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Airlines Cancel or Delay Over 12K Flights, Stranded 1000s of Spring Break Travelers

Airlines Cancel or Delay Over 12K Flights, Stranded 1000s of Spring Break Travelers

Americans antsy to break out of their lockdowns and enjoy a real spring break are now spending their vacations on airport floors, stranded by storms and technical issues that have led to over 12,000 canceled or delayed flights across several airlines this weekend.

Because of storms in Florida and a technology issue, Southwest Airlines was the hardest hit in terms of the number of flights. The airline canceled 520 Saturday flights, or 14% of its operation, and 398 Sunday flights.

Thunderstorms are especially challenging for airlines because they are harder to predict and plan for compared with other weather like winter storms and hurricanes, during which airlines often cancel flights hours if not days in advance.

More than 65,000 American Airlines customers, including those on regional airlines, were impacted by the disruptions on Saturday, according to an internal tally. About a third of cancellations were tied to a lack of crew availability. Budget airline Spirit, which has its headquarters and largest hub in Fort Lauderdale, has had the highest percentage of weekend cancellations. The airline canceled 27% of its Saturday flights and so far has canceled 27% of its Sunday flights, according to flight tracker FlightAware.

Several other airlines reported problems as well. JetBlue Airways canceled 25% of its Sunday flights after canceling 15% of its flights on Saturday, according to FlightAware. American Airlines canceled 364 Saturday flights and 211 Sunday flights, which a spokesperson also blamed on the Florida storms.

The airline waived fare differences for affected customers so they can rebook themselves online without waiting on the phone, a spokesman said. The airline started the day with about 400 cancellations because aircraft and crews were out of position after Saturday’s weather, the spokesman added. But at least one Twitter user reported canceling a $350 round-trip plane ticket only to be forced to shell out for a rental car at nearly twice the price when she couldn’t find a flight.

To add even more stress to an industry already stretched thin, some employees are now also on strike. On Sunday, more than 500 American mainline flights were canceled or delayed, while Delta had 41 canceled flights and 366 delayed.  Delta, American, and Alaska Airlines pilots have picketed at airports in recent weeks as their unions push carriers’ management for better pay and more predictable schedules.

On Friday, Alaska Airlines canceled more than 100 flights and close to 80 more on Saturday. Some of its pilots had picketed at several West Coast airports Friday over a lack of progress in contract negotiations with the airline. “Alongside other carriers, we continue to be impacted by a national pilot shortage and the required training regimen to bring new pilots on board,” the airline said in a statement, which did not mention the pickets.

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