Charlotte’s biggest airline cancels flights as post-COVID travel ramps up

Charlotte’s biggest airline cancels flights as post-COVID travel ramps up

Photo: Paige Hopkins/Axios

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After cutting 40,000 jobs because of a sharp decline in travel last year, American Airlines is dealing with an increased demand for air travel at the same time it’s grappling with a labor shortage.

Charlotte is the Dallas/Fort Worth-based airline’s second largest hub. American operates 90% of daily flights at Charlotte Douglas.

What’s happening: The increase in travelers, coupled with a decrease in labor and bad weather, has forced the airline to cancel more flights than normal, an AA spokesperson tells me.

The cancellations will continue through mid-July, but in many cases the airline is cutting flights ahead of time and immediately rebooking passengers.

  • On Saturday, June 19 alone, the airline cancelled about 150 flights.
  • The increase in cancellations is expected to make up about 1% of the airline’s total flights.

In Charlotte, the airline averages 660 daily departures. An airline representative tells me that AA plans to cut about 10 flights out of Charlotte each day during the first half of July.

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The airline cancelled 16 departures from Charlotte on Sunday, June 20, and 11 departures on Monday, June 21.

What they say: “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,” the airline said in a statement to Axios.

“Our focus this summer — and always — is on delivering for our customers no matter the circumstance. We never want to disappoint and feel these schedule adjustments will help ensure we can take good care of our customers and team members and minimize surprises at the airport.”

American Airlines flight cancellation text.

American Airlines flight cancellation text.

The big picture: The post-COVID labor shortage is touching virtually every industry. A significant number of workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic haven’t gone back to work yet.

There are a number of reasons for why this is happening. In most cases, it’s more complicated than enhanced unemployment benefits. [Go deeper]

Zoom out: American isn’t the only organization that’s being impacted. There have also been reports of longer lines at Charlotte-Douglas’ TSA checkpoints due to construction and increases in passengers.

  • A TSA representative said that the agency prepares for increases in travelers each summer.
  • “The Transportation Security Administration is well-positioned to meet rising traveler volumes. As in years before, the agency began a concerted recruitment effort this past winter in anticipation of increasing volumes and is on pace with established benchmarks to meet hiring goals,” TSA said in a statement to Axios.

Pro tip: Download the MyTSA App to check security wait times before you get to the airport.

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