American Airlines Cancels More Than 1,000 Flights

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  1. DALLAS - American Airlines scrapped more than 1,000 flights on Wednesday — nearly half of its scheduled service — as it reinspects wire bundles on its fleet of MD-80 jets. Cancellations on late Tuesday and Wednesday were for the very same issue that affected the airline two weeks ago.

    The move disrupted business trips and vacations for tens of thousands of travelers.

    It was the latest — and largest — in a wave of cancellations at major U.S. airlines that have caused long lines at ticket counters and made flying even more stressful than usual

    Executives at American said safety was never compromised, and they suggested the nation’s biggest airline was the victim of suddenly stepped-up scrutiny by federal regulators.

    American estimated that more than 100,000 travelers were booked on the canceled flights. Many had to scramble to book new flights and were stranded at hotels far from home.

    The airline had already scrubbed 460 flights on Tuesday after federal inspectors found problems with wiring work done two weeks ago, during the first set of shutdowns.

    The issue stems from an order that the Federal Aviation Administration gave airlines in September 2006 — and gave airlines until last month to meet — about the bundling of wires in the auxiliary hydraulic systems of MD-80 aircraft. The fear is that improperly bundled wires could rub, leading to an electrical short or even fire. However, no serious incidents have been blamed on the bundles, the FAA said.

    American officials thought they had fixed the problem last month. But this week, FAA inspectors found problems with the work done on more than a dozen planes. American said it had no choice but to ground all 300 of its MD-80s to deal with the wiring bundles.

    American operates about 2,200 daily flights, more than one-third with MD-80s. Nearly half the cancellations were concentrated at two airports, in Dallas and Chicago.

    Passengers upended
    At New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday, hundreds of passengers stood in check-in lines or milled about, using cell phones to get updates on their flights. The airline offered free doughnuts, coffee and orange juice, but there were few takers.

    “They should be able to predict these kinds of things,” said Laura Goodman, whose flight home to Dallas was canceled. She said would miss an important meeting because the airline couldn’t rebook her until Thursday.

    New Yorker Michelle Soss had hoped to steal a few days in Albuquerque, N.M.
    “I covered my kids’ schedules, I covered my work schedule to get away for a few days,” she said. “I don’t know if I’m getting anywhere.”

    Clark Totten left San Diego for Raleigh-Durham on Tuesday, but got stuck in Dallas.

    “I was delayed in Dallas due to the equipment grounding, spent the night here and came in early to find my flight was again canceled,” Totten said. “I’m trying to either get there or get home.”

    Betty Kappler said management knew flights would be canceled, but “they did nothing … nothing.”

    “We stood in line so long there were no hotels left,” Kappler said.

    The cancellations affect more than travelers’ schedules. “This poor lady has a breathing problem ... I have diabetes and a foot problem. I’m having a terrible time walking, stumbling, falling,” traveler Ruth Smeltzer said. “I don’t know what to do. We don’t know what to do with ourselves.”

    A growing trend
    American’s cancellations came after similar delays at Southwest, Delta and United. Last week, hundreds of travelers were marooned when Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines shut down and filed for bankruptcy protection.
    Alaska Airlines said Wednesday it canceled 14 flights to inspect the wiring on its nine MD-80s.

    For travelers, the bad news might not be over. Daniel Garton, American’s executive vice president, said flights would be canceled Thursday — he said it was too early to say how many — and possibly on Friday, too.
    A return to normal operations depends on how quickly mechanics can inspect and fix the wire bundles. As of Wednesday morning, only 30 MD-80s had been cleared to fly by the FAA.

    Garton acknowledged that the bundling of wires had not met FAA standards, but he said “these were not huge errors” and posed no threat to safety. He said the agency used to give airlines “latitude” in interpreting safety regulations, but no longer.

    The FAA began looking more closely at airlines’ compliance with safety directives in recent weeks, after it was criticized for letting Southwest operate planes that had missed inspections for cracked fuselages.
    In the past few weeks, the FAA levied a $10.2 million penalty against Southwest and conducted new inspections at all U.S. airlines, leading to flight cancellations at Southwest, Delta and United.

