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American Airlines cuts nearly 1,100 flights out of Charlotte Douglas Airport for the fall

The company said reducing flights is part of its approach throughout the year, and is focusing on sizing the airline for available resources.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — American Airlines will be cutting hundreds of flights out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport this fall, WCNC Charlotte confirmed. 

In total, the airline is cutting about 1,100 flights for the fall of 2022, WCNC Charlotte's Lexi Wilson confirmed Wednesday. A representative for the company said this is being done to size the airline for available resources and to build more buffer into the remaining summer schedule. 

American Airlines has been plagued by cancellations and delays nationwide this summer, with Charlotte being among the hardest hit airports. 

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As part of the cut flights, American said it first reduced September's scheduled flights in July. It also made proactive cuts to the October schedule, saying the airline is looking at the destinations customers care most about. While American hasn't exited Charlotte Douglas at all, the airline did say multiple markets were affected and the goal was to move customers to different flights.

According to the numbers shared with WCNC Charlotte, September's monthly departures from Charlotte Douglas will go down from 16,842 to 16,338, which means September will see 504 fewer American Airlines flights take off then. In October, American Airlines is reducing its originally-planned 17,598 departures to 17,003, meaning 595 fewer flights for that month. In total, the fall season will see 1,099 fewer flights departing from Charlotte.

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American also told Wilson the originally-published flight schedule was based on the one from 2019 and wasn't based on current travel demands. All flight schedules are published 331 days in advance -- almost a full year before -- while adjustments are made closer. The airline said it is now publishing schedule adjustments about 100 days before flights happen, which it said is in line with how changes were handled pre-pandemic.

The airline said customers whose flights may have changed because of the adjustments will be contacted directly with alternate travel options. However, customers can seek a full refund if a change doesn't meet their needs.

Meanwhile, the airlines have blamed the most recent disruptions on, "summertime thunderstorms" and "weather-related challenges."

“I’m kind of skeptical about that cause there was another flight on another airline that was going out after mine was supposed to leave," Megan Jones, whose flight was canceled, said.

It's been a rocky summer for airlines, dealing with crew and pilot shortages, reduced flight schedules, and a record surge in travelers.

“I was supposed to be here yesterday, and it was canceled, so it pushed me out a full day," Brad Dillow said.

Dillow was unsure the chaos would get better, anytime soon.

"The state of the country right now, everything’s upside down and we have to hope it gets better," Dillow said.

Until then, Roni Fishkin, director of marketing and events for Mann Travels, says most people assume cancellations won't happen to them, but they can -- so plan ahead.

“They’re better making those plans in advance, trying to take the first flight out in the morning instead of late in the afternoon", Fishkin said. "If your flight in the morning gets canceled you have a must better shot at rebooking something throughout the day. By the afternoon, your options are limited."

Fishkin also recommends you go to customer service when your flight is canceled and you need a hotel. They'll be able to help sort out reimbursements.

This is all unfolding as Charlotte Douglas now ranks as the No. 5 busiest worldwide for arrivals and departures, according to Airports Council International (ACI) 2021 final rankings that were recently released.  

New numbers show Charlotte Douglas saw 519,895 aircraft arrivals and departures, serving 43 million passengers. That's 86% of the record-breaking 50.2 million passengers in 2019, pre-pandemic. 

“We’re seeing that everybody who was cooped up for so long really wants to go on vacation," Fishkin said. 

With travel restrictions lifted, and COVID-19 no longer top of mind, people are getting the travel bug.   

“People saved a lot of money during the pandemic, and they were able to store up their vacation dollars and take a great trip," Fishkin said. 

According to Charlotte Douglas, the airport has a total of 24,071 parking spots, but with flights being delayed or canceled, experts say plan ahead to use other options. 

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“Parking is hard and there’s a lot of extra time involved and we really want you to get to the airport early," Fishkin said. "Anything that’s going to delay you to getting to the airport, don’t do it, get a Lyft to the airport."

American Airline's representative also offered a statement from CEO Robert Isom made during the company's Q2 earnings call:

“Our operational performance from the [full] quarter and the results we have delivered in the first few weeks of July, give us confidence moving forward. But we still aren't where we need to be. And we have a lot of flying ahead of us still in the summer. So, we're investing in our operation to ensure we meet our reliability goals and deliver for our customers. We're taking proactive steps to build additional buffer into our schedule for the rest of the year. As I said a minute ago, we're sizing the airline for the resources we've available and the operating conditions we face, and we'll make other changes as needed. Even with these adjustments, American still offers customers the largest network of any U.S. airlines with an average of more than 5,400 daily departures.”

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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