Philadelphia In The Firing Line As American Airlines Cuts Fall Flights

American Airlines has said it will cut 2% of its flights this September and October. The flight cuts are an attempt to ease operational problems and improve reliability. One of the most impacted airports is American’s Philadelphia hub. American Airlines will “proactively cancel” 3% of flights in and out of Philadelphia in September and 5% of flights in October.

Philadelphia is losing over 1,800 American Airlines flights in September & October

According to The Philadelphia Business Journal, American Airlines has removed over 1,800 domestic flights from that city’s airport across September and October. The news outlet says the airline has cut 1,121 flights in September – 553 departures and 568 arrivals, and 711 flights in October – 359 arrivals and 352 departures. Citing Cirium data, the report says American Airlines is pulling over 185,000 seats from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) over the first two months of the northern Fall.

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“American has taken steps to size our airline for the resources we have available and to build additional buffer into the remainder of our summer schedule. Last month, American took proactive steps to add resiliency into our schedule by reducing overall September system capacity by approximately 2 %,“says an American Airlines statement. “These adjustments were made in markets with multiple frequencies—with the goal of moving customers to different flights.”

Philadelphia International Airport is also the key American Airlines hub. Photo: Philadelphia International Airport

American Airlines adjusts capacity to meet operational constraints

American Airlines (and its US-based rivals) substantially trimmed their 2022 summer schedules. American Airlines says the original 2022 summer schedules were based on their 2019 schedules. With domestic flying in the US back to near normal, that originally seemed like sensible planning. But as long-suffering travelers have learned this summer – American Airlines and its competitors don’t have the resources, including the laboratory, to reliably maintain those original schedules.

Throw in a few foreseeable and unpredictable variables like holiday travel peaks, bad weather, labor unrest, and IT outages, and it leads to delays, cancellations, and thousands of very disgruntled passengers. Canceling flights in advance – what American Airlines is now doing, is designed to avoid the worst of that and gives the airline time to re-accommodate affected passengers.

Thursday isn’t over yet in the US. However, according to FlightAware data, so far, American Airlines has canceled 126 flights (3% of all their flights operating on the day) and a further 740 flights (or 22% of their flights operating on the day) were delayed. Rivals Delta Air Lines and United Airlines fared better on Thursday, but Southwest Airlines fared worse, with 341 cancellations and 1,453 delays on Thursday.

This latest round of cancellations from American Airlines is unlikely to be the last. Photo: Philadelphia International Airport

American Airlines CEO admits more work needs to be done to fix reliability

In a recent earnings call, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said that while demand for flights was strong, his airline wasn’t in a position to put on enough seats to match it. “We’re investing in our operation to ensure we meet our reliability goals and deliver for our customers“he said”We’re taking proactive steps to build an additional buffer into our schedule for the rest of the year.”

According to The Philadelphia Business Journal, flight cuts across American’s domestic network in September are a bit higher than the airline’s provided figure of 2%. The news outlet says between July 20 and 25, the airline pulled around 7,000 flights, or 5% of its planned flying, from its September schedules. American’s statement has not provided any detail on what flights are facing cancellation (the airline says it will contact affected passengers to refund or re-accommodate them), leaving it up to others to trawl through the available data.

It may be that far fewer planned network-wide cancellations in October will drag the two-month average down to American’s figure of 2%. However, with American Airlines and its competitors facing ongoing day-to-day operational challenges, one sure bet is that more cancellations will come.

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