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Delta says some flight cancellations likely Sunday, as passengers question airline


Highlights

The airline said about 300 flights were canceled Saturday.

Total cancellations from this week’s storms top 3,000.

Passengers raise questions about continuing delays.

Southwest said it is back to normal.

Delta Air Lines said some additional flight cancellations are “likely” Sunday but it is in “recovery mode” for weather and operational problems that scrambled the heart of spring break for many travelers.

The continuing troubles amid sunny skies in Atlanta Saturday had some passengers questioning why Delta still hadn’t fully regained its footing since Wednesday when strong thunderstorms battered the carrier’s biggest hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

“Some things about this don’t make very much sense,” said Caitlin Long, the president of a tech startup who struggled Friday and Saturday to get a flight back to New York from a meeting in New Orleans. “It can’t just be the weather.”

“Why is it taking so long to get back up and running?” asked Long, who said she is a loyal Gold Medallion member of Delta’s SkyMiles program. “It’s clear Delta does not have fault tolerance, doesn’t have resiliency in its system.”

Atlanta-based Delta said about 350 more flights had been canceled Saturday.

Delta spokesman Michael Thomas said some cancellations Sunday were “likely,” but "I don't anticipate anything major." 

"There's a high level of confidence Monday will be a normal day," he said.

The problems have been blamed on a domino effect sparked by long-lasting and widespread weather problems that were tougher than what the airline had expected. 

Delta had trouble getting crews and aircraft repositioned.

Thomas said there was no computer system outage tied to the delays.

The site FlightAware showed more than 1,100 delayed Delta flights Saturday alone, in addition to the cancellations.

Earlier, the Delta’s chief operating officer, Gil West said, “While we can’t control the weather, we understand the resulting recovery has not been ideal and we apologize for that.”

So far, Delta has canceled more than 3,000 flights in total, which is more than the system outage last year and snowstorms that virtually shut down flights at an airport. 

RELATED: Delta flight cancellations continue Friday: “It was like a madhouse”

The airline has said that, in the midst of busy spring-break travel, it has had few seats available for passengers whose flights had been canceled.

Travelers have struggled with immense lines, clogged Delta phone systems and changing predictions of when flights will be available. Some ended up sleeping on floors at the Atlanta airport.

Long said that on Thursday her flight out of New York’s LaGuardia was delayed three hours.

“I’ve never seen the Sky Club as crowded. People were sitting on the floor everywhere except the bathrooms.”

What surprised her, though, was the delays trying to get a return flight from New Orleans on Friday night and Saturday. She said she called a special help number for Delta Gold Medallion members only to learn the wait to talk to a representative would be an hour and 14 minutes.

Others without such access reported waiting hours longer on hold.

Long eventually booked flights online for Saturday night, but the first leg was delayed, scrambling her connection and travel plans again.

Southwest Airlines, which has a big presence in Atlanta, said it cancelled 307 flights throughout its system Wednesday and Thursday as a result of the storms. It cancelled 56 more early Friday “due to crew and equipment logistic needs as a result of irregular operations the prior two days.”

“Otherwise, operations Friday were otherwise normal and there is no impact today,” a Southwest spokesperson said in an email Saturday.

Delta substantially improved its reliability in recent years and had the lowest proportion of cancellations among the four biggest U.S. carriers in 2016. But it was bruised last summer by a computer system outage and days of resulting delays and cancellations. 

“There certainly is a nick to our brand,” CEO Ed Bastian said at the time, adding later,  “We’ll need to go back out and earn that customer trust.”

As for the latest weather-related delays and cancellations, Delta said it is extending a travel waiver through the weekend so that customers can rebook without change fees.

Related column: Delta gives passengers a new reason to squirm
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