American Airlines cancelled 570 flights on Friday, setting up US airports for a fourth day of chaos and bringing the number of flights cancelled by the carrier this week to more than 3000.
The cancellations, coming after 900 on Thursday, brought further chaos to US airports, as AA raced to perform safety checks. The cancellations came after Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways pulled flights after officials announced spot inspections of all US airlines’ safety paperwork.
Airlines have been under increased scrutiny since early March, when details surfaced of a congressional investigation into claims that the Federal Aviation Administration, the regulator, had permitted Southwest Airlines to fly aircraft that were not compliant with airworthiness standards.
Before the Senate aviation sub-committee on Thursday, the transportation department’s inspector-general criticised what he called an “overly collaborative” relationship between airlines and the FAA, and called for improved safety oversight.
“[Airlines] were deciding which inspectors checked their facility,” said Calvin Scovel. “To me it signals a regulator that has lost the respect of the [airlines it regulates].”
Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said: “Every day it seems to get worse with the Federal Aviation Administration. I’m concerned that so many air travellers are stuck on the ground, but I’m even more concerned that so many potentially unsafe planes were allowed to take millions of Americans into the skies for so long.”
Analysts said this week’s disruptions could cost American tens of millions of dollars at a time when the industry is being hit by soaring fuel costs and recession fears.
Gerard Arpey, American’s chief executive, was quoted by Reuters as saying his airline would need several more days to restore normal operations.
The disruption prompted massive queues at airports.
American cancelled 123 flights at Chicago’s O’Hare, half its scheduled number of take-offs, after cancelling 168 flights on Wednesday. O’Hare, American’s second largest hub after Dallas Fort Worth, has been among the worst affected.
Additional reporting by Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
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