    Problems with most inspected planes
    FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said inspectors found problems with the wiring bundles at 15 of 19 American MD-80s that it checked this week.
    The 2006 safety order from the FAA directs airlines in how to pack and stow wiring to a hydraulic pump in the wheel well to prevent the wires from rubbing together.

    According to the FAA, shorted wires could ignite fuel vapors and cause a fuel-tank explosion that could destroy a plane.

    The explosion of TWA Flight 800 off New York’s Long Island that killed all 230 people aboard in July 1996 was blamed on fuel vapors ignited by wiring. But it was a Boeing 747, not an MD-80, and investigators believe the disaster involved different wiring from the bundles now under scrutiny.

    Brian Stirm, an aircraft-maintenance expert at Purdue University, said airlines had plenty of time for the inspections and that even an untrained mechanic could spot a problem.

    The cancellations could hardly come at a worse time for American. Its parent, AMR Corp., is scheduled to report first-quarter earnings in two weeks, and analysts are forecasting a loss of more than $300 million. High fuel prices and the downturn in the economy are hurting the industry.
    American officials said the company would give $500 travel vouchers to anyone stranded overnight. It also paid for hotel rooms and meals for an undisclosed number of passengers.

    Bob McAdoo, an airline analyst, said passengers might soon forget the debacle, especially since several other major airlines have canceled flights recently. But he said passengers who missed big events like weddings might avoid American again.

    Kathy Neer of Santa Fe, N.M., was caught up in both waves of cancellations to and from a vacation in Paris. She and her husband were stranded in Dallas on Tuesday on the final leg of their journey home. American gave the Neers a voucher for a hotel room and seats on another flight home Wednesday.
    “They say our flight is leaving at 3:55 p.m., but do you think we trust them?” Neer said. “After being burned twice, we’re a little skeptical.”

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24029455/?GT1=43001
     
  2. Watching like a hawk.. we are on MD80 on Sun. WTF???
     
  3. how do you know if your flight is on an MD-80? I am flying Friday morning! Ack!
     
  4. Call American Airlines or check your flight numbers on their web site ASAP! My parents and I are due to fly out on American in two weeks and both flights that we're on are on the affected MD-80 planes. I have no idea how American will be able to correct the wiring issues on the remaining 270 planes (MD-80s) within the next two weeks :confused1: I've already warned my parents about the issue and it's a good thing that we recently upgraded our travel insurance through American Express just in case our American flights end up getting cancelled or rescheduled unexpectedly.
     
  5. Sorry all!!!! But this seems to be a growing trend with all airlines. My recent trip to Vanouver....3 of my 5 planes had 'mechanical issues'....in all my travelling this has never happened before on ANY trip! I know it's a major pain in the ass, but I am glad they are finally paying attention to detail and fixing things!!! Don't know why it took a scandal with Southwest to do this!
     
  6. Nothing on Continental having these issues??
     
  7. This news sucks for anyone flying. As of now I've been on hold with American Airlines for almost 21 minutes. Concurrently, many parts of their website aren't loading. I wouldn't even recommend trying to call them. I hung up last night after 30 minutes of being on hold and will do so again today. I can't just spend the day by the phone.

    Wait--as I was typing this I got a service agent. She told me that international flights don't use the M80s, so for now we're not really in danger of cancellations.

    I hope like hell AA hasn't been having trouble with other types of aircraft and we just don't know it!!!

    Anyone who calls them be prepared for a long wait. The lady sounded irate, as they are still having cancellations, she said, and are trying to accomodate the thousands they've continued to disrupt.

    SMH.
     
  8. I can't believe this is happening!! It really is horrible for people who are planning to fly soon...
    I actually JUST flew to New York and Boston, two weeks ago with AA
     
  9. It's going to happen a lot more with all of the airlines. This has nothing to do with "mechanical issues" and everything to do with jet fuel being over $3.00 a gallon and people not travelling as much. The FAA is looking after the airlines' bottom line, not passenger safety.
     
  10. ^^^^^

    we think alike, bag happy !! lol
     
  11. Grrrrrr... my Sunday AM youareScrewed80flight was cancelled.. then reinstated. So I am still on AA. Erf. had secured seats on UA to ORD. We'll see if I make it.. (hugs and prayers needed... lol! :biggrin: )
     
  12. This is especially bad for American becuase a large percentage of their fleet is made up of the MD80- they're old, old planes.