Inside American Airlines' dramatically improved O'Hare Airport operational numbers
Posted On: Jan 10, 2020
American Airlines had a game-changing December when it came to improving operational performance at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where the airline has its third-largest hub, and throughout the domestic network.
Exclusive ops data and an internal memo provided to the Chicago Business Journal detail just how dramatically the carrier’s fortunes improved last month after a year in which the world’s largest carrier struggled mightily to operate reliably and avoid flight cancellations.
Many factors contributed to the downturn in AA's on-time performance, including the sudden grounding of the Boeing (NASDAQ: BA) 737 MAX, a nasty contract battle with mechanics that is ongoing but that has quieted somewhat due to court action, and the inevitable bad weather that can quickly and widely affect on-time performance.
But despite those factors, December was a record-setter for the carrier at O’Hare.
American’s December operations at O’Hare included 15 days without any cancellations of either mainline or regional flights and an impressive 28 days without any mainline cancellations.
That translated into 6.3 percent fewer cancellations at O'Hare than was the case in December of 2018, even though AA operated 252 more flights last month (nearly a 2 percent increase) than it did a year ago.
Of the 13,738 AA flights that arrived at O’Hare in December, the carrier got 10,743 of them to the gate on-time, which the U.S. Department of Transportation defines as within 14 minutes of the scheduled arrival time. The encouraging on-time performance came even with 1.2 million AA customers transiting through O’Hare last month — a 9 percent increase year over year in traffic.
The load factor on flights departing ORD in December also rose dramatically to 87.3 percent from 80 percent a year ago. Load factor refers to the percentage of seats occupied by paying customers.
The improving numbers at ORD were, according to David Seymour, AA’s Senior Vice President, Operations, part of a systemwide effort to get American (NASDAQ: AAL) back to being a smooth-running major carrier.
In an internal memo to tens of thousands of AA employees that was obtained by the Chicago Business Journal, Seymour said that during the peak holiday travel period from Dec. 18 to Jan. 6, American achieved “record results” for combined mainline and regional on-time departures and arrivals.
Per Seymour, 64.3 percent of all AA flights departed on or before their scheduled departure time and 78.4 percent of flights arrived within 14 minutes of their scheduled arrival time between Dec. 18 and Jan. 6.
Seymour also noted “having fewer aircraft out of service after the challenges of this past summer was a driving factor in our improved performance.”
Seymour additionally observed that having more serviceable aircraft at the start of and throughout the operating day meant more flights departed and arrived on time and fewer flights were cancelled. All of these changes resulted in fewer disruptions to customers’ travels.