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American Airlines Changes International Flights in Surprising Way

Also, American knows it needs to hire more pilots as soon as possible.

There are many reasons everyone hates the airline industry at the moment. Lost luggage has become increasingly common, and some irate passengers have become so unhinged, often due to covid-induced stress, that they’ve just forgotten how to act on airplanes, or society in general. (One drunk dude on a Turkish Airlines straight up bit the finger of one flight attendant.)

But the main reason people don’t like flying anymore is that cancellations and lengthy delays have become so common that Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has been cracking down on the the airline industry, demanding they provide free food and lodging to costumes who have been inconvenienced and threatening further legislation.

Several reasons crop up for the increased prevalence of delays. Climate change-induced weather disruption has only gotten worse, and covid outbreaks amongst staff have left airlines short-staffed at in opportune moments. But the biggest reason is that the airline industry is greatly understaffed. 

When the airline industry largely shuttered during the pandemic, many pilots opted for a buyout or took early retirement, and the airline industry has been criticized for not spending enough to recruit and train a new generation of pilots. Additionally, it’s been difficult for the industry to get the support staff, including flight attendants and help desk workers, needed for planes to function, as many people are understandably reluctant to take a job where they’ll face abuse from irate customers.

American Airlines Knows It Needs To Fix Its Pilot Problem

But it seems that airlines now realize this pilot problem is getting out of hand, and are taking the steps to fix it. In a recent third-quarter earnings call, Derek J. Kerr Vice Chair, Chief Financial Officer for American Airlines Group  (AAL) - Get Free Report said “Look, we're hiring more pilots this year than we ever have in our history in a given year. So we're looking at hiring almost 2,000 pilots. We're on track to actually accomplish that from a mainline perspective.

“But let's face it. Training that many pilots is something we've never done before coming out of the pandemic. We've had to make sure that resources are all in the right spot whether that's additional simulators, resources like that or even things like instructors. So that's all working its way through." He added, that "our pilot pipeline for the mainline is very strong and our training resources are absolutely going to match the needs that we have going forward.”

So that sounds like at least American Airlines knows that its worth the investment to get more pilots, even if it means spending a great deal on wide-scale training.

“We didn't hire and let's face it, well, we didn't hire for two years during the pandemic at all, and then not only that, people didn't come into the business,” Kerr added. “And so we've got to work our way through that. And you got a supply issue that I think is coming back online. I feel really confident about it. We're facilitating that through things like our cadet program and creating financing vehicles for people.” 

American Airlines Seats Lead JS 092122

American Airlines Makes A Surprising Change To International Flights

Elsewhere in the call, Vasu Raja, the company’s chief commercial officer, said that American Airlines would be doing away with the first class cabin option for international flights, owing to decreased demand.

“The first class will not exist … at American Airlines for the simple reason that our customers aren’t buying it,” he said.

Instead, the company has been doing a robust business with premium business class seats. Though traveling for business has been declining lately, largely because many companies would rather save money on plane tickets by sticking to Zoom meetings, more customers are willing to shell out a little extra for a more comfortable flight post-pandemic, perhaps for reasons of safety, or perhaps just a general sense that they deserve better in stressful times.

“The quality of the business class seat has improved so much,” Raja added. “And frankly, by removing [first class] we can go provide more business class seats, which is what our customers most want or are most willing to pay for.”