American, Delta cancel more flights

The airlines announce more cancellations for safety inspections following hundreds of nixed flights Wednesday.

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(CNN) -- American Airlines and Delta Air Lines canceled dozens of flights Thursday as they continue their inspections of wiring bundles on some of their planes.

American (AMR, Fortune 500), the nation's largest airline, canceled 132 flights of its estimated 2,300 flights scheduled for Thursday, spokesman Tim Wagner said. That was about 6% of American's Thursday schedule after the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline canceled 325 flights on Wednesday.

American said it began its inspections after an audit of the carrier by a joint team of inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Fort Worth-based airline.

The inspections focus on proper spacing between two bundles of wires in the plane's auxiliary hydraulic system, and those wires must be installed exactly according to an FAA directive, American said.

Wagner said that while the airline has not grounded any aircraft, the several hours needed to perform each inspection required the flight cancellations.

American has completed inspections on 243 MD-80 aircraft, and about 45 planes "are still being worked on," Wagner said Thursday.

The MD-80 is the workhorse of the American fleet. American's Web site says the aircraft accounts for 300 of the airline's fleet of 655 jets.

The jet debuted in 1980 from McDonnell-Douglas, which was purchased by rival Boeing in 1997. Boeing discontinued production of the aircraft in 1999.

Delta Air Lines (DAL, Fortune 500) was the second airline to cancel flights Wednesday because of inspections.

Chris Kelly, a spokeswoman for the airline, told CNN that Delta canceled several flights Wednesday, but she could not provide an accurate number.

The cancellations forced dozens and dozens of people to spend the night in the atrium of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. They slept wherever they could - on couches, on the floor, some on non-moving baggage carousels.

The cancellations caused grousing among passengers who missed job interviews, connecting flights and the comfort of their beds, CNN affiliate WXIA reported.

"They told us 6:45 (p.m.). Then they told us 7:30. Then 8, so on and so forth and they just canceled," passenger Fred Billizon told WXIA. "So they had about 200 people just waiting on flights. And that's not a lot of happy people."

Kelly said the airline rebooked flights and covered the cost of hotel and food for passengers on canceled flights.

Delta expected heavy volumes Thursday at its Atlanta hub, spokeswoman Kelly said. Both Delta and the Transportation Security Administration were bringing in extra staff to handle the crowd of travelers, she said.

Delta is inspecting the wiring of 117 MD-88 and 16 MD-90 aircraft. The airline says the checks are voluntary and are expected to be completed by week's end.

This latest round of inspections was prompted by questions raised by the FAA and American safety officials about how a certain bundle of wires is secured to the MD-80 aircraft.

Delta said its inspections are expected to be completed by Saturday.

The inspections come almost three weeks after the FAA ordered a check of all U.S. airlines' maintenance records. That was after controversy erupted over its handling of missed safety inspections at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines (LUV, Fortune 500).

The FAA hit Southwest this month with a $10.2 million civil penalty for missing the inspections and then continuing to fly the planes with passengers on board even after realizing the mistake. Southwest has said it will appeal the penalty.

The FAA said then that it would check compliance with at least 10 safety orders, called airworthiness directives, at every airline by March 28. The agency said a full audit covering at least 10% of all safety directives will be finished by June 30.

Southwest said it reported the missed inspections itself, and that manufacturer Boeing agreed that keeping the planes in operation until they could be re-examined within 10 days didn't pose a safety hazard.

Six of the jets required repairs for small cracks. Those repairs have been completed and the planes returned to service, Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McKinnis said Thursday.

-- staff and wire reports To top of page

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