American Airlines issued warnings on July 26th about ongoing potential fuel shortages at some US airports. This is mainly being driven by staff problems with the fueling industry. As expected, the airline will take steps to minimize inconvenience, but there could be travel difficulties over the coming weeks.
Experiencing fuel shortages
American Airlines (along with other airlines) is reporting shortages of fuel at some airports. The problems first appeared in the west but are also being reported now at other airports. Delta Air Lines has reported problems in Reno as well. According to some media reports, the problems could last until mid-August, but this is far from certain.
In a statement, the airline explained:
“We are aware of fuel supply issues at some airports, predominately across the western U.S., affecting a number of carriers. American is currently experiencing minimal operational impact due to fuel supply issues. Our team continues to work around the clock to monitor the situation and minimize the impact on our customers.”
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Several contributing factors
The problems stem mainly from staff shortages and the resulting impact on fuel logistics. Several locations and companies are experiencing a shortage of fuel trucks and truck drivers.
Supply is also being squeezed due to the rise in passenger traffic. In some locations, leisure traffic has returned almost to 2019 levels, and fuel supply is struggling to keep pace after being slowed for so long. Some pipelines have been allocating additional capacity to gasoline and diesel, and less to jet fuel, during the pandemic.
Taking necessary steps
Of course, fuel shortages at airports are not only going to affect American Airlines. We will likely see other airlines using affected airports having to take steps or alter flight schedules.
As for American Airlines, it has said it might add fuel stops for some flights if the fuel supply at a flights departure airport is limited. ‘Tankering’ fuel into destinations with limited supply is common in some situations (including smaller, general aviation aircraft), but it is not common in commercial aviation. Carrying additional fuel and increased aircraft weight, of course, will cost more.
In addition, in a memo to its pilots (reported by CNBC), it has requested pilots follow some fuel-reducing procedures. This includes using just one engine when taxing.
Problems in Fresno
Earlier in July, fuel shortages were experienced at Fresno Yosemite International Airport. This could well be an indication of the sort of problems American Airlines expects at other airports.
Between June 30th and July 4th, over 20 flights were diverted, delayed, or canceled at Fresno. The main cause of this was reported to be workforce shortages, with not enough truck drivers to deliver jet fuel. Several airlines tankered in fuel or just added small amounts at Fresno and then added a fuel stop to the route.
Have you been affected by any of the ongoing fuel shortages? Do you think airlines’ mitigation strategies will be enough to avoid major problems while supply issues are resolved? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.