American Airlines cancels close to 2,000 flights in just three days over Halloween weekend

by mcardinal

Matt Bush, FISM News


This weekend, American Airlines canceled almost 2,000 regularly scheduled flights, sending an already tumbling industry into further turmoil.

After canceling close to 1,000 flights combined on Friday and Saturday, Insider Magazine reports that 1,058 flights were canceled on Sunday. The 1,058 canceled flights represented over 20% of the scheduled flights on Sunday for the world’s busiest airline.

In addition to the almost 2,000 cancellations, a spokesperson from American Airlines reported an additional 900 delayed flights over the weekend, and 250 more cancellations as of Monday morning.

American blamed bad weather and staffing shortages for the widespread travel disruption, but no other airline reported cancellations even approaching the 2,000 reported by American. A CNBC article states that the true reason for the shortages was staffing shortages: “Pilot and flight attendant availability were listed as reasons for most of the cancellations on Saturday and Sunday, according to internal tallies, which were seen by CNBC.”

The staffing shortages can be attributed to a variety of things. Many airlines were forced to let a high percentage of their work force go due to pandemic travel lows, and have now not hired enough staff to keep up with demand as air travel increases. Labor statistics also show that many employees are choosing not to come back to work after the pandemic.

However, the most likely reason the staff shortages are hitting major airlines right now, is because of the vaccine mandate that the majority of airlines, including American, have instituted over the past few months. A CBS News article from Oct. 11, more than two weeks prior to the cancellations, states, “The union representing American Airlines warned that staffing shortages could start as the holiday travel season begins if employees lose their jobs for refusing to get the COVID vaccine.”

Union reps have repeatedly warned of slow downs and cancellations due to vaccine mandates. Those warnings have now become a reality as some of the busiest travel days of the year are less than one month away. 

As air travel begins to slowly return to pre-pandemic levels, American is not the first airline to struggle to keep up. Southwest Airlines canceled a similar number of flights earlier in October as they struggled with staffing issues, which caused them to reverse their stance on vaccine mandates.

Delta, on the other hand, has been able to avoid major disruptions, largely because the Atlanta-based company has not implemented a vaccine mandate for its pilots or flight attendants. The company has instead said that they will pay the $200 monthly fine per unvaccinated “government contractor.” 

It is yet to be seen which side will win the fight in the airline standoffs. While a percentage of pilots and flight attendants do not want the vaccine, airlines are banking that they won’t be willing to lose their job for it. At the same time, with the busiest and most profitable time of the year for airlines around the corner, staff members are hoping that airlines won’t hurt their bottom line by sidelining good employees due to their vaccination status.