FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – There are at least 303 canceled Spirit Airlines flights as the travel nightmare presses into its fourth day Wednesday.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is just one of many across the country dealing with stranded passengers.
A ticket and gate agent for Spirit told Local 10 News that it’s a similar scene in Newark.
“We don’t know if there’s a shortage of staff,” she said. “No one’s getting back to us. All we hear is that we’re working as hard as we can to get this resolved but nothing is being done. Nothing is being said to us.”
Viewer-submitted cell phone video from Tuesday showed a messy scene, with areas of the airport crowded with baggage, and customers — even small children — sleeping on floors.
Miramar-based Spirit Airlines released a new statement, saying: “Our hearts go out to each of our guests impacted by a cancellation. We have people working on their behalf 24 hours a day. For our team members, we’re putting extra help in the airports when possible and providing updates to them as the situation evolves.”
Spirit canceled more than half its schedule on Tuesday. By early evening, Spirit had canceled more than 400 flights, or nearly 60% of its schedule, according to the FlightAware tracking service. Nearly 100 other flights were late.
The blame appeared to lie at least partly with a technology outage. A person familiar with the situation said Spirit experienced an outage Tuesday morning affecting crew scheduling, preventing airline officials from rescheduling crews to cover gaps. The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said crews were stranded in many places around the country and unable to get to assigned flights.
The travel troubles aren’t unique to Spirit. Hundreds of American Airlines flights have also been reported canceled as that carrier struggled to recover from weekend storms at its Texas home, stranding thousands of passengers at the height of the summer travel season.
American Airlines had already canceled nearly 350 flights. It is much larger than Spirit, so those flights amounted to 11% of its schedule — still an unusually high rate.
About three-fourths of the American cancellations appeared to be due at least partly to a lack of pilots, according to a company log. American denied that it has a pilot shortage. Spokeswoman Whitney Zastrow said in a statement that Tuesday’s cancellations were largely related to Sunday’s storm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She said employees were working around the clock to take care of customers.
The disruptions at Spirit and American are just the latest examples of airlines scrambling to deal with an increase in travel this summer. Airlines have thousands fewer employees than they did before the pandemic, but U.S. air travel has recovered to about 80% of 2019 levels.
A Spirit spokesman said the low-cost carrier was proactively canceling some flights — dropping them before most passengers drive to the airport — to “reset” the operation.
Broward County’s aviation department says it has been distributing water and snacks to those affected by these flight disruptions at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
Copyright 2021 by WPLG Local10.com – All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.