief operating officer, said over the weekend that help was on the way. He said about 1,800 flight attendants are coming back from leave starting Monday, and more are being hired by year-end. The airline is also hiring pilots and reservations agents, he said.
American continued to blame cancellations on last week’s weather long after the howling winds subsided in Texas, and that didn’t sit well with some longtime customers.
“The whole weather thing irritates me because that’s how they get out of financial responsibility. I feel sorry for the folks who are stuck some place and (American) won’t give them a hotel voucher,” said Craig Beam, who works in real estate for health care companies. “It’s clear to me they have got staffing issues.”
Beam’s first flight Sunday from his home in Southern California to a business conference in Dallas was canceled. His rebooked flight finally arrived at DFW Airport at midnight Sunday night.