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American Airlines Shines with Record-Low Cancelations in 2023 Holiday Rush

The airline canceled just 16 flights during the busy period, less than any major competitor

by Fergus Cole

January 9, 2024

Photo: American Airlines gates. Courtesy of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

American Airlines had a successful operational performance during the holiday period of 2023 despite facing significant challenges. They canceled fewer flights than any other major U.S. carrier.

In a statement released on January 3, American Airlines reported that they operated over 71,000 flights between December 20 and January 8, carrying almost 7.8 million passengers.

Photo: American Airlines, Airbus A319. Courtesy of Justin Hu / Unsplash

Notably, during this period, the airline canceled only 16 mainline flights, which is lower than any of its main competitors like United and Delta Air Lines. American Airlines did not cancel any mainline flights during the first six days of the period, which is an even more impressive feat.

American Airlines said its on-time departure and arrival performance jumped by 15% this year compared to the 2022-23 holiday period. Of course, that holiday season was hit by widespread flight disruption across the U.S. due to severe winter weather, although American Airlines wasn’t affected as much as Southwest Airlines.

In its statement, American Airlines highlighted its ‘continued investments’ in baggage handling across its network as a factor behind its success this year.

American’s operational success came despite the airline and industry facing a few hurdles. Although the nation avoided a repeat of last year’s brutal winter storm, parts of the country were still affected by adverse weather this year. At the same time, several non-scheduled, non-air carrier operations caused significant air traffic control delays.

“When customers purchase tickets on American, they place their trust in us to deliver a safe and reliable operation, and I’m proud to say that thanks to the hard work of our team members, we delivered on that commitment – despite holiday headwinds, including some challenging weather and increased air traffic control congestion,” said David Seymour, Chief Operating Officer at American Airlines.

Photo: Courtesy of Miguel Angel Sanz / Unsplash

“We appreciate our federal partners – the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – for their critical roles in making this holiday travel period a success.”

In the run-up to the holiday period, airlines across the U.S. were gearing up for what they were expecting to be the ‘busiest ever,’ as both domestic and global air travel continues to make a strong recovery from the lows of the pandemic. However, it wasn’t just American Airlines that performed well during the busy period, but the industry as a whole, marking a stark contrast to last year.

According to data from FlightAware, U.S. carriers canceled just 0.5% of flights between December 21 and January 2, compared to 10.5% over the same period last year. In fact, 2023, as a whole, was a good year for the U.S. air industry. With around 16.3 million flights – the busiest year for air travel in the U.S. ever – the cancellation rate of below 1.2% was the lowest in a decade, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

“Thanks to the tireless work of our nation’s aviation safety professionals, millions of travelers were able to fly safely and without disruption last year,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We are glad to see this 10-year low rate of cancellations, and our Department will continue to take every step to ensure air travel is smooth and safe for passengers in the new year.”