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American Extends Flight Schedule Cuts

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American Airlines said it will cut back on passenger capacity until mid-November, extending reductions from September and October as it cancelled hundreds of flights, citing aircraft maintenance issues and pilots reporting sick.

The carrier, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year, said in a memo to its managers that it was cutting its flight schedule until mid-November by 1 percent to give it more flexibility to organize crews and planes to return to a more normal pattern. American said the move would not affect holiday travel.

"While we are experiencing improvements in several areas of the operation, we are not yet back to the levels our customers deserve and expect from American," the carrier said in the memo.

A spokeswoman said American is canceling about 31 flights a day out of about 3,500 daily trips between now and mid-November. She said American cancelled about 400 flights since September.

American cut its flight schedule for September and October by 1 percent to 2 percent. American blamed flight disruptions on a slowdown campaign by pilots that it said was causing economic damage to the airline and alienating passengers. Incidents in which seats came unbolted from the floor on some flights have also raised concerns about the carrier.

The Allied Pilots Association union, which represents American's pilots, has said it called no work slowdown against the carrier. But the union has stressed that pilots want a better contract, on par with those at rivals such as Delta Air Lines.

Pilots voted down a concessionary contract from American in August. Talks on a contract resumed with the pilots' union last week.

Robert Mann, an airline consultant, said weak demand might be one factor in the latest move.

"There is undoubtedly less demand for travel in recent weeks that we've seen," Mann said. "That would suggest that a risk-averse strategy would simply be to fly less."

(Reuters)