Some smaller airports across the country are running out of fuel for commercial jets, and American Airlines is warning pilots to prepare for the possibility of not being able to gas up at some stops.
After Fresno Yosemite Airport in California reported some fuel shortages last week, Nevada’s Reno-Tahoe International Airport said Sunday that “many airports in the West are experiencing fuel shortages” and told customers to check with airlines before flying.
Monday morning, American Airlines sent a memo to pilots warning them to prepare in case there isn’t fuel left for planes.
“All airlines are continuing to experience jet fuel delivery delays at several midsize to smaller airports due primarily to constrained jet fuel transportation logistics, including a shortage of truck drivers, a shortage of fuel trucks and in some select cases, pipeline allocations,” said the memo from American Airlines flight operations managing director John Dudley.
The memo, which was earlier reported by CNBC, said that the delivery delays started at “mostly western U.S. cities but are now being reported at American stations across the country.”
American Airlines said it is not experiencing any flight disruptions because of the fuel shortage, but the airline is encouraging pilots to conserve fuel when possible, such as using a single engine to taxi.
“We are aware of fuel supply issues at some airports, predominantly across the western U.S., affecting a number of carriers,” American Airlines spokeswoman Whitney Zastrow said in a statement. “American is currently experiencing minimal operational impact due to fuel supply issues. Our team continues to work around the clock to monitor the situation and minimize the impact on our customers.”
American may also ask pilots to make stops to refuel or to ferry in extra fuel to ensure planes have enough for their next takeoff.
DFW International Airport, the largest hub for Fort Worth-based American, is not facing any fuel supply issues, Zastrow said.
Large airports such as DFW have their own dedicated pipelines pumping in fuel. But airports in places such as Bozeman, Mont., and Jackson Hole, Wyo., depend on truck drivers to transport fuel from terminals, said Patrick DeHaan, a senior analyst with GasBuddy.com.
“It’s a sign of the times that gasoline demand is surging and there aren’t enough truckers,” DeHaan said.
The trucker shortage first hit automotive gas stations, but now it’s trickled down to airports too, he said.
Airports and airlines occasionally report fuel shortages during extreme circumstances, such as refinery and pipeline shutdowns due to a hurricane threatening Florida or the Gulf Coast. There were some isolated airport fuel shortages due to the Colonial Pipeline shut down in May, and some American Airlines jets did have to make extra fueling stops.
In Nevada, state and federal lawmakers are investigating the possible fuel shortage, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
“To be clear, further failure to secure adequate fuel supplies is unacceptable,” said a letter from Nevada’s Gov. Steve Sisolak, U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, and U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei.
Recent wildfires in the western U.S. could also be partially responsible because of the demand from firefighting aircraft, the AP reported.
The gas supply issues aren’t likely to let up for two or three weeks when peak summer driving and airplane travel season tapers off, DeHaan said.