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Spirit And American Airlines Canceled Hundreds Of Flights, Frustrating Passengers

A Spirit Airlines jet seen approaching  Philadelphia International Airport earlier this year.
A Spirit Airlines jet seen approaching Philadelphia International Airport earlier this year.

Spirit and American Airlines canceled hundreds of their flights on Tuesday, exasperating passengers in airports throughout the country, and in some cases, leaving them stranded.

Half of Spirit's Tuesday flights were canceled: a total of 347 flights, according to the Associated Press. By comparison, American Airlines had canceled around 300 flights — about 10% of the day's total, by mid-afternoon on Tuesday.

Both airlines have experienced flight disruptions for the past three days. According to flight tracker FlightAware, Spirit canceled 19% of its Sunday flights and 40% of its flights on Monday. American canceled 300 Sunday flights and 563 Monday flights.

American Airlines has attributed its cancellations and delays to severe weather happening in Dallas Fort Worth.

"A prolonged severe weather event in Dallas Fort-Worth on Sunday night into Monday morning brought sustained heavy rain, strong winds, lightning, microbursts and hail to our largest hub," American Airlines spokesperson Laura Masvidal said in a statement to NPR. "The nine-hour weather event resulted in flight delays, cancellations and nearly 100 diversions. Our team members are working around the clock to care for our customers."

According to American Airlines, many members of its crew had "timed out," having worked all their hours already through delays and other disruptions

On Twitter, Spirit Airlines said it was "experiencing operational challenges in some areas" of its network and encouraged passengers to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

A spokesperson from Spirit attributed the disruptions to weather, system outages, and staffing shortages in certain areas of operation.

"In responding to these challenges, Spirit has implemented some proactive cancellations again today to reset our operations," Spirit spokesperson Field Sutton wrote in a statement to NPR. "Most of our flights currently remain scheduled as planned."

The disruptions come many airlines are ill-prepared for the wave of returning passengers eager to travel once again.

On Twitter, word of staff, including pilots, "walking out" at certain airports has mounted speculation of an employee strike. A statement from the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA says there isn't one.

"There is no flight attendant strike. Crews are not the issue," read the statement.

Inside airports, frustrated and shocked passengers have posted videos and expressed their anger over long lines, minimal communication, and canceled flights on Twitter and TikTok.

Josie Fischels is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.