A Southwest Airlines plane sits at a gate at Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida, United States, October 11, 2021.
Joe Skipper | Reuters
Airlines canceled hundreds of flights over the weekend and delayed thousands of flights due to thunderstorms in Florida, slowing traffic at one of the country’s top travel destinations during spring break.
More than 5,900 US flights were postponed and 1,930 canceled Saturday, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.
Thunderstorms present a particular challenge to airlines because they are more difficult to predict and plan for compared to other systems such as winter storms and hurricanes, during which airlines often cancel flying hours if not days in advance.
Disturbances from storms tend to be sequential because crews and aircraft are left out of position for their missions.
Southwest Airlines It canceled 520 flights, or 14% of its schedule on Saturday, as well as 1,512 delays or 43% of scheduled flights, according to FlightAware. About 10% of Southwest flights on Sunday were canceled and another 10% were delayed, nearly 800 flights in total.
Before storms caused delays in Florida, the airline briefly halted departures early in the day for checks on a backend system that it reset as part of regular overnight maintenance. These systems are used for assignments including pre-departure paperwork.
“Our top priorities are to protect our crew network, ensure crews have hotel rooms, and minimize the impacts our customers feel as we work to avoid disruptions to their spring break travel plans,” Southwest said in a letter to flight attendants. “These situations are never easy, and we thank you for your patience and perseverance as we work our way through this weekend.”
A spokesperson said the airline has waived the spreads for affected customers so they can re-book themselves online without waiting on the phone.
Air traffic controllers slowed or completely halted incoming traffic at several Florida airports on Saturday, including Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport and Tampa International Airport. Nearly a third of Orlando’s departures were canceled and 42% delayed.
Yesterday’s weather all over Florida and as a result [air traffic control] The initiatives affected our operations with most routes going north and south through and to affected Florida, American Airlines He said in a statement. “We are recovering from those turmoil today.”
Delta Airlines He said Florida weather also affected his running on Saturday. About five each airline’s flight schedules were delayed on Saturday, or nearly 600 flights each.
Airlines are scrambling to provide staff to deal with the demand for travel that has soared with the drop in Covid cases this winter. Staff shortages have exacerbated flight disruptions last year.
Delta, America and Alaska Airlines Pilots have staged a sit-down at airports in recent weeks as their unions push carrier management for better salaries and more predictable schedules.
On Friday, Alaska Airlines canceled more than 100 flights and nearly 80 more on Saturday. Some of its pilots had camped out at several West Coast airports on Friday due to a lack of progress in contract negotiations with the airline.
“We continue to be affected by the shortage of national pilots and the training system required to bring new pilots on board,” the company said in a statement that did not mention the sit-ins.
Airlines have increased the number of flights to meet the needs of returning customers after two tough years of the pandemic, but pilots and flight attendant unions have frequently complained about busy schedules and stress on the road, such as Lack of hotel rooms Or difficulty accessing the company’s scheduling services.
“It was a choke point in everyone’s training because we beefed up the airline and put the planes back in service throughout the pandemic,” Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie said at an industry event on Thursday.
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