MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Spirit Airlines canceled flights the least out of any major airline that flew out of Myrtle Beach International Airport over a 16-month period, according to a News13 analysis of data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
The airport’s largest airline has been plagued with problems in the last week, pointing to staffing shortages, severe weather and system outages during peak summer travel season as reasons for the seemingly endless delays.
Dozens of flights have left hundreds of passengers stranded in the Grand Strand, with some missing funerals and chemotherapy appointments. At times, passengers have slept on the floor, and one had received several tickets for other flights in a single day — all of which were canceled.
Spirit Airlines canceled 1.73% of its flights — 80 out of 4,139 — that were scheduled between January 2020 and May 2021 at the airport, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. This May, the most recent information available, it canceled only one flight out of 629.
Cancellation rates between the airlines vary. Allegiant, which had 625 flights between January 2020 and May 2021, canceled 40 flights, or 5.02% of its total. American, Delta and Frontier canceled between 2.5% and 3.89% of their flights.
Southwest Airlines, which had 50 flights in that time period and only started operating out of Myrtle Beach in late May, canceled none of its flights. United Airlines, which had 24 flights during that 18-month span, canceled three, or 11.1%.
On-time flight information was fairly consistent between airlines, with American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit and United on time for between 88% and 92.6% of flights. About 19% of Allegiant Airlines flights were late.
A flight is considered delayed if it arrives more than 15 minutes after it was scheduled to.
On Friday, Spirit Airlines “proactively” canceled 17 incoming flights and 17 outgoing ones. On Wednesday, the airline told News13 it expected cancellations to decrease last Thursday. However, that was not the case.
One traveler called the situation a “catastrophe.”
Efforts to return to normal were “working,” Field Sutton, a manager of media relations with Spirit Airlines, told News13 on Friday in an email. The airline expected to resume normal operations in the middle of this week.
The cancellations came from a month worth of issues, according to Sutton.
“What started with weather and its associated delays led to more and more crew members getting dislocated and being unable to fly their assigned trips,” he wrote. “Ultimately, the number of crews facing those issues outpaced out crew scheduling department’s capacity for getting them back into place.”
He said the airline has offered accommodations, flight credits, and refunds, along with hotel and meal vouchers, depending on a flyer’s circumstances.
The airline’s situation improved over the weekend, as fewer flights were canceled. No departing flights had been canceled, as of 10 a.m. on Monday morning.
News13 reached out to Spirit Airlines and the Myrtle Beach International Airport for comment about the airline’s cancellation history in Myrtle Beach.