Angry travelers blast Spirit and American Airlines for canceling hundreds of flights

Angry travelers took to social media on Tuesday as they were left stranded at airports across the country after Spirit and American Airlines canceled hundreds of more flights for the third consecutive day.

More than 670 flights were canceled as of Tuesday morning – most of those by Spirit and American Airlines, according to FlightAware.

American has canceled more than 280 flights nationwide while Spirit has canceled some 290 flights.

The latest figures show that some 140 American flights are delayed while Spirit has delayed nearly 50 flights.

At least 120 of the cancelled American Airlines flights are due to a ‘lack of a flight crew,’ according to CNBC

One stranded passenger, Josh Spencer, posted a video on Twitter showing a terminal at Las Vegas airport filled with frustrated travelers in the early morning hours of Tuesday.

‘After an entire day of having flights delayed and cancelled by @AmericanAir and @SpiritAirlines, there are hundreds of stranded passengers at 2 am in Las Vegas airport with no clear way of getting home,’ he wrote.

‘I have never seen such poor management. This performance is disgraceful.’ 

Video posted on social media late on Monday show a stranded passenger blasting Spirit employees in the terminal of the airport in Fort Lauderdale.

‘That’s what they’re not going to tell you. Everybody that works here quit… that’s why we’re still just sitting here,’ the traveler said. 

‘They went home. That’s what they’re not telling you. There’s no way they’re still in a meeting. 

‘What meeting is there at 10 at night? They got our luggage, they got our money, they got everything.’ 

Spirit, which took some $330million in bailout money from the government during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, still hasn’t reported a profit.  

The image above from Tuesday shows stranded passengers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

An American Airlines staffer (above) told a stranded passenger that she had to wait up to three days to board a flight

An American Airlines staffer (above) told a stranded passenger that she had to wait up to three days to board a flight

Angry travelers took to social media to vent frustration after more than 620 flights were canceled nationwide on Tuesday morning - the third straight day of mass cancellations at airports

Angry travelers took to social media to vent frustration after more than 620 flights were canceled nationwide on Tuesday morning – the third straight day of mass cancellations at airports

'Flight got cancelled guess I'll be here til the morning,' one stranded passenger wrote from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Tuesday

‘Flight got cancelled guess I’ll be here til the morning,’ one stranded passenger wrote from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Tuesday

Another image shows passengers stranded at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Tuesday

Another image shows passengers stranded at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Tuesday

But American, which took some $1.5billion in taxpayer support, did report a profit of $19million in the latest quarter. 

An American Airlines spokesperson told DailyMail.com on Tuesday: ‘We have experienced cancellations and delays since Sunday, mainly due to weather and ATC (air traffic control) impacts at DFW Airport, including two ramp closures on Sunday and a ground stop earlier today related to ongoing weather-recovery efforts.’ 

DailyMail.com has sought comment from Spirit Airlines.  

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has faced the largest number of delays (47) and cancellations (89) as of early Tuesday morning.

On Monday, American canceled or delayed 1,500 flights – more than half of their scheduled itinerary – with its Dallas-Forth Worth hub bearing the brunt.

Spirit canceled 400 on Sunday and Monday, with Spirit’s toll accounting for 30 percent of its scheduled flights nationwide. Orlando and Fort Lauderdale were hard hit, with 40 per cent of Orlando’s flights canceled or delayed on Monday, and 37 per cent of Fort Lauderdale’s.

One traveler stranded in Dallas-Fort Worth was told by an American Airlines staffer early on Tuesday morning that she could be forced to wait up to three days to board her flight.

‘American Airlines this is so unacceptable!’ the traveler wrote on Instagram.

‘What is going on! 2-3 days stranded if your leaving out of DFW?’

An expert observer of the travel industry says that the delays and cancellations are caused by a combination of factors.

The airlines didn’t foresee the high level of demand for travel. They have also had to scramble to add more staff after either laying off or furloughing thousands during the pandemic.

‘It’s not as easy as turning on a switch,’ said Peter Vlitas, executive vice president of Internova Travel Group, a travel management company. 

‘It’s a matter of loading up systems, updating software, getting equipment, training people…as fast as airlines want to bring people back, the reality is it doesn’t happen overnight.’

Vlitas said Spirit, American, and other airlines are suffering from a ‘shortage of flight attendants, shortage of pilots, shortage of employees.’

