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American cancels another 1,000 flights

Safety checks strand 110,000; even more groundings planned

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Globe Wire Services / April 10, 2008

DALLAS - American Airlines, the world's largest carrier, canceled at least 1,000 flights yesterday to reinspect jets grounded two weeks ago for checks on wiring. An estimated 110,000 travelers were left stranded.

Shares of the airlines' parent, AMR Corp., fell the most in a month as American parked its 300 Boeing MD-80 jets for another review of their compliance with a federal safety order.

The flight cancellations followed 460 on Tuesday and affected more than 45 percent of American's flights, excluding its regional partners. The airline also canceled more than 900 flights today.

At Logan International Airport in Boston, American canceled 18 departures and 12 arrivals yesterday. That did not leave hundreds of passengers stranded, the Massachusetts Port Authority said, because American notified many travelers ahead of time.

But fliers may want to brace themselves for more bad days. Through June 30, the FAA will be reviewing compliance with more of its directives, and there may be "a handful of situations that will cause disruptions," said the FAA's acting administrator, Robert A. Sturgell. He declined to comment on whether the FAA will issue fines.

The Federal Aviation Administration found lapses in American's compliance with an earlier order for how wiring bundles on the planes are attached to the jets' wheel wells, leading to the airline's decision yesterday to ground jets.

Amid criticism in Congress of FAA oversight, "everyone is bending over backward to make sure it's done right," said George Hamlin, of the New York consulting firm ACA Associates.

"I take full and personal responsibility," American's chief executive, Gerard Arpey, said of the flight cancellations.

AMR tumbled $1.15, or 11 percent, to $9.17 at 4:15 p.m. It was the biggest drop since March 12, and brought the shares' decline over the past year to 72 percent.

The inspections aren't a safety issue, executive vice president Dan Garton said. During FAA spot checks, inspectors found that the wiring bundles on the MD-80s didn't match agency specifications such as the orientation of certain clamps and ties, Garton said.

"It's not a question of whether we completed" the work, "but how we completed it," he said.

Delta Air Lines is reinspecting all 117 of its MD-88 planes, which are part of the MD-80 family.

Globe staff writer Nicole C. Wong contributed to this report.

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