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American Airlines apologizes for flight delays, cancellations

While American Airlines pilots deny there is an organized effort to disrupt flights as the company negotiates with unions during bankruptcy proceedings, constant delays within the carrier have skyrocketed, leaving passengers angry and frustrated. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

American Airlines is apologizing to its best customers for the recent upswing in delayed and canceled flights.

The airline sent email messages Friday to members of its AAdvantage loyalty program saying it was sorry for the inconvenience.

"We understand how irritating and unfortunate this is in interrupting or delaying their travel plans," said American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks. "We appreciate their patience and hope for their understanding." 

AAdvantage president Suzanne L. Rubin said the airline has added staff in maintenance, reservations and at airports to help travelers.

Rubin said if delays will cause someone to arrive more than an hour late, American will try to book the passenger on another flight — even on another airline — or cancel the reservation and give a refund.

American, based in Fort Worth, Texas, blames an increase in delays and cancellations on a surge of maintenance requests filed by crews and by an uptick in pilots calling in sick. The pilots' union says there is no organized sickout or work slowdown.

As of Friday afternoon American had canceled 310 flights this week, more than the next three airlines combined, according to tracking service FlightAware.com. American canceled many of those flights well in advance to adjust its schedule to crew and aircraft numbers, and cancellations dropped from 61 Wednesday to 17 on Thursday and 17 on Friday, according to FlightAware.

For several days early in the week, more than half of American's flights arrived late, according to another service, FlightStats.com. 

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.

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