WASHINGTON - Over 3,000 flights have been grounded, affecting a quarter of a million air travelers in this week's flight cancellations by American Airlines. And the troubles aren't over just yet.
The disruptions don't only cost the airline and stranded travelers; it's taking a toll on the economy too.
Flying the Unfriendly Skies
American Airlines issued more apologies today to thousands of would-be travelers going nowhere fast.
The airliner cancelled nearly 600 flights Friday, bringing this week's total to 3,000 cancellations.
For frustrated customers, the announcement only added more fuel to the fire.
"I have all my miles with American. But I'm willing to sacrifice all of them to never have to fly on American for the rest of my life," said one irate traveler.
The grounded flights have directly affected more than 25,000 people some who've been stranded in airports for days.
"I checked on-line and I actually could not find evidence that the flight had been cancelled and nobody called," said another disgruntled traveler.
To calm nerves and cool passenger frustrations, the airline is offering a buffet of goodwill gestures - from $500 airline vouchers to hotel accommodations, and a light fare of food.
While some were slightly mollified, for others goodwill is not nearly good enough.
"I don't need no snacks I want to get out of here!" one stranded flyer said.
This all started because of a maintenance issue in the wiring of wheels on fleets of md-80s which also grounded some flights for Southwest, Delta, Alaska and Midwest airlines - but nowhere near the number for American.
"In this case, we failed to get it right," American Airlines CEO Gerald Arpey said.
And that failure could cost the airline big money - in the tens of millions of dollars from lost revenue, overtime, and customer accommodations.
Cancellations and the Economy
But it's not just American that's suffering losses. The groundings are causing the economy to take a hit as well.
The cancelled flights also affect manufacturers who ship cargo, mail, and other important business for the airlines who are already dealing with high jet fuel prices in an industry that's announced four bankruptcies in the last several weeks.
American promises that the cancellations should be cleared up this weekend.
But as federal regulators step up their scrutiny of safety standards and with aging equipment and systems that need replacing, this nightmarish episode for weary air travelers could only be glimpse of what may lie ahead.