‘Put it all together you are at the maximum capacity of what you can control,’ he said.

‘The airlines had no choice [but to cancel flights.’

Vlitas said that the bad weather in the Southeast and Southwest of the country is the ‘triggering mechanism’ that forced the airlines to cancel flights. 

Despite rising numbers of coronavirus infections fueled by the delta variant, the US set another recent high mark for air travel on Sunday, with more than 2.2 million people going through airport checkpoints, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

That is nearly 11,000 more people screened than July 18, and the highest number since February 28, 2020 – just before the U.S. felt the full brunt of the pandemic. 

However, air travel was still down 17 per cent on Sunday from the same Sunday in 2019.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines both posted second-quarter profits last month thanks to generous federal pandemic relief that covers most of their labor costs.

The reports on Thursday underscored the progress that airlines are making in rebuilding after the coronavirus crushed air travel — and how much farther they must go to fully recover.

American eked out a second-quarter profit of $19million due to nearly $1.5billion in taxpayer support. 

Southwest reported a profit of $348 million, including $724 million in federal help.

Southwest said it made money in June even without the government aid and hopes to be profitable by any measure in the third and fourth quarters if the pandemic doesn’t get worse.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said third-quarter travel bookings are ‘very strong,’ and he sees no impact yet from rising coronavirus cases tied to the fast-spreading delta variant. 

Southwest has not seen its operations disrupted to the same extent as its competitors American and Spirit. 

A spokesperson for Southwest told DailyMail.com on Tuesday: ‘Southwest publishes our flight schedules based on our staffing…and we are staffed for the flight schedules we plan.

‘Weather and other operational day-of disruptions will alter the best laid plans and our people work to accommodate our customers whose travel is altered by delays and cancelations.’

The spokesperson added: ‘Southwest had more than 3500 scheduled flights each of the past two days and had a small number of cancelations each day, well under average “normal” levels for summer days with convective thunderstorm activity along the Gulf Coast and in the Rockies. 

‘These data are reported out through the US Department of Transportation Bureau of Labor Statistics.’

The airline said that ‘uniquely among major US carriers of our size,’ the company did not lay off or furlough any employees, ‘continuing a 50-year streak without involuntary cuts in staffing or wages.’

The resurgence of leisure travel, coupled with some bad weather, has led to delays and flight cancellations at airlines struggling to ramp up after being crushed by the pandemic. 

Airlines have thousands fewer workers than they did before the pandemic, and at times they have been caught short-staffed even though they received $54 billion in taxpayer money to keep employees on the payroll. 

Monday’s cancellations came one day after 7,400 U.S. flights arrived at least 15 minutes behind schedule on Sunday — the government’s definition of late — and more than 900 were canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware. 

Nearly half of Sunday’s cancellations were at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, American’s largest hub, which was hit with afternoon and evening thunderstorms.

There have been at least 5,000 delayed flights on most days since early July, according to FlightAware figures.

Southwest, American and Spirit are among airlines with the biggest problems. 

For Sunday and Monday combined, Southwest delayed more than 2,500 flights and American more than 1,600.

A key senator is quizzing several airlines to explain the high numbers of flight delays and cancellations. 

Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said airlines did a poor job of managing their workforces and might have failed to live up to the purpose of the taxpayer funding. 

‘I am deeply concerned by recent reports highlighting…workforce shortages that have caused flight cancellations and generated delays for passengers,’ she wrote in a July 16 letter to the CEOs of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Republic Airways, and Allegiant Airlines. 

‘These shortages come in the wake of unprecedented federal funding that Congress appropriated, at the airlines’ request, to support the airline industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

‘As passenger travel has boomed in recent weeks, new reports also suggest that some airlines are now unprepared to meet the increased demand that they scheduled for, and have resorted to delaying or canceling flights,’ the Senator continued. 

‘This reported workforce shortage runs counter to the objective and spirit of the PSP, which was to enable airlines to endure the pandemic and keep employees on payroll so that the industry was positioned to capture a rebound in demand.’ 

Cantwell asked each airline to account for its utilization of federal funds and provide further information on current and projected workforce shortages. 

Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta, said earlier in July that ‘the challenges of getting our airline fully back to the service level our customers expect and deserve is daunting in light of the huge surge in demand that we are experiencing.’ 

