After taking three of its aircraft out of service for inspections, Spirit Airlines canceled over 100 flights on Friday. The airline anticipates that the disruptions will extend for many days.
The Federal Aviation Administration stated that the checks involved looking at brackets on the aircraft’s airframes, but Spirit did not elaborate on the nature of the inspections or answer questions about them.
According to tracking service FlightAware, Spirit had canceled 11% of its scheduled flights by late Friday afternoon, easily the biggest percentage of scrubbed flights among major US carriers.
“We’ve cancelled a portion of our scheduled flights to perform a necessary inspection of a small section of 25 of our aircraft,” Spirit said in a statement. “The impact to our network is expected to last several days as we complete the inspections and work to return to normal operations.”
The FAA said it was aware of Spirit’s decision to pull the planes from service for a “mandatory maintenance inspection.”
An FAA document states that the inspections must search for evidence of cracking around fasteners connecting pressure panels to beams on the aircraft’s airframes.
According to the document, if the cracks go unnoticed, there may be a decrease in the airplane’s structural integrity “and possible rapid decompression.”
The risk of fatigue cracks in aircraft frames is well-known.
Spirit is performing checks that have been mandated for many years by US and European regulators; the FAA last amended these requirements in 2018.
The FAA said that for the Spirit planes, it “will ensure that the matter is addressed before the airplanes are returned to service.”
As of June 30, Spirit operated 198 aircraft, all of which were A320 family models, according to a regulatory filing from the business.
Before heading to the airport, passengers were advised by the airline to verify the status of their flight.
Spirit is the second-largest airline, and about half of its cancellations occurred at Orlando International Airport in Florida.
This year, Spirit, a Florida-based airline with its headquarters in Miramar, has canceled almost 3,600 flights, or 1.5% of its total schedule.
That is less than the comparable low-cost airline Frontier Airlines’ 2% cancellation rate as well as the rates for JetBlue Airways and United Airlines.