Spirit Airlines canceled hundreds of flights this weekend, according to a report by New York Daily News. The budget airline abruptly canceled 165 flights nationwide on Sunday, and another 261 flights on Monday — 34 percent of all the flights the company had scheduled. These moves left hundreds of customers angry and stranded in airports.
Spirit Airlines is considered a cheap way to get from place to place, and in a year when many people are more eager than ever to travel, demand has been high. That left some customers all the more disappointed this weekend with cancellations as well as delays. In addition to the canceled flights listed above, another 442 flights were reportedly delayed between Sunday and Monday. In some busy airports, customers waited so long that they actually camped out and slept in the airports while they were in line for refunds or rebooking.
"It looked like a hurricane shelter," one customer told USA Today. They were in Orlando, Florida — one of the cities reportedly hit hardest by this phenomenon, along with Fort Lauderdale. Spirit Airlines spokesman Erik Hofmeyer gave reporters a statement, saying that the cancellations and delays were caused by unexpected weather and other "operational challenges."
"We're working around the clock to get back on track in the wake of some travel disruptions over the weekend due to a series of weather and operational challenges," Hofmeyer said. "We needed to make proactive cancellations to some flights across the network, but the majority of flights are still scheduled as planned."
Of course, airports themselves also felt the pressure of these cancellations and delays. A post from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada went viral for begging customers to check their flight status before coming to the airport. They hoped to avoid clogged terminals and angry confrontations.
So far, airlines and airports have not offered any more specifics on what caused the cancellations or delays, but customers' confidence in air travel was shaken. In many parts of the U.S., COVID-19 statistics are starting to look grim again, and people are rethinking their travel plans anyway. So far, there have not been any last-minute travel restrictions enacted in a way that could have caused delays like this, however.
Spirit Airlines' stated cause of unprecedented weather is also legitimate, however. The summer of 2021 has already become the hottest summer on record, surpassing the record previously set in 2020. Concerns about climate change causing bigger storms, wildfires and tornados are starting to manifest in reality, as described in a report by The New York Times back in June. Going forward, airlines may need new processes to plan for such events.