‘Operational challenges:’ Spirit strands thousands of more passengers

79 flights at Orlando International Airport canceled

ORLANDO, Fla. – Spirit Airlines canceled 79 flights at the Orlando International Airport and hundreds of flights nationwide again stranding thousands of passengers on Tuesday for the third day in a row.

According to Flightaware.com, Spirit canceled 40% of its schedule Tuesday alone.

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Tweets from airports nationwide show Spirit passengers yelling.

Passengers are tired of the long lines.

“The airline (expletive) sucks,” Orlando passenger Kezzy Jones said.

Passengers have camped out overnight at the Orlando International Airport, some since Saturday night.

Without warning, Spirit started canceling first dozens, then hundreds of flights over the weekend, stranding thousands of people at the gate, turning MCO into a campsite.

Many of Tuesday’s 79 canceled flights were at the last minute, forcing passengers back to the check-in counter to wait in a seemingly endless line.

“Now we’ve been in this line for six hours!” Vicky Glidden yelled from the cancelation line snaking through the check-in area of the B terminal at MCO. “People have been here nine hours!”

Yesterday, Spirit blamed “operational challenges” saying weather and air traffic control delays across the country snowballed into flight crews timing out and that further “proactive” cancellations were necessary to get planes and crews back on track.

But Spirit also promised to do better with notifying passengers of cancelations long before they left their homes and hotels.

All of the passengers in the cancelation line said that didn’t happen.

“We didn’t get a text message, we didn’t get anything, we were sitting at the gate 20 minutes before they canceled the flight,” the Sanchez family said. “I only saw it because I was looking at my phone. They didn’t even tell us, nobody was even at the gate to tell us.”

Spirit spokesman Field Sutton said the proactive cancellations Tuesday were different than the last-minute cancellations.

“There are two different types of cancellations here, and it’s important to differentiate between them,” Sutton wrote in an email to News 6. “The vast majority of guests impacted today received advanced notice as part of the proactive cancellations. As mentioned, those proactive cancellations are done to help get back on track and to avoid as many close-in cancellations as possible. We understand the inconvenience it causes our Guests when a flight cancels close-in, and we apologize for it. We continue to work around the clock to help our Guests.”

Airport officials are frustrated too over the mass cancelation for the third day. Airport workers were handing out water bottles to passengers waiting in line.

Yesterday Spirit added a chat bar to their website, for all of the people who couldn’t reach customer service over the phone.

Spirit posted countless apologies to passengers on Twitter asking passengers to Direct Message them.


About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.