The travel recovery also faces a renewed public-health threat, as the number of new cases of COVID-19 continues to rise. 

The seven-day rolling average of new U.S. infections is around 80,000 a day, up nearly 150% from two weeks ago, although the increase in deaths is far smaller.

Airline officials say they haven’t seen bookings suffer because of the delta variant, although some have said it could delay the return of business travel, which airlines were hoping would gain speed this fall. 

Travelers took to social media to vent their frustrations from airports in cities such as San Juan, Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale while they waited for updates from Spirit.

The airline tweeted on Monday morning that there were delays, but then fell silent – to the fury of passengers.

Photos and videos showed the travelers seated on the ground as they complained of being hot and hungry in packed terminals. 

One woman tweeted that the ground staff in Puerto Rico walked out.

American and Southwest – like Delta and United in the past week – reported revenue far above 2020 levels. 

That reflects the rising number of people taking flights in the United States – now about 2 million a day, or about 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels. 

Domestic leisure travel is roughly back to normal, but business and international travelers are still mostly absent.

As passengers stream back, flight delays have soared. The problems have been greatest at Southwest and American, which have struggled with hundreds of delayed flights a day.

Southwest said 33 percent of its flights in July have arrived at least 15 minutes behind schedule, the federal government’s definition of a late flight. 

That’s up from 19 percent in May, when Southwest had the second-worst record in the industry. 

The airline said its operation has been slowed by technology issues in June, summer thunderstorms, and the prevalence of leisure travelers with more bags than normal.

‘We are still offering a decent experience. It’s not what we want because it’s taking (passengers) a little bit longer to get to the destination,’ said Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven. 

He said delays should decline as the airline adds flights and summer storms abate.

US airlines persuaded tens of thousands of employees to quit or take long-term leaves of absence last year to help the companies avoid financial ruin. Now they are scrambling to hire workers to keep up with a surprisingly fast rebound in travel.

Southwest is recalling some workers from leaves earlier than scheduled. 

American recently announced plans to bulk up staffing by recalling 3,300 flight attendants from leave later this year and hiring 800 more by next spring. It plans to hire 350 pilots this year and more than 1,000 next year.

Excluding federal funds and other special items, American reported a second-quarter adjusted loss of $1.1billion. 

That is American’s smallest adjusted loss in any quarter since 2019, and at $1.69 per share it was less than the $2.03 per share loss forecast by analysts, according to a FactSet survey.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American’s revenue jumped more than four-fold from a year ago. CEO Doug Parker said American carried five times as many passengers as it did in the same stretch of 2020. 

Still, revenue was down 37 percent from the same quarter in 2019.

Once summer ends, airlines will need to lure back high-paying corporate travelers if they are to keep boosting their revenue. Carriers say the road warriors are starting to return. 

A man is pictured sleeping in San Juan airport in Puerto Rico on Monday, amid widespread cancellations by Spirit and others

A man is pictured sleeping in San Juan airport in Puerto Rico on Monday, amid widespread cancellations by Spirit and others

Large crowds gathered in Houston as the airlines cancelled a series of flights, leaving many stranded

Large crowds gathered in Houston as the airlines cancelled a series of flights, leaving many stranded

Passengers in Puerto Rico were complaining about being stranded for 11 hours in San Juan airport

Passengers in Puerto Rico were complaining about being stranded for 11 hours in San Juan airport

San Juan international airport in Puerto Rico was hard-hit by Spirit's cancelations, with many people now stuck on the island for days

San Juan international airport in Puerto Rico was hard-hit by Spirit’s cancelations, with many people now stuck on the island for days

One Instagram user posted a photo on Sunday of a sign jokingly reading: 'Pilot wanted'

One Instagram user posted a photo on Sunday of a sign jokingly reading: ‘Pilot wanted’

Passengers were left lying on airport floors for hours as Spirit and American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights

Passengers were left lying on airport floors for hours as Spirit and American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights

American said revenue from domestic business travel has been growing by up to 10 percentage points a month and now stands around 45 percent of 2019 figures. Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja predicted a bump in corporate sales in October, a few weeks after many offices are due to reopen.

Southwest’s profit reversed a loss of $915 million in the second quarter of 2020. 

Excluding federal relief and other special items, the Dallas-based airline said it would have lost $206 million or 35 cents per share — more than analysts’ prediction of a loss of 21 cents per share.

