Spirit cancels half its flights, leaving some travelers stranded at RSW

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Nelson Heskett waits at the Spirit Airlines counter Wednesday at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). His flight to Detroit was canceled Tuesday, and his rebooked flight for Wednesday was also canceled. (Credit: WINK News)

Spirit Airlines canceled more than half its schedule on Tuesday, stranding thousands of passengers at the height of the summer travel season.

By early evening, it had canceled more than 400 flights, or nearly 60% of its schedule, according to the FlightAware tracking service. Nearly 100 other flights were late. The blame appeared to lie at least partly with a technology outage affecting crew scheduling.

All of Spirit’s flights into and out of Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) were showing as canceled Wednesday evening. (Check flights here.)

A Spirit spokesperson told WINK News that cancellations will start dropping Thursday, but that wasn’t helpful to travelers who arrived at RSW and found out they weren’t going anywhere any time soon.

“We didn’t hear from anybody. We didn’t get any emails, any text messages until later,” said Snow Fields.

“Very frustrating. I mean we are not happy. We are stuck. It’s delaying everything. I run a business and my business is on standstill. It’s costing us a lot of extra money just to be here and stuck here for a few extra days,” said Nelson Heskett.

Heskett’s Tuesday night flight to Detroit was canceled. The airline put him on a new flight set for Wednesday night, but when he woke up Wednesday morning, he found out that flight had been canceled, too.

“We said the heck with it. They offered to reschedule but I said no thanks. I took my refund and went through Delta and hopefully we’re leaving here tomorrow. Hopefully.”

The disruptions at Spirit are just the latest examples of airlines scrambling to deal with an increase in travel this summer. Airlines have thousands fewer employees than they did before the pandemic, but U.S. air travel has recovered to about 80% of 2019 levels.

A Spirit spokesman said the low-cost carrier was proactively canceling some flights — dropping them before most passengers drive to the airport — to “reset” the operation.

“We’re working around the clock to mitigate the travel disruptions caused by overlapping operational challenges including weather, system outages and staffing shortages in some areas of the operation,” spokesman Erik Hofmeyer said. “We’re working to provide refunds for cancellations and, when possible, to re-accommodate our guests” on other flights.

A person familiar with the situation said Spirit experienced an outage Tuesday morning affecting crew scheduling, preventing airline officials from rescheduling crews to cover gaps. The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said crews were stranded in many places around the country and unable to get to assigned flights.

On Monday, Florida-based Spirit scrapped more than 330 flights, or 42% of its schedule. It canceled about 20% of its flights on Sunday.

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