Resurgence of Travel Catching Some Airlines Short-Handed

Image: American Airlines Airbus A319. (photo via Boarding1Now/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)
Image: American Airlines Airbus A319. (photo via Boarding1Now/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)
Rich Thomaselli
by Rich Thomaselli
Last updated: 5:58 PM ET, Mon June 21, 2021

The return of travel following the pandemic has been a blessing - and a curse, for some airlines.

American Airlines was forced to cancel numerous flights over the weekend. The airline expects it must cancel even more going into the month of July, because it simply doesn't have enough onboard crew to cater to passengers nor does it have enough maintenance personnel to take care of the planes.

As of Sunday afternoon, 123 flights were canceled Saturday, 178 on Sunday and 97 were canceled for today, according to Yahoo.

American told ABC News that most of the cancelations are on A320 and 737 aircraft, but that it may continue to cancel at least 50 to 60 flights per day for the rest of June and 50 to 80 flights per day through July.

"We made targeted changes with the goal of impacting the fewest number of customers by adjusting flights in markets where we have multiple options for re-accommodation," according to an American Airlines statement.

It's not surprising.

Several airlines, as well as the Transportation Security Administration, are struggling with staffing issues. At the height of the pandemic last year, many airlines trimmed employment by offing buyouts and early retirement to workers.

But now travel is roaring back quicker than most observers expected, and the airlines have been caught short-handed.

American said it will attempt to notify customers far in advance of their flights and provide an opportunity for customers to rebook on alternative flights through its app.

But it's not just flight attendants and gate agents and maintenance workers who are suddenly at a premium. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said on Sunday that the U.S. could face a possible pilot shortage.

During an interview with "Axios on HBO," Kirby said the United States could face the shortage because the military is not producing as many pilots as it did previously.

"The military produces far fewer pilots today than they did ... in the Cold War era," Kirby told Axios.

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