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American cancels more than 1,000 flights

April 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
American Airlines said they had no choice but to ground all 300 of their MD-80s, resulting in airports full of frustrated travelers who are paying the price.Nationwide, more than 1,000 flights were canceled Wednesday. More than 500 flights were canceled Tuesday.

Click in the Eyewitness News Story Window above to watch Leslie Sykes' report from LAX.

"It's frustrating, it's frustrating. You know, I understand that they're trying to do the best they can do, but you know, it's very inconvenient," said Wayne Dequer, an air traveler.

"Apparently, I just showed up, and they told me my flight going to Chicago O'Hare has been canceled, so I'm standing in line trying to get it rescheduled," said Darby McDade, another air traveler.

At Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, every flight on the board was canceled as the airline continues its second round of safety inspections on its fleet of MD-80 aircrafts. The FAA ordered American Airlines to re-inspect the planes' electrical wiring in the wheel wells.

American Airlines is the nation's largest carrier, operating nearly 2,300 flights a day, and more than a third of them were canceled Wednesday, leaving passengers across the country stranded and desperate for another way to reach their destination.

"All of us who arrived today found out that we have no flights. They told me they can't book me today on American Airlines. They're going to try to book me on another flight," said air traveler Peggy Maggi.

Many passengers said they called ahead to check on their flights and were told they'd be okay, only to arrive at the airport and have their flights canceled.

"We're trying to go to Chicago. We have a tour to hook up with tonight, so I don't know what we're going to do if we don't get on today," said air traveler Eileen Chun.

American Airlines said the best advice is still to call ahead and check on your flight. If you can reschedule your trip, that may be your best option because it may take a day or two to clear the backlog of stranded passengers.

The airline said flight safety was never compromised, but, beginning around midafternoon Tuesday, American began yanking planes out of service so that wiring bundles could be inspected and stowed properly in the wheel wells.

American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey issued a fresh apology and assured passengers that the company is working hard to get the MD-80s serviceable as quickly as possible.

So far, 70 MD-80s have been cleared.

"I want to publicly apologize for the inconvenience that we have caused our customers because of the continued inspections of our MD-80s," Arpey said.

The cancellations and resulting loss of revenue could hardly come at a worse time for American, which is facing high fuel prices and a weakening economy that could hurt demand for travel.

AMR is scheduled to report first-quarter earnings in two weeks, and analysts are forecasting a loss of more than $300 million, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

Jamie Baker, an analyst with JPMorgan, said in a recent note to clients that he expects airline revenue to decline significantly beginning in the April-June second quarter due to the one-two punch of costly fuel and a possible recession.

At least 900 flights have been canceled for Thursday.

"We were arranging to go to a conference in San Francisco. We've been canceled two or three times today," Danyelle Johnson, a traveler who began in Dallas.

"Now we can't get our bags and who knows," Johnson said. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

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