Various American airlines cancelled hundreds of weekend flights, and thousands more were delayed, due to thunderstorms in Florida disrupting road traffic.
Close to 6,000 flights were delayed and 1,930 were cancelled in total this Saturday as a consequence of the bad weather.
A rainy interference
Thunderstorms remain rather elusive for airlines because of how challenging they are to predict and plan for in comparison to other disruptive weather systems like snowstorms and hurricanes, whereby airlines often cancel flights hours or days in advance. Reacting way ahead of time to weather disruptions also helps passengers plan ahead, reduces the likelihood of complaints and frustration, and helps staff change their behaviour accordingly as opposed to being left somewhat out-of-sorts.
Southwest Airlines, the world’s largest low-cost carrier and one of the United States’ major airlines, was the hardest hit as they had already started their weekend with a backend technical issue. Departures were paused briefly early into Saturday to fix the backend system, which had reset as a part of routine maintenance overnight. Affected passengers had to rebook online and fare differences were waived by the Texas-based carrier.
As the weekend continued and the thunderstorms made an impact, Southwest cancelled 520 flights (14% of its Saturday schedule) and delayed 1,512 flights. Approximately 10% of Southwest’s Sunday flights were cancelled and another 10% were delayed, totalling almost 800 flights in total.
Elsewhere, air traffic controllers opted to slow or pause inbound traffic at several Florida airports. These included Orlando International, Miami International, and Tampa International.
Delta Air Lines, a legacy carrier, commented that the Florida thunderstorms disrupted their usual operations on Saturday.
American Airlines, considered to be the world’s largest airline, issued a statement of apology the following day as the required action taken by air traffic controllers impacted their operations. They claim that they are still “recovering from those disruptions.”
It is estimated that a fifth of each carrier’s Saturday schedules were delayed, which is roughly 600 flights each.
This comes as Delta, Alaska, and American Airlines pilots have recently picketed at airports as unions continue to advocate for their contracts and wages to be similar to that of their competitors. Alaska Airlines in particular has struggled with pilot shortages amid dealing with their pilots’ discontent. Alaska has been forced to cancel flights regularly as of late; more than 100 were cancelled on Friday.
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