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Spirit and American airlines again cancel hundreds of flights

A  large crowd of passengers waits outside an airport terminal after canceled flights.
Passengers form a line that extends outside LAX Terminal 5 on Tuesday morning. Spirit and American airlines canceled an additional 700 flights Tuesday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

American Airlines Group Inc. and Spirit Airlines Inc. canceled nearly 700 more flights Tuesday, stranding thousands of passengers and stoking concerns that crew shortages are adding to problems that initially were caused by weather and technology issues.

American canceled 305 flights, or 10% of its schedule, after grounding 563 on Monday, according to FlightAware.com. The scrubbed service followed a weekend of storms that hit the carrier’s Dallas-Fort Worth International and Miami International hubs. Spirit parked 380 flights Tuesday — equivalent to 55% of its schedule — following 334 on Monday, hit by weather and other challenges.

The dropped flights add to delays and cancellations that have peppered the peak summer travel season, as airlines ramped up service in response to an unexpected surge in demand for vacations and social visits after people got COVID-19 vaccinations. In some cases, airlines have been unable to recover quickly because crews reached the maximum number of work hours as delays snowballed while reserve corps were tapped out.

Unruly passengers continue to be a problem, according to a survey of flight attendants.

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“Staffing has been a problem,” said Paul Hartshorn Jr., a spokesman for the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants at American. “Our flight attendants are being scheduled and rescheduled to the max.”

Data reviewed by the Allied Pilots Assn., which represents American aviators, showed that out of 284 American flights grounded as of midmorning Tuesday, more than 222 were attributed to pilot issues, said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the union. “That’s unsatisfactory. That’s unacceptable.”

“We commend them for trying to be aggressive in getting the flying out there, but unless you have an airplane and a pilot attached to it, you’re just selling paper,” he said. Spirit’s cockpit crews are represented by the Air Line Pilots Assn., which said its members were working to help restore full operation.

American’s shares dropped less than 1% to $19.95 in New York trading, putting them down 7.8% over four straight days of declines. The stock has climbed 27% this year, while the S&P 500 Airlines Index has risen 7.6%. Spirit was little changed at $26.77 on Tuesday.

American was still working to recover from heavy rains and high winds around Dallas on Sunday and Monday morning. The storms affected flights over nine hours, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to impose a ground delay, said airline spokeswoman Whitney Zastrow.

“We worked throughout the day yesterday to reposition our aircraft and crews — many of who had timed out as a result of long delays and unexpected diversions,” she said. “We expect to see improvements to our operation today.”

American canceled 950 flights in the first half of July to get back on schedule after June storms.

Spirit said by email that it had “implemented some proactive cancellations again today to reset our operations” after disruptions caused by weather, system outages and staffing shortages.


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