American Cuts Capacity Amid Canceled Flights, Sick Pilots

American Airlines (AAMRQ) cut U.S. capacity by as much as 2 percent for the rest of this month and October as pilot retirements, sick calls and mechanical issues left the carrier with more cancellations than any of its U.S. competitors.

The airline is trimming flight and seating capacity less than a week after imposing cost cuts on its pilots. The reductions take effect immediately and will occur “selectively across our system,” Bruce Hicks, a spokesman, said in an interview. American led the U.S. industry in both scrapped flights and delays yesterday, according to FlightStats.com.

American, a unit of AMR Corp., won bankruptcy court permission on Sept. 12 to void its existing pilot contract and impose cost cuts after the workers rejected the carrier’s final contract offer. Pilots are conducting a strike vote, though they currently don’t have the legal right to stage a work stoppage.

The Allied Pilots Association and its leaders are not “sanctioning or supporting any job action or slowdown,” said Tom Hoban, a union spokesman. “It’s illegal to do so. Having said that, you have 8,000 pilots watching their profession and livelihood being vaporized by this management team. To say they are angry would be the understatement of a lifetime.”

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier is reducing capacity for at least the fourth time in the past 12 months because of a pilot shortage.

‘Reliable Service’

“We are constantly evaluating our schedule based on operational and staffing resources, as well as seasonal demand, making adjustments when necessary,” Hicks said. “The schedule adjustments we are implementing will ensure we provide our customers with reliable service while minimizing any impact to their travel plans.”

American accounted for 92 of 157 U.S. flight cancellations yesterday and 414 of 2,092 delays, data on FlightStats’ website showed. Era Aviation Inc., an Anchorage, Alaska-based carrier, had the second-most dropped flights at 12, while SkyWest Inc.’s ExpressJet unit had the second-highest delays with 254, according to FlightStats.

“They’re dealing with excessive delays today and they were throughout the entire weekend,” Keith Gerr, a FlightStats spokesman, said in an interview yesterday. “They have the highest cancellations,” he said.

The FlightStats data doesn’t indicate the cause of a cancellation or delay. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, American’s largest hub, led in both delayed arrivals and departures.

Union Concessions

The airline earlier won approvals from its other unions for concessions to help cut annual labor costs by more than $1 billion as it restructures in bankruptcy. American blamed its November Chapter 11 filing in part on labor costs it said topped those of rivals by as much as $800 million a year.

Under a federal law governing airline labor, the pilots unions would have to move through several additional steps before its members are legally allowed to strike.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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