Thousands of canceled flights may vex travelers


PHOENIX – As Roger and Pat Bate hustled to catch a plane home to Houston from Phoenix, they got the dreaded call that many will get from their airline this year.

There was a problem with the crew, the plane, something – the Continental employee wasn’t sure. The Bates needed to find another way home.

It’s a call that millions of passengers received as airlines canceled nearly 65,000 flights so far this year. The count from the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics is almost as many as all last year. Travelers should be ready to be even more flexible as airlines carve chunks out of their schedules later this year.

Chicago-based United Airlines says it’ll cut as many as 14% of available seats on domestic flights by the end of the year. Fort Worth-based American Airlines says it’ll slash as much as 12% after the peak summer travel season. Houston-based Continental Airlines says it’ll reduce its seating capacity by about 11%, starting in September.

Airlines hope that by offering fewer travel options they can boost fares and better deal with soaring fuel costs that have overwhelmed the industry. But airline observers say many passengers who bought their tickets months in advance are now going to have to scramble to fit new flights into their plans.