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Chris Van Horne, Fort Worth Reporter
American Airlines had to inspect and repair planes and rebook thousands of passengers after hail damaged planes Tuesday night.
Hundreds of flights were canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport a day after tornadoes whipped through North Texas but things were slowly getting back to normal.
The flight-tracking service FlightAware estimated that cancellations affected 50,000 travelers on Tuesday and 30,000 on Wednesday.
An American Airlines said 500 flights were canceled Wednesday in and out of DFW Airport, including flights by regional carrier American Eagle, because of planes that were pulled out of service because of possible hail damage.
American spokesman Tim Smith said 108 planes were out of service as of Wednesday morning, and 62 still needed to be inspected and repaired by 2:30 p.m.
"Of course, it gets more difficult as it goes along, because you get the ones in the best shape back into the air most quickly, so it does take a while," Smith said, noting there was no timetable for when the planes would all be back in service.
Smith said American lucked out in that many of its larger, wide-bodied planes that fly international routes were under cover or were not hit by hail. And the airline has plenty of experience in repairing hail damage, as planes were hit hard in May, he said.
Extra maintenance crews were brought in from Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, American's operations in Tulsa, Okla., and American Eagle's Abilene facility to speed up the repair process.
American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said 791 flights into and out of DFW Airport were canceled Tuesday.
Timothy Tyler of, Marquette, Mich., and his wife arrived from Chicago just 15 before the hail hit.
"We were walking around going, 'It's absolutely crazy in here,'" he said.
Tyler said mothers and their babies ran to restrooms for safety, while airport staff urged people to stay away from the windows. He said it was just as chaotic outside the secure areas.
His flight to Midland was canceled Tuesday, so he and his wife spent the night in an Arlington hotel drinking beer and enjoying the hot tub. He said he originally expected to spend another night in North Texas but he and his wife lucked out when two seats opened up on an afternoon flight.
"Well, our flight was actually canceled for today (Wednesday), but her family said, 'Go to the airport and see what they can do for you,'" Tyler said.
Nate Haner, who is from the Dallas area, spent Tuesday night at home before trying to fly up and see his sister in Chicago. He was booked for a Wednesday afternoon flight but was not confident he would stay on it given how many flights he had already been booked on.
"[I've] been through five of them," Haner said. "They delay you, then they call you about an hour before and cancel you out. Then they put you on another flight. Then an hour before, they cancel that one. It is what it is."
Haner and Tyler both said that while it was frustrating, they saw it as a minor inconvenience given the tornado damage in other parts of North Texas.
"I feel so bad for those people, you know," Tyler said.
DFW Airport spokesman David Magana said about 1,400 stranded travelers spent Tuesday night in terminals. The airport distributed cots, blankets, pillows and toiletry kits to passengers who requested them. The local chapter of the American Red Cross assisted with additional blankets.
Thousands of other passengers went to area hotels or made other arrangements for lodging.
A spokesman for Southwest Airlines said 46 flights were canceled Tuesday at the carrier's home base of Dallas Love Field. Southwest had no cancellations Wednesday.
Travelers are advised to check flight schedules at DFW before heading to the airport.