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Latest American Airlines flight cancellations include 11 at Detroit Metro

Kyle Arnold
The Dallas Morning News

Dallas – American Airlines has canceled nearly 700 flights Sunday, adding to more than 1,000 already called off as the airline struggled to recover from slowed operations caused by weather on Thursday and Friday.

Nearly a quarter of the mainline operations for the Fort Worth-based carrier were sidelined Sunday after major cancellations on Friday and Saturday were blamed on bad weather as far back as Thursday, when high winds in North Texas closed runways for periods at the airline’s biggest hub, DFW International Airport.

The cancellations included 11 flights Sunday and five Saturday scheduled to fly into or out of Detroit Metro Airport, according to FlightAware, a third-party tracker. Both days saw three delayed flights as well. 

American Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Detroit News. 

Cancellations piled up on Friday and Saturday as pilots and flight attendants affected by Thursday weather began to run up against federal rules on hours worked and rest for airline crew members.

“We are taking this measure to minimize any inconvenience as much as possible,” American Airlines chief operating officer David Seymour said Saturday in a memo to employees. “Most of the customers impacted by these changes are being rebooked the same day, and we apologize for having to make these changes.”

Nearly 100,000 American Airlines passengers were affected by Sunday’s slowdown. About 80,000 were inconvenienced on Saturday.

“This is déjà vu all over again,” said Allied Pilots Association spokesman Dennis Tajer. “It’s not that complicated. Management is failing to connect crews with the airplanes. After mother nature generates a storm for a day, management creates several days of follow-up storms.”

In a message to flight attendants at American Airlines, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants union said the company was forcing employees to pick up extra shifts despite contract rules.

“The fact that there is inadequate staffing to cover the operation as it is currently structured is not the fault of flight attendants,” APFA leadership said in the memo.

Major hubs took the biggest hit Sunday, such as DFW Airport, where 13% of all mainline American Airlines flights were canceled – 129 in all as of mid-morning, according to FlightAware.com. There were also a large number of cancellations in Charlotte, Chicago O’Hare, Miami and Phoenix, which are all major American Airlines hubs.

Social media posts captured the frustration of passengers unable to board flights.

The cancellations and trickle-down problems don’t seem to be affecting American’s regional airline Envoy, which flies under the American Eagle name. Envoy and regional flying partners have their own sets of pilots and flight attendants.

Unions, analysts and travel experts have worried that airlines such as American have become increasingly vulnerable to isolated weather events, technology problems and other slowdowns that once caused a few hours of disruption. Since early this spring, there have been several incidents where weather problems have cascaded into several days of mass cancellations and delays, despite weather clearing up quickly after the initial incident.

That’s what happened to American Airlines over Father’s Day weekend, as well as a few times during the summer. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has had its own problems, too, the most recent that started with weather in Florida over Columbus Day weekend in early October.

After the slowdowns over Father’s Day weekend, the Allied Pilots Association called on American to replace the middle managers responsible for flight operations.

“It’s days like today that affirm our concern for the winter holiday schedule,” Tajer said. “Management’s failure to quickly recover the airline after a storm is creating holiday travel uncertainty.”

Detroit News Staff Writer Hani Barghouthi contributed to this report.