By Kyle Arnold The Dallas Morning News
American Airlines removed 86,000 flights from its schedule for November as hopes for a commercial airline recovery this holiday season fade away.
Fort Worth-based American cut its November schedule by 46% in November with this latest round of adjustments, according to Dallas-based Airline Data Inc. Chicago-based United made a similar cut and reduced the number of flights for November by 52%.
Southwest cut 36% of its schedule for November. Delta also has made reductions.
“We’re constantly evaluating our network to match supply and demand and have been making regular schedule adjustments since March,” said American Airlines spokeswoman Nichelle Tait. “In an effort to match low demand resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), we continue to operate a reduced schedule in November.”
With that, the major airlines are roughly matching the number of flights they flew in September and October, typically slower months between the summer and holiday flying periods. American has the biggest November schedule planned of the four major airlines with 99,362 flights. United has the smallest flight plan in November, with 72,566.
The schedule cuts also come as American Airlines begins the process of furloughing and laying off 19,000 employees, trying to match tepid demand that has become the new normal as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.
Eight months into the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, airlines are facing the biggest financial challenge in aviation history with no end in sight as coronavirus cases continue to rise in some areas. The 900,000 passengers who went through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at airports nationwide on Sunday was the most since Labor Day weekend. But passenger traffic is still down about 65% compared to last year, according to TSA figures.
Cuts to monthly airline schedules are becoming a more regular occurrence as carriers seek more flexibility in matching flights to demand set by passengers. That usually means deep cuts to future schedules and consolidating flights.
“American is mimicking the actions of the other carriers since there is nothing else they can really do,” said Jeff Pelletier, managing director at Airline Data Inc.
Air travel blogger Brett Snyder of Crankyflier.com said the possibility of an uptick in travel before the holidays has disappeared and airlines will now start looking to spring and summer of 2021, particularly to places such as Florida.
“It’s going to be a long, slow recovery until there is a vaccine,” Snyder said.
The constant cancellation of future flights is unfair to customers who may be rebooked on flights that add several hours to their final trip, said Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of Travel Fairness Now.
DFW International Airport, American’s biggest hub, is losing about 28% of its November flights from American compared to the previous schedule. The losses are smaller at DFW because American has been routing more flights through major hubs to keep service to other destinations.
American has made other drastic moves with the airline recovery stalled. The company parked another 100 planes at the beginning of October, said chief operating officer David Seymour.
It also made plans to drop service to 15 smaller cities, although all of those still had service in November, even though the number of flights to those destinations had been cut by 45%.