American returns all MD-80s to service

Other News Materials 13 April 2008 05:36 (UTC +04:00)

American Airlines on Saturday received clearance from federal aviation officials to return all of its 300 grounded jets to service, an airline spokesman said. ( AP )

After 200 cancellations Saturday morning, Fort Worth-based American was running a full schedule by the afternoon with no cancellations, said spokesman Charley Wilson.

Starting Tuesday, the nation's largest airline canceled nearly 3,300 flights, as it grounded 300 MD-80 jets to wrap wiring bundles to meet federal safety standards and prevent fires.

The cancellations stranded hundreds of thousands of people during the week.

American said 226 of its MD-80s were back in service by Friday morning. By noon on Saturday, the airline had received clearance to return all the remaining grounded jets to service, Wilson said.

The groundings had come as a surprise.

American officials said they thought they had the needed repair work completed two weeks ago when it scrubbed more than 400 flights, but the Federal Aviation Administration said the wiring still was not secured and stowed properly in wheel wells.

Gerard Arpey, chairman and chief executive of American parent AMR Corp, said the costs of the cancellations to American will run into the tens of millions of dollars - including vouchers to reimburse stranded customers, overtime for maintenance crews and lost revenue. An analyst with Standard & Poor's estimated it could easily top $30 million.

Arpey said that neither American's mechanics nor the FAA were to blame for the groundings, and he said he took responsibility for the cancellations. He said the company would hire a consultant to help it comply with FAA safety rules in the future.

American's entire fleet averages 15 years in age, making it the second oldest in the industry behind Northwest Airlines, according to regulatory filings by the airlines.

Arpey said Thursday that American may accelerate the replacement of its MD-80s, but only because newer planes get better mileage, an important consideration with fuel at record prices. The CEO said the recent groundings were not a factor in the decision to replace MD-80s.