On Thursday, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said it could take up to three years to get back to total pre-pandemic levels. The airline is blaming this on a nationwide pilot shortage and a surge in flight demand.
Unable to keep up
American Airlines, one of the United States’ biggest carriers, cannot keep up with the demand. This pilot shortage is also an issue most airlines worldwide face.
During the pandemic, air travel was limited, and there wasn’t a need for crew or pilots. American Airlines had a challenging year in 2020. The airline was forced to furlough 17,000 employees in October of 2020. Included in that 17,000, 1,600 were pilots.
However, 2022 is a different year, and the airline industry is back up and running. After two tough years, demand for air travel has been extremely high. American Airlines furloughed so much staff that it struggles to hire people again.
As reported by Business Insider, American Airlines was forced to cancel 1,200 of its summer flights due to the crew shortages they face. The union for pilots at American Airlines, Allied Pilot Association, said that American Airlines is “once again acknowledging that they cannot honor their published schedule.”
American Airlines recently offered a pay increase of up to $ 64,000 to pilots to keep them flying. However, the Allied Pilots Association is not happy and is planning to picket in Chicago on the 26th of July to “send management a clear message”.
American Airlines were forced to furlough staff in 2020. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
CEO Robert Isom Said that restoring flight capacity would take roughly a year across American Airlines’ main flight network. “I think it’s dependent on the supply chains of aircraft manufacturers and ultimately, pilot supply to get all back in sync,” said Isom.
American Airlines’ main network consists of its flagship routes to cities like London, Rome, Paris, and other major European cities.
However, it looks to be different in the American Airlines regional network. CEO Robert Isom said that restoration to total capacity could take up to two to three years. This delay is mainly due to shortages in aircraft and crew.
“From a regional perspective, it’s just going to take a little bit longer than that, maybe two or three years, to kind of get the supply chain for pilots back to where we need it to be,” Isom said.
American Airlines’ regional services are expected to return to capacity in 2-3 years. Photo: Getty Images
Furthermore, the Chief Financial Officer at American Airlines, Derek Kerr, said American Airlines had 8.5% less passenger capacity this summer than in 2019. However, the airline reported a $ 13.4 million in revenue, a 12.2% increase.
Similar situation globally
Across the Atlantic, Irish airline Aer Lingus has had a similar experience with American Airlines. Chaos erupted with demands the airline could not handle.
The IAG-owned airline was forced to cancel multiple flights every day due to a lack of pilots, cabin crew and ground handlers. Aer Lingus was forced to hire Privilege Style, FlyPOP, and IberoJet to help with the increasing demands.
It’s a similar picture in airports too. In Schiphol Airport, chaos once again erupted with large queues and significant flight cancellations.
Source: NBC News; Business Insider
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