Spirit Airlines cancels half of its flights; American Airlines is also struggling

(AP) – Spirit Airlines canceled nearly half of its schedule for Tuesday, the third day in a row of extremely high cancellation numbers for the low-cost airline.

By early afternoon, the low-cost carrier had canceled about 320 flights, or 47% of its schedule, according to tracking service FlightAware. In addition, dozens of other flights were late. The blame seemed to lie at least in part on a technology failure affecting crew planning.

American Airlines had canceled nearly 300 flights by early Tuesday afternoon, but it is much larger than Spirit, and those flights were 9% less alarming of its schedule.

According to a company newspaper, about three-quarters of US cancellations appeared to be at least in part due to a lack of pilots.

The disruptions at Spirit and American are just the latest examples of airlines scrambling to cope with increased travel this summer. Airlines have thousands fewer employees than before the pandemic, but air travel to the United States is back to about 80% of 2019 levels.

A Spirit spokesperson said the airline was proactively canceling some flights – abandoning them before most passengers made it to the airport – to “reset” the operation.

“We are working tirelessly to mitigate travel disruption caused by overlapping operational challenges, including weather conditions, system failures and personnel shortages in certain areas of the operation,” said spokesperson Erik. Hofmeyer. “We make every effort to reimburse cancellations and, where possible, to re-accommodate our guests” on other flights.

A person familiar with the situation said Spirit suffered a blackout Tuesday morning affecting crew scheduling, preventing airline officials from rescheduling crews to fill in the gaps. The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said crews were stranded in many places across the country and unable to get to assigned flights.

Florida-based Spirit on Monday cut more than 330 flights, or 42% of its schedule, more than double the rate of American Airlines, the second worst performer among major U.S. carriers. Spirit canceled about 20% of its flights on Sunday.

According to FlightAware, American’s troubles on Tuesday came after the airline canceled about 560 flights, or 18% of its schedule, on Monday and nearly 300 on Sunday. Most were at Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport, where thunderstorms disrupted flights for several hours on Sunday.

The union representing American pilots accused the airline’s management of poor planning and not having enough employees.

“It’s quite simple. They don’t have enough pilots, and they don’t have modern planning practices to do more with what they have, ”union spokesman Dennis Tajer said. He said bad weather “hits every airline, but American is the last to recover. That needs to change.

U.S. spokeswoman Whitney Zastrow said in a statement Tuesday’s cancellations were largely related to Sunday’s storm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She said employees worked around the clock to take care of customers.

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According to FlightAware, Southwest canceled about 3% of its flights on Tuesday, and other major U.S. airlines recorded even fewer cancellations. Figures do not include flights on smaller American Eagle, United Express or Delta Connection branded aircraft.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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