Wednesday, October 27

American Airlines is facing fuel shortages at smaller airports, but its planned solution may end up burning more fuel

  • Airports in the Western US are experiencing fuel shortages due to delivery delays.
  • American Airlines is telling pilots to cut back on fuel use and may add fuel stops, CNBC reports.
  • Delays and cancellations have been minimal but multiple airlines are affected.

The shipping crisis is now affecting the airline industry.

American Airlines sent out a memo to pilots warning of “fuel delivery delays” at certain airports that are causing shortages and could potentially impact operations, as reported by CNBC.

“American Airlines station jet fuel delivery delays initially affected mostly western US cities, but are now being reported at American stations across the country,” the airline said in a memo viewed by CNBC. “Delivery delays are expected to continue through mid-August. “

American confirmed to Insider that delays have been “minimal” so far with no cancellations. A trio of shortages including trucks, truck drivers, and fuel are to blame, according to CNBC.

The airline’s pilots are being asked to take measures to save fuel, according to the memo, and the airline will “tanker,” or carry additional fuel, to airports affected by the shortages.

Tankering is a common industry practice when the destination airport does not have a reliable source of fuel. It’s more common in private and general aviation since most major airports utilized by US carriers have reserves available.

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A downside to tankering, however, is that airlines could end up burning more fuel on certain flights. Airlines most commonly seek to optimize fuel loads and taking on more than required for a given flight can increase the aircraft’s weight and subsequent fuel burn.

Every pound counts when it comes to fuel burn and the increased costs of flying heavier aircraft. One reason many airlines don’t feature in-flight entertainment systems is the increased weight they incur.

One Wired article detailed how American saved $1.2 million per year by converting paper charts and manuals to digital iPads. Another explained how eliminating the SkyMall magazine saved the airline $350,000.

American just posted a $19 million second quarter net profit backed by the Payroll Support Program instituted during the pandemic to help protect airline workers until the industry could rebound. Without government support, American faced a $1.1 billion loss.

Fuel stops may also be required in regions affected by the shortages. A similar fuel shortage that occurred following the Colonial Pipeline hacking resulted in some of American’s long-haul flights from the Southeast to Hawaii and Europe making intermediary fuel stops, as CNBC also reported.

“We are working around the clock to ensure we have an adequate supply of fuel for our entire operation and to minimize any customer impact,” an American spokesperson told Insider.

Delta Air Lines also told CNBC that it was experiencing similar fuel issues but that it hasn’t caused a major disruption in service.