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American Airlines warns about fuel shortages that are affecting flights

Smaller airports in the West are being impacted the most

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Photo (c) CHUYN - Getty Images
Reports of delays of jet fuel supplies at some small and midsize airports, a shortage of trucks and truck drivers, and a skyrocketing travel demand are forcing American Airlines to ask its pilots to conserve where they reasonably and safely can. On Monday, the company said to stretch out its available fuel supply, it might have to add in some quick stopovers. 

The airline said flight disruptions stemming from the fuel supply issue have been “minimal” so far and that zero flights have been canceled.

“American Airlines station jet fuel delivery delays initially affected mostly western U.S. cities, but are now being reported at American stations across the country. Delivery delays are expected to continue through mid-August,” John Dudley, managing director of flight operations, told pilots in a memo reviewed by CNBC.

A prime example of the impact can be seen in Bozeman, Montana, a location where a record number of travelers are flying for some vacation time. Earlier this month, the city’s Yellowstone International Airport experienced fuel delivery delays for nearly 12 hours that, in turn, caused a fifth of the airport's daily flights to be disrupted. 

Safety won’t be impacted

To mitigate the problem where it can, some American flights will carry additional fuel into the airports impacted by fuel shortages. Dudley said pilots have also been asked to use fuel-saving procedures like taxiing with a single engine.

To most, procedures like that might raise an eyebrow, but the airlines say there are no unsafe corners being cut and that passenger safety is still in check. 

“We want to make sure the safety margin is protected and we also want to make sure we aren’t leaving passengers behind,” said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, the collective bargaining agent for the 15,000 professional pilots who fly for American Airlines.

American said it’s not alone

A Delta Air Lines spokesman confirmed to CNBC that it has also seen some fuel delay issues at smaller airports in the U.S. West -- specifically Reno, Nevada -- but that the situation hasn’t impacted flights to the point of operational issues. 

Southwest Airlines said it hadn’t experienced any issues to date, but the company told a CBS TV affiliate in Dallas that it has added more fuel on some planes to limit the amount needed at airports with shortages.

“We have been and continue to be in communication with federal authorities and pipeline operators to address this jet fuel capacity issue,” said Airlines for America, which represents most large U.S. carriers.

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