AMR Cancels 20% of Daily Flights as Hailstorms Batter Aircraft

American Airlines and American Eagle canceled 707 flights, or 20 percent of their daily schedule, and pulled 89 planes from service after hail battered the carriers’ biggest hub and storms raked across the central U.S.

The cancellations included 326 flights into and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport today as repairs began, and the AMR Corp. (AMR) units are scrapping 188 flights for tomorrow. Getting all the aircraft back in service may take several days, Tim Smith, a spokesman, said in an interview.

Winds of almost 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour and hail as large as 4.25 inches (11 centimeters) in diameter were reported as storms moved through Dallas-Fort Worth last night, according to the National Weather Service. About 10,000 people were stranded overnight at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, said David Magana, a spokesman for the facility.

Cancellations at American, the third-biggest U.S. airline, “are overwhelmingly driven by a significant group of domestic aircraft being out of service,” Smith said. “We’re thinking that for some number of those aircraft, it could be two or three days to get them repaired and flying again.”

Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) said it scrubbed a dozen flights from Dallas, where the carrier is based, and grounded eight planes damaged by baseball-sized hail. United Continental Holdings Inc. pulled two aircraft from service out of Dallas- Fort Worth for damage inspections and canceled two flights.

American has completed inspections on about 10 of the 62 damaged aircraft and returned them to service. Twenty-seven planes flown by American Eagle, a commuter carrier, have been repaired and resumed flights, Smith said.

“It looks like a majority of the 62 are going to need some kind of repair,” he said.

Oklahoma Crews

The airline, based in Fort Worth, Texas, flew as many as 50 workers from its Tulsa, Oklahoma, maintenance base, along with tools and parts, to handle repairs. The damaged planes are at airport gates, on tarmacs and even on taxiways, Smith said.

American yesterday grounded 400 flights, primarily at the Texas airport as storms moved into the area.

Southwest, the nation’s largest low-fare carrier, operates from Love Field north of downtown Dallas. Buildings were damaged and trees blown down during the storm.

Damage to the Southwest Boeing Co. 737s was “minimal to moderate,” said Chris Mainz, a spokesman. The first of the repaired planes should return to flying tomorrow, and the rest by May 28, he said.

“The only issue is finding the parts and taking the time to replace or repair,” Mainz said.

American is letting customers traveling through Dallas-Fort Worth today through May 27 change reservations without paying a fee, Smith said.

American and American Eagle have more than 750 daily departures from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. AMR operates about 3,600 flights a day.

No damage was reported to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport facilities, Magana said. Cabs and cars parked at the south end of the airport were damaged by hail, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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