Make us your home page
Instagram

American Airlines strands more travelers at TIA

Although he wasn’t waiting in line for hours like other Tampa International passengers because of his frequent flier status, Fred Sharpe of Southlake, Texas, gets a little frustrated after learning American was going to transfer him to a Delta flight.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Although he wasn’t waiting in line for hours like other Tampa International passengers because of his frequent flier status, Fred Sharpe of Southlake, Texas, gets a little frustrated after learning American was going to transfer him to a Delta flight.

Wary air travelers have one more thing to worry about after American Airlines stranded more than 110,000 travelers Wednesday by grounding almost half of its domestic schedule.

The specter of broader flight cancellations will hang over the airline industry through this spring.

That's because after grounding 2,300 flights on five carriers over the past month, the Federal Aviation Administration said its stepped-up scrutiny of wiring inside the wings of MD-80 aircraft will not be complete until June 30. Meanwhile, American, which had only 30 of its 300 MD-80s flight-ready by midmorning Wednesday, warned there would be 900 more cancellations today, after Wednesday's 1,094.

Alaska Airlines grounded three flights on Tuesday and 14 Wednesday after a failed MD-80 inspection. Delta Air Lines canceled two dozen flights Wednesday and may cancel more today.

American uses the MD-80 as the workhorse of its fleet, so it has been more exposed to potential cancellations. The FAA's industrywide safety audit wants to know why some MD-80s that failed wiring safety inspections were still flying.

Southwest grounded more than 40 Boeing 737s and canceled 126 flights last month and faces a $10-million FAA fine for flying dozens of planes in 2007 that had not been properly inspected for fuselage cracks. After complaints from an underling of lax standards and bosses getting "too cozy" with Southwest maintenance people, a North Texas FAA inspection supervisor was transferred Monday to administrative duties, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Southwest suspended three employees pending an internal investigation.

Wednesday's cancellations were announced early in the morning, leaving many passengers to learn they faced a long day only upon arrival at many airports. Those with nonrefundable tickets had little choice but to wait for the airline to decide their fate.

"It would have been good to know in advance," said Bishop Bernard Jordan, a Harlem minister with 4-million frequent flyer miles trying to get from Dallas to Atlanta, where he was scheduled to preach. "I would have booked another airline."

Even checking in at 4 a.m. for a 7 a.m. flight didn't help Doug and Mary Berryes, a couple from the Villages retirement community near Orlando, whose two-week Italian vacation got off to an inauspicious start.

Their Tampa International flight wasn't canceled. But American changed their itinerary, sentencing them to the end of a line with 200 frustrated American passengers whose flights were grounded.

American, still recovering from canceling 460 flights for the same reason on Tuesday, took the blame for the mess. It agreed to pay for airport meals and up to $400 in travel vouchers for canceled flights and hotel bills for travelers stranded overnight.

"We apologize for the inconvenience," said Gerard Arpey, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based American. "We will do whatever it takes to assist those affected, and our employees will help ensure we remain their choice for air travel."

The prospect of more cancellations for passengers comes on the heels of the latest report on airline quality that said 2007 was the worst year ever, and as the airline industry is bracing for more huge losses later this year. Already airlines have been jacking up fares to pay higher fuel bills, trimming threadbare amenities and canceling or delaying more flights than ever by shifting more airline carrying capacity to regional carriers that fly smaller planes.

At Tampa International, long ticketing lines snaked back to the escalators Wednesday after American canceled seven of its 20 departures and 10 of its 20 arrivals at Tampa.

Most flights affected in Tampa were to American hubs in Dallas and Chicago, along with one flight to St. Louis. American flies about 2,800 seats in and out of Tampa daily.

Tuesday night, American stranded about 500 people at the airport thanks to earlier cancellations.

Dan McClain, 52, a lawyer from Dallas, came to Tampa to visit family for three days. He already had waited one day for a flight back to Texas and was still in Tampa Wednesday afternoon.

"It looks like maybe it might be tomorrow," McClain said. "I just don't want to fly again."

Dave Caputo wore a white back brace and sat in a black vinyl chair across from the American Airline ticket window. He worked at his laptop and waited for new arrangements to get home to Santa Fe.

"You wonder what would those people do in this situation," Caputo, 47, said. "I am finding out firsthand."

While many passengers were stuck, Tim Tata had better luck getting out of Tampa — eventually.

Tata, 55, a businessman from St. Louis, got to the airport an hour early for his 7 a.m. flight. Canceled. He scheduled a noon flight to New York, which would eventually take him to Missouri. Canceled. He was booked on a direct flight. Canceled. Eight hours after getting to the airport, American Airlines booked Tata on a 6 p.m. Delta flight to Cincinnati with a connection to St. Louis. The American attendant asked Tata if he was satisfied.

"Well, I get home today," he said.

Information from the Associated Press and Bloomberg News was used in this report. Mark Albright can be reached at [email protected] or 727-893-8252.

What should I do?

Monitor airline news for more cancellations and check with the airline the night before you fly. Check again two hours before you leave for the airport. Airlines try to call passengers to alert them when a flight has been canceled, but often they get voice mail. All airlines will send an e-mail alert if you signed up for advance flight notification on their Web site.

What's happening?

American Airlines canceled about half of its 2,300 flights Wednesday and plans to cancel 900 more today as the FAA began a second round of huge inspections of MD-80 aircraft to be sure wiring bundles inside the wings are properly secured. Alaska Airlines also canceled 14 flights of its MD-80 fleet, and Delta Air Lines canceled two dozen flights.

How widespread?

So far 2,300 commercial flights have been scrapped since March after Southwest Airlines, which uses Boeing 737s, flew dozens of planes that had not been submitted to timely FAA inspections. Delta and Southwest were subject to cancellations in March.

What compensation do I get?

That varies by carrier. If the airline blames weather for the cancellation, you get nothing. American accepted blame, so it pays rerouting, airport meals and accommodations it arranges if you're stranded overnight. Compensation is a voucher for up to $400 in future travel.

American Airlines strands more travelers at TIA 04/09/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 10, 2008 4:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients

    Business

    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel

    Business

    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]