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US airlines forced to ask pilots to conserve fuel over ongoing supply issues

written by Isabella Richards | July 27, 2021

Boeing 737 Max aircraft of United Airlines and American Airlines (Drew Angerer/Getty and Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock.com)

US carriers have been forced to ask pilots to introduce fuel-conserving methods during flights, amid ongoing fuel supply issues.

Most recently, in a memo to staff, American Airlines has requested that its pilots utilise just one engine while taxiing the jet, if doable, or to otherwise be mindful and implement fuel-saving strategies, as the airline attempts to deal with fuel delivery delays.

The airline said the fuel reserve issue was largely due to a shortage of truck drivers to deliver the supplied fuel, however was partially also due to pipeline or operational issues in some cases.

John Dudley, managing director of flight operations, said fuel supply delays would likely continue through to mid-August.

“American Airlines station jet fuel delivery delays initially affected mostly western US cities, but are now being reported at American stations across the country,” he said.

“As our country continues to face multiple challenges, let’s work together as a team to operate reliably, safely and as efficiently as possible.”

While flights have been cancelled yet due to the fuel issue, additional stops on long haul flights may be implemented as the airline continues to “monitor the situation”


Similar delays have been seen across US major airlines, including Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, but have had minimal to no impact on operations yet.

Airlines for America, a trade group that represents many of the US carriers have said they are in communication with “federal authorities” and “pipeline operators” to address the issue.

While jet fuel stockpiles in the US are at highly sufficient levels right now, shortages of transportation equipment and other key parts of the production line are at the heart of delays.

“The larger issue here is that jet fuel has lost pipeline space to gasoline and diesel over the past year due to the pandemic,” Delta Air Lines said in a statement.

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the pipelines, and the airlines need to work together to allow space on the pipelines to ship the needed jet fuel to the airports.”

The Associated Press said the shortages were being reported across numerous airports in the West, congested with additional demand for fighting wildfires.

There has been a string of fuel delays this year already, especially in domestic travel as the US climbs back to pre-pandemic levels.

In May this year, American Airlines reported a similar issue and added two stops on long-haul flights out of Charlotte, North Carolina due to a shutdown of the Colonial pipeline.

Earlier in July, fuel shortages also disrupted flights at Fresno Yosemite International Airport where more than 20 flights were cancelled between 30 June and 4 July.


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