The fallout from American's last-minute safety inspections continues: After canceling more than 1,000 flights Wednesday for inspections of wiring harnesses on its MD-80 aircraft, the carrier plans to cancel another 900 Thursday. It's estimated that more than 100,000 passengers were affected by the Wednesday cancelations. The inspections were part of an FAA investigation into all U.S. carriers' maintenance records triggered by a March investigation that found Southwest had missed its deadline for performing safety checks on the fuselages of 46 planes.
American Executive Vice President of Marketing Dan Garton admitted in a press conference Wednesday evening that on Monday, following a series of checks, the FAA found that "mechanics had taken certain latitudes" with repairs and demanded they be fixed.
In his statement, Garton made an apology and promised to give stranded passengers $500 vouchers for future travel in addition to reimbursing them for hotel, meal, and ground transportation costs. "We're extremely sorry for this great inconvenience," said Garton. "This type of interruption is truly unacceptable."
In addition, passengers who anticipate they'll be flying on any American MD-80 flight through Friday, April 11, may rebook their flights for another date (by April 17) without penalty. Details are on the American website.
Alaska and Midwest have also canceled MD-80 flights this week for inspections, although on a smaller scale than American. Alaska canceled 14 flights Wednesday and Midwest has grounded all 13 of its MD-80 planes, causing 10 cancelations as of Thursday morning.
Given the magnitude of this problem, I'd recommend calling your airline to check on the status of your flight if you plan on flying within the next few days. Even if you're not flying on American, Alaska, or Midwest, other airlines may stop their flights for inspections, which we've seen happen regularly over the past several weeks.
Our own Christine Sarkis has more information on how to handle this rash of canceled flights.