American Airlines Cuts Some Flights to Avoid Potential Strains

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Travelers lined up at an American Airlines ticket counter in Orlando, Fla., last month.



Photo:

Paul Hennessy/Zuma Press

American Airlines,

AAL 0.27%

which rapidly increased flying to meet a surge in travel demand, is trimming some flights to alleviate potential strains on its operations.

The number of flights being culled is relatively small, amounting to about 1% of the airline’s planned flying in the first half of July. The move is the latest sign of how tricky it has been for airlines to scale back up after a year of depressed demand.

Storms that hit some of American’s biggest hubs several days this month, causing delays and cancellations, contributed to the airline’s decision to cut back to have more breathing room when unexpected problems arise, the airline said.

More robust schedules and fuller flights mean more difficulties when things go wrong. American is trying to avoid a repeat of its disastrous summer in 2019, when bad weather and a feud with the airline’s mechanics snarled operations, an American executive said.

The airline hopes that calling off some flights in advance and shifting passengers on to alternate flights will reduce the need to cancel flights at the last minute if weather or maintenance issues arise––something that enrages customers.

Travel demand has returned more sharply than many airline executives anticipated. Companies that provide catering, wheelchair pushers and fueling services are short staffed, which sometimes slows operations and creates inconveniences for customers, the American executive said. Cutting some flights will also alleviate pressure on maintenance and mean there will be a bigger pool of pilots on reserve, providing a buffer when needed.

Airlines raced to rebuild their networks as it became clear that the economy was revving up and people were ready to get back to traveling. American, currently the world’s largest airline, was among the most ambitious. Within the U.S., American plans to fly nearly as much this summer as it did before the coronavirus pandemic.

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com

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