American Airlines on Monday urged its pilots to do everything possible to save fuel, warning that a supply crunch in the United States is challenging company operations.
“Use all available fuel savings strategies when possible,” Managing Director of Flight Operations John Dudley said in a memo to pilots. “Every gallon of jet fuel saved is helpful.”
Airline industry officials said the problem stemmed from lower pipeline supplies of jet fuel, which ceded pipeline capacity to gasoline, diesel and other fuels during the pandemic when airline travel slowed to trickle.
Other factors behind the supply crunch include shortages of trucks and drivers to transport fuel, Dudley said.
“These challenges are not only impacting airports and airlines but also the efforts to fight the large forest fires on the West Coast,” the memo said.
The fuel crunch is the latest problem facing US carriers, which are experiencing a vaccine-fueled surge in travel demand after the anemic travel consumption during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
An American spokesman referred questions to airline trade group, Airlines for America, saying the issue was not specific to the carrier.
The trade group said the fuel crunch primarily affects smaller airports in the western United States.
“Carriers are taking proactive measures such as having aircraft take on extra fuel at non-impacted origin airports in order to supplement the fuel supply at impacted destination airports,” Airlines for America said.
The warning follows a statement Saturday from Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and three members of the Nevada congressional delegation reporting that they had been warned of “potential jet fuel shortages” at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
“Our immediate focus is on ensuring resources to combat western wildfires are not impacted and that there is as little disruption as possible for Nevadans and visitors,” said the statement from Nevada officials.
Delta said there has been “no operational impact” on customers in Reno, but that “the larger issue” was the loss of capacity at pipelines due to the pandemic, as it called on US authorities to work with pipelines and airlines “to work together to allow space on the pipelines to ship the needed jet fuel to the airports.”
Shortages ‘across the country’
The fuel shortages were found initially in the western United States, but “are now being reported at American stations across the country,” Dudley said, adding that fuel delivery delays were expected through mid-August.
Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association (APA), said he expects planes to fly with more fuel than is needed to complete their journey when they travel from cities where fuel is more abundant into cities where supplies are tight.
Pilots need to be mindful of the added weight from extra fuel, Tajer told AFP, adding that “safety is the most important thing.”
Besides working to conserve fuel, Dudley urged pilots to contact American Airlines dispatchers early “if it is necessary to land enroute” and noted that taking on extra fuel “will lead to a heavier aircraft when landing.”
Among other carriers, Southwest Airlines said it has not experienced operational problems, but continues to monitor the situation “to minimize any potential disruption.”
United did not immediately respond to a request for comment.