American to cut flights at LGA, Albany

June 25, 2008 2:39:00 PM PDT
American Airlines will cut back flying later this year at many airports, including LaGuardia, as it attempts to cope with record high fuel prices. The nation's largest carrier gave more details Wednesday about capacity reductions it announced last month.

The company decided to eliminate five AA flights and 37 American Eagle jet departures at LaGuardia Airport.

American said that the cuts would not only produce cost savings, but also, coupled with appropriate government action, could allow the airport to operate with less chronic disruption and improve customer experience at one of the nation's most congested airports.

"Today, the dependability and delay issues that exist at LaGuardia have reached a crisis point and have a daily negative impact on the overall customer service and performance for every airline with flights at LaGuardia," said Bob Reding, American's Executive Vice President - Operations.

During the last five years, the airline said, delays at LaGuardia have increased 50 percent and now occur on one out of every four departures, with delays averaging more than one hour. In large part, these delays are attributable to Air Traffic Control's inability to handle the scheduled service levels.

American also plans to end Eagle service out of Albany.

The decision drew a sharp response from Governor David Patterson.

"Especially troubling is the affect this will have on Upstate airports, which were traditionally underserved and only in the last few years began to see more routes and better service. I understand that this is a difficult time for airlines - anyone who fills their car's gas tank can imagine what rising fuel costs have done to airlines' bottom lines," he said. "But I implore American Airlines, as well as the other carriers considering various cost-saving scenarios, to take into account more than profit when they evaluate routes. For many, these airlines are a critical lifeline to family and business obligations."

American also said it will reduce departures at its Chicago O'Hare Airport hub by 28 flights and sister airline American Eagle would cut 34 flights, beginning in September.

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, American will cut 19 departures and Eagle will ground 23 flights.

Fort Worth-based American had already said it was closing operations in Oakland, Calif., and at London's Stansted Airport in September, and it said Wednesday it would end service to Barranquilla, Colombia.

Eagle will also end operations in Providence, R.I.; Harrisburg, Pa.; San Luis Obispo, Calif.; and Samana, Dominican Republic.

American announced last month it will cut domestic capacity 11 percent to 12 percent, and Eagle will cut capacity 10 percent to 11 percent, compared with levels of late 2007. The company is trying to reduce costs in the face of fuel prices that have nearly doubled in the past year, surpassing labor as American's biggest expense.

Chairman and Chief Executive Gerard Arpey said last month that American will probably eliminate thousands of jobs as a result of fewer flights, but the company has not yet disclosed a precise figure.

A spokesman said Wednesday that job effects might not be known for some time. The company repeated Wednesday that it intends to offer voluntary-departure programs to reduce layoffs.

Shares of parent AMR Corp. rose 17 cents, or 3 percent, to $5.88 in afternoon trading.