World and Nation

Thousands Struggle With Mass Cancellations of Airline Flights

On Monday, Karin Peyregne was in Mobile, Ala., kissing her husband and two young sons goodbye, on her way to a base near Chicago for basic training in the Navy.

Unfortunately, she was flying on American Airlines, and connecting through Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. She joined thousands of other travelers here, and in other cities like Chicago, who were stranded as American canceled more than 3,000 flights through Friday because of maintenance inspections ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration.

As of Thursday night, Peyregne (pronounced PUR-in), 25, and a group of six young male Navy recruits she was traveling with to the Great Lakes Naval Station, were still stuck in and around the airport here.

They were learning one of the harsh realities of air travel these days. Because flights are full everywhere, there are virtually no open seats available on other airlines when something goes wrong. And more cancellations could roll through the airline industry as the FAA steps up its scrutiny of carriers’ compliance with safety directives.

The group of new recruits arrived Tuesday afternoon in Dallas from New Orleans to connect to a flight to Chicago. But that flight was among 460 canceled that day. Wednesday and Thursday brought no relief. Friday, they will be waiting — hopeful, yet skeptical — to see if a promised 8 a.m. flight materializes.

“I’m ready to get to boot camp or get back to my babies,” Peyregne said. She had left Mobile with $10 in her pocket.

Her group has lived off USO food and drinks, available to military in the airport, since Tuesday. They also were given cash from another organization that helps soldiers, and have used meal vouchers from American.

They ran out of clean clothes long ago, since the Navy told them to carry nothing with them because they would be issued military attire. They showered in discount hotel rooms, paid for by the Navy, then donned their only outfits again.

“I’m a little OCD when it comes it neatness,” Peyregne said. “This is definitely not good for me.”

Her chances of flying out Friday morning were not great, either. American, which canceled 1,094 flights on Wednesday and more than 930 flights on Thursday, said it expected to cancel an additional 570 on Friday, with 170 of its 300 MD-80 jetliners back in service by Friday morning.