Spirit Airlines canceled half of its flights on Wednesday to “restart” operations after a wave of disruptions that began over the weekend due to a mixture of bad weather, staff shortages and technology issues.
Spirit has canceled more than 1,000 flights since Sunday and hundreds more have been delayed.
Angry customers complained on social media about the cancellations and the difficulty of reaching customer service agents. Some tweeted images of long lines at airports and travelers lying on the ground near gates.
The chaos is a severe test for the Spirit executives who have worked over the past few years to improve the airline’s reliability and customer service.
Spirit said the disruption was “compounded” by the surge in summer travel, which was recovering from the coronavirus pandemic faster than airlines expected. Fuller flights mean fewer opportunities to rebook guests, the airline said.
“The past three days have been extremely difficult for our guests and team members, and we sincerely apologize for that,” Spirit said in a statement.
More than 340 flights, half of the daily flight schedule, were canceled on Wednesday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.
Airlines sometimes clean large numbers of flights to avoid further disruption and to get staff and planes to the right place to resume flights.
Spirit said it expects cancellations to “gradually decrease” in the coming days.
American Airlines also canceled hundreds of flights this week after hours of storms of high winds, lightning and hail hit Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport, its largest hub.
On Wednesday, American operations stabilized with about 100 cancellations, about 3% of the daily schedule, versus 12% of canceled flights on Tuesday.
Spirit said it would learn from the meltdown.
“By delving deeply into the challenges we face, we have identified opportunities for improvement that will help us operate a more resilient network and better serve our guests,” said a statement.
Thunderstorms hampered Spirit’s efforts to recalibrate Wednesday. Gate and taxi delays at Spirit’s main base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida exceeded an hour, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.