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Holiday Travel Season Was “Unlike One We’ve Seen Before,” says American Airlines COO in Internal Memo

David Seymour claims the airline outperformed its competitors during chaotic month for the industry

by Fergus Cole

January 5, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of American Airlines

The chief operating officer of American Airlines (AA), David Seymour, has sent an internal message to thank his staff following a chaotic month for the airline industry in December.

Seymour said that, despite the chaos faced by the industry last month—caused by severe weather and technical issues—American Airlines handled the situation ‘exceptionally well’ and outperformed all other major U.S. carriers.

According to Seymour, AA served almost 10.2 million passengers across nearly 90,000 flights between December 16 and January 2—over 30 percent more than any other airline in the U.S.

The holiday travel season in December 2022 was heavily impacted by Winter Storm Elliott, an extremely cold weather front that swept its way across the U.S. in the lead-up to Christmas.

Photo: American Airlines TechOps Center in Dallas/Fort Worth. Courtesy of American Airlines

Southwest Airlines was particularly affected by the extreme weather, canceling over 15,000 flights between December 22 and 29, accounting for around two-thirds of its total schedule.

In December, there was even further disruption caused by an air traffic control issue in Florida. The technical problem occurred at a major air traffic control center in Miami and caused flights to be canceled and delayed in Florida and across large parts of the country’s southeast.

“The holiday travel season was unlike one we’ve seen before,” said Seymour in the letter. “It was bookended by Winter Storm Elliott and an Air Traffic Control issue in Florida and filled with challenging operating conditions along the way.”

“It was a test for the entire industry and one I’m proud to say American handled exceptionally well. And that’s because of each one of you rising to the occasion, spending time away from your loved ones during the holidays and remaining focused on running a safe and reliable airline for our customers.”

Seymour praised the airline’s completion factor (CF)—the percentage of scheduled flights it completed over a certain period. The airline’s CF in December was the best out of all major airlines in the U.S.—two percentage points above its closest competitor.

He also mentioned the controllable completion factor (CCF), which does not consider cancellations beyond the airline’s control. With a CCF of 99.6 percent, Seymour claimed that less than 0.5 percent of its scheduled flights were canceled for reasons within the carrier’s control.

Photo: American Airlines Integrated Operating Center. Courtesy of American Airlines

Seymour also praised American’s on-time performance, again coming out on top in terms of the number of flights that departed on time: more than five points ahead of its closest rival. However, AA ranked second in the percentage of flights that arrived on time, although it was only 0.5 percent behind the leading airline, Delta Air Lines.

“To be clear, we know none of this was easy,” said Seymour. “It was all-hands-on-deck for 18 straight days, a continuous battle to deliver for our customers who were counting on us.”