Thousands of passengers were stranded again today after American Airlines canceled nearly half of its domestic flights.
American canceled more than 1,000 of its 2,300 daily flights today to re-inspect wiring, just as it did two weeks ago. The carrier canceled 460 flights Tuesday.
Passengers at Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago's O'Hare airports were hardest hit today by the reinspections. Travelers in St. Louis, Austin and at New York's LaGuardia airport were also affected.
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American officials said they expect an additional 900 cancellations on Thursday.
"American will do whatever it takes to assist those affected by these flight changes and our employees are working hard to ensure that we remain their choice for air travel," said Gerard Arpey, chairman and CEO of American Airlines. "This includes compensating those inconvenienced customers who stayed overnight in a location away from their final destination."
The airline is again reinspecting wire bundles on its MD-80 aircraft, which caused the carrier trouble in late March. At that time, the airline explained that it is required to secure wiring at every inch, and the aircraft were reinspected because they may have had the bundles secured every 1¼ or 1½ inches. The wiring is located in the wheel well of the right main landing gear and connects to the auxiliary hydraulic pump.
The inspections are not a safety issue but rather a matter of precise technical compliance, according to the airline.
American Airlines operates 300 MD-80 airplanes, all of which were grounded Tuesday evening. As of Wednesday afternoon, American said more than 50 of those planes had returned to service.
Today's news comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill examined aviation delays and consumer complaints during its fourth hearing in a series focused on airline consumer protection. At that hearing, Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Wis., said he received a call today from a constituent who's been stranded in Columbus for 36 hours.
"The bad news, folks, is it isn't going to get any better," said Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fl. "It's only going to get a lot worse."
The Air Transport Association has approximately 470 MD-80 series aircraft registered to their member airlines, the vast majority of which are operated by Delta and American.
Delta Airlines, which also pulled its MD-80's in March, said today it has also had to cancel a couple dozen flights today. Passengers have been re-booked on other Delta flights. Delta said more cancellations could follow, but the airline does not expect a drastic increase.
"Delta has worked closely with the FAA throughout the night to ensure we were in continued compliance," a spokesperson for the airline said. "We began examining the fleet last night and are working to minimize customer impact."
Delta operates 117 MD-88 aircraft. About 20 percent of them needed re-adjustment to comply with the airline's requirement.
Alaska Airlines also has fewer than a dozen of the MD-80 planes. The airline said Wednesday that it, too, is conducting inspections on nine of them to guarantee the wiring complies with FAA requirements. Alaska Airlines canceled three flights on Tuesday and has cancelled 14 on Wednesday.