Spirit speaks out on its epic meltdown that saw hundreds of cancellations and says it’s trying to ‘reboot’ – but cancellations may continue

Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
  • Spirit Airlines is aiming to reboot its network and slow cancellations over the next few days.
  • Hundreds of flights were canceled since Monday due to bad weather, staffing shortages, and system outages.
  • Airlines have struggled to recover from events such as bad weather due to pandemic downsizing of staff.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Spirit Airlines has entered its third day of excessive flight cancellations but says the end is in sight.

“We’re pleased to share that cancellations will start dropping tomorrow,” a Spirit spokesperson told Insider.

Hundreds of flights were canceled on Monday due to a poorly timed combination of bad weather, system outages, and staffing issues that rippled throughout the week. Spirit led the US in flight cancellations as of Wednesday morning with 343 cancellations, or half of its planned flying for the day, according to FlightAware.

“We’ve dealt with overlapping operational challenges including weather, system outages, and staffing shortages that caused widespread irregularities in our operation and impacted crew scheduling,” Spirit said in a statement to Insider. “These issues were exacerbated by the fact that we are in peak summer travel season with very high industry load factors and more limited options for Guest re-accommodations.”

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Some airlines have been pushing their capabilities to their limits this summer to capture the new market of leisure flyers. But many haven’t been able to cope with the return of flyers combined with reduced staff on hand following pandemic downsizing, especially when bad weather strikes.

Spirit also suffered multiple systems outages that affected the airline’s ability to recover from Monday’s cancellations.

“This morning, there was another IT outage that led to the crew schedulers not being able to access the crew scheduling system for over an hour – meaning management was unable to make any scheduling changes or modifications,” the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a statement that Spirit confirmed.

Spirit and its pilot union, the Air Line Pilot’s Association, denied rumors of a pilot strike causing the cancellations.

American Airlines, which saw higher cancellations on Monday due to similar conditions, has recovered to only 98 cancellations as of Wednesday morning, or 3% of its flying for the day, according to FlightAware.

Spirit flight cancellations may have hit the high-water mark, however, as Spirit is planning to “reboot” its network and start fresh in the days to come.

“After working through yesterday’s proactive cancellations, we’ve implemented a more thorough reboot of the network, allowing us to reassign our crews more efficiently and restore the network faster,” Spirit said. “As a result, cancellation numbers will progressively drop in the days to come.”

“Spirit management has begun treating this irregular operations (IROP) as a hurricane recovery and strategically canceled flights around the system with the possibility of a system reset,” the flight attendant union wrote.

Spirit stressed that it is committed to returning to its pre-pandemic levels of on-time performance, one of the staples of its ultra-low-cost operation.

“We’re learning from this disruption and will get back to our high performance levels,” Spirit said.

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