American Airlines parks 100 regional jets due to pilot shortage, CEO says

Jun 3, 2022

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American Airlines is the latest U.S. carrier to announce that its parking some regional jets due to a shortage of pilots.

Speaking at an event for Wall Street analysts on Friday morning, American’s CEO, Robert Isom, said that the carrier has parked about 100 aircraft.

“We have probably a hundred aircraft — almost a hundred aircraft that aren’t, aren’t productive right now, that aren’t flying,” Isom said at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference.

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American has not changed any capacity guidance as a result, Isom said. This implies that the airline has largely parked its lower-efficiency 50-seat aircraft. At American Eagle, that’s the Embraer 145 operated by two regionals — Envoy Air and Piedmont Airlines — and owned by American. The airline has shifted capacity to larger aircraft, such as the Canadair Regional Jet 700, 900 and the Embraer 175.

“So just like we have done some up-gauging on the mainline side of things, we’ve done that on the regional side, too,” Isom said. “So we’ve been able to offset quite a bit of the loss of pilots.”

Pilots are leaving regional airlines in droves. American aims to hire 2,000 pilots in 2022, with many coming from regional airlines, according to Isom. It’s not just at American: Many major airlines have embarked on massive pilot-hiring sprees. These airlines offer significantly better pay and quality of life than regional airlines do which helps their recruitment efforts.

Isom’s comments come six months after Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, said the same thing about his carrier’s regional airlines. United has since exited a significant number of regional markets because of the pilot shortage, which stands in contrast to Isom’s comments about stable capacity.

More: United CEO Scott Kirby: We’ve grounded nearly 100 regional jets due to pilot shortage

“We don’t have enough pilots to fly all the airplanes,” Kirby said in December. “So the 50-seaters are at the bottom of that pile, and markets that rely on 50-seaters are the ones that are going to lose service.”

One captain for American, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said pilots at his base have picked up a significant amount of flying opportunities this month — mainly to cities previously served by regional airlines to backfill for the loss of regional capacity.

Isom’s comments come as airlines ramp up for a summer that’s expected to be operationally difficult. While American exhibited strong operational performance during Memorial Day weekend, this weekend might be different. As of 12 p.m. EST on Friday, the airline had canceled 167 mainline flights, or 5% of its schedule, according to FlightAware.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto.

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