Southwest said it hopes to be profitable in the third and fourth quarters even excluding federal pandemic aid but cautioned that the pandemic could upset current booking trends. Airline stocks have gyrated recently on concern that COVID-19 variants and rising infection cases could hinder travel.

Revenue quadrupled from a year ago to $4.01 billion but remained 32 percent lower than the same quarter in 2019.

Alaska Airlines, the nation’s fifth-largest carrier, said it earned $397million in the second quarter. 

Excluding $503million in federal aid and other items, Alaska lost $38million, or 30 cents per share, on revenue of $1.53billion.     

‘Confirming. I was there. They were temp workers and they literally took off their badges and said “f*** this,”’ she tweeted. 

‘They were lead by security through an underground tunnel out of the airport for their “safety”.’ 

Rumors of a pilot strike began circulating online before a Spirit spokesperson quashed that speculation and said the cancellations were due to weather and ‘other operational challenges’.

Thousands of Spirit Airlines passengers have been stranded in airports for hours after the budget-friendly carrier canceled 30 percent of its scheduled flights nationwide.  Photos and videos posted by travelers venting their frustrations on social media showed them seated on dirty airport floors as they complained of being hot and hungry in packed terminals

Thousands of Spirit Airlines passengers have been stranded in airports for hours after the budget-friendly carrier canceled 30 percent of its scheduled flights nationwide.  Photos and videos posted by travelers venting their frustrations on social media showed them seated on dirty airport floors as they complained of being hot and hungry in packed terminals

While rumors began circulating of a strike, a spokesperson for Spirit quickly denied those rumors, citing weather and 'other operational challenges' as the culprit for the delays

While rumors began circulating of a strike, a spokesperson for Spirit quickly denied those rumors, citing weather and ‘other operational challenges’ as the culprit for the delays

Following the cancellations, many passengers began voicing their frustration online, commenting on long waits for refunds, missing luggage, and other customer service challenges

Following the cancellations, many passengers began voicing their frustration online, commenting on long waits for refunds, missing luggage, and other customer service challenges

‘We’re working around the clock to get back on track in the wake of some travel disruptions over the weekend due to a series of weather and operational challenges,’ Sprit spokesperson Erik Hofmeyer told the Sun Sentinel in an email. 

‘We needed to make proactive cancellations to some flights across the network, but the majority of flights are still scheduled as planned,’ he added.

Passengers flying on Spirit Airlines were stranded for hours after the budget-friendly carrier canceled 30% of its scheduled flights nationwide, according to flight tracking service FlightAware.com

Passengers flying on Spirit Airlines were stranded for hours after the budget-friendly carrier canceled 30% of its scheduled flights nationwide, according to flight tracking service FlightAware.com

Following the cancellations, many passengers began sharing their woes on Twitter, describing long waits for refunds, missing luggage, and other customer service challenges.   

One passenger even complained about waiting in line for almost seven hours. 

‘Update, been here in line almost 7 hrs. I’m tired, hungry, hot and I’m finally close to the front. @SpiritAirlines No comment on what’s going…’ they wrote.  

‘This is absolutely ridiculous. First fight was delayed. Twice. Then canceled. Got my flight changed to a different airport. Then THAT flight got canceled. Then went to the desks and all the spirit employees left and refused to come back to help us!’ another user tweeted.  

A third passenger commented on agents refusing to assist guests after waiting in line four hours. 

‘What’s worse is the fact only two people are actually assisting guests when the other agent assist line are refusing people. Been on the phone for almost 2 hours waiting on an agent to fix this mess as well,’ they wrote. 

One passenger said he and his family were stranded overnight in Puerto Rico, without any clothes or essentials for his one and three-year-olds.

‘When #spiritairlines leaves you stranded in Puerto Rico with no employees in sight and holds your luggage and money hostage. We were stuck overnight with no clothes or essentials for our 3 or 1 year olds and are still without answers and searching for flights,’ he wrote on Twitter.   

Carolyn Fennell, an Orlando airport spokeswoman, speculated that COVID-19 also played a factor in the cancellations. 

‘I think the question of why it’s happening is a combination of weather with afternoon storms and lightning; airline staffs are reduced by COVID not just here but across the nation and you’ve got a huge spike in travel,’ she told the Sun Sentinel. 

‘It’s all of that, a perfect storm.’  

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