By the numbers: Why American Airlines had a better operational year in 2014

American Airlines made some operational improvements in 2014. Photo: American Airlines. 

American Airlines made some operational improvements in 2014. Photo: American Airlines. 

Is American Airlines in better operational shape than it was in 2013?

I would say that it is. It's hard to say exactly how much better, but I think the merger with US Airways has been good for employee morale. And I think the operation is improving. 

This week, in an employee newsletter, American detailed some of the improvements it made in 2014, compared to the previous year. Here are a few of them. 

  • American took delivery of 82 new aircraft in 2014. 
  • American reported it made 392 fewer maintenance-related flight cancelations in 2014 than 2013.  
  • The airline's "controllable completion" rate in 2014 was 99.5%. Essentially, that's what it sounds like. These are cancelations for reasons the airline can control, such as maintenance. Weather, though, would not be "controllable." 
  • American used about 220,000 fewer gallons of fuel in 2014 by reducing aircraft weight. Some of the savings came from replacing paper flight attendant manuals with new Samsung Tablets. 
  • By switching to more efficient arrival patterns at Dallas Fort/Worth International Airport, with help from the FAA, American flew one million fewer miles. That means a lot less fuel was burned. A local television station did a story on the new system in November. 
  • American said it had a "28% reduction in aircraft damages," in 2014.  I presume this means American had fewer costly ground accidents, such as the one with a cleaning truck and a US Airways Airbus A330 that I detailed on the blog earlier this week. Airlines are constantly trying to reduce the number of these accidents. 
  • American had a "25% reduction in inadvertent slide deployments." These incidents, which happen when employees fail to turn off the slide before they open the door during regular operations, can be very costly.  It looks like this.