An American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER took off from Sydney Airport, Australia on October 28, 2020.
Lauren Elliott | Reuters
Robert Ism, the new CEO of American Airlines, is looking for one thing this summer: reliability.
The airline grew faster than its major competitors last year, and occasionally passengers face major disruptions, due to routine challenges such as weather, as well as low staffing. Other carriers such as Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines faced similar problems which forced them to trim their schedules.
Now Isom, who took the helm of the largest U.S. carrier on March 31, says his priority is to ensure passengers can rely on Americans this summer and beyond.
“People really need to feel like they have control over their journey and we give them control by making sure they get where they want to go on time. I can’t be more blunt than that,” Ism told the pilots. During a company town hall last week, which was reviewed by CNBC. “Other airlines are really struggling.”
JetBlue Airways, a partner of Americans in the Northeastern United States, for example, told staff earlier this month that it would reduce summer flights by 10% to avoid mass cancellations and delays, CNBC reported. Alaska Airlines, America’s West Coast code-sharing partner, has announced a 2% power cut this spring due to a lack of pilots.
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Air travel has increased and passengers have shown that they are willing to pay for tickets two years after the epidemic, a trend that has helped carriers increase fuel costs. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.3 million people on Friday, about 10% less than in 2019 but 57% more than a year earlier.
Isam said domestic leisure travelers are meeting the relatively weak demand for business and international travel.
March seems to be the best month in American history, he said. This was echoed by Del Bastian CEO Ed Bastian when the airline reported the results last week. American is ready to report first-quarter results and provide its second-quarter outlook before the market opens on Thursday.
Americans’ first-quarter power was close to 11% from the same period in 2019, it said in a filing last week. Delta, for its part, plans to fly 84% of its 2019 capacity in the current quarter, up from 83% in the first quarter.
“The priority is to work reliably,” Delta president Glenn Haustein said in an earnings call. “If this demand trend continues, we have a chance to take another tick up or we can pivot to the other side if we need to.”
US carriers have jumped on the bandwagon to handle travel rebounds. The $ 54 billion federal pay-roll support airlines have won from Congress.
Airlines are facing pilot shortages, especially for small regional carriers that feed into their hubs, which has forced them to cancel flights or limit growth. Delta, American and Southwest pilots have picketed or complained of fatigue from tough schedules in recent months.
Isam said Americans have enough staff of pilots, flight attendant mechanics and customer service agents to handle summer travel.
“We’ve brought the schedule to a level that matches the resources we have,” Ism told the crew.
Other growth challenges include the acquisition of aircraft from manufacturers, including Boeing, which has been shutting down 787 Dreamliners for the past year and a half due to production errors. Americans say Boeing’s woes have forced it to cut some long-haul international flights.
The airline is also working on ways to avoid such costly cascading delays for airlines and passengers.
The American has invested heavily in training and a command center at its Integrated Operations Center in Fort Worth, Texas, to help avoid delays.
One solution when bad weather occurs, which is common in its main hubs as well as major airports in Miami and Charlotte, NC service providers, is to work with air traffic control to establish ground delay programs that help avoid later cancellations, Steve Olson, Main Town If the IOC said.
Olson said accountability is important, and not just measuring how fast an airline bounces from disruption, but determining what impact it has on the airline’s crew, who have complained about long stays with schedules and hotel services. Flight attendants or pilots who are out of position for assignments during bad weather have added cancellations and delays.