updated 8/24/2004 11:49:40 AM ET 2004-08-24T15:49:40

Thousands of British Airways passengers have been stranded by canceled flights and lengthy delays at Heathrow Airport because of staff shortages and technical problems at the airline.

British Airways canceled 21 flights to and from destinations in Britain and Europe on Tuesday — a day after the airline scrapped 25 flights to the United States and other European destinations.

The airline, which usually carries around 100,000 passengers a day, said there would also be delays for short-haul flights that have not been canceled.

The airline’s problems began Monday afternoon when it canceled flights to Philadelphia, Chicago and New York because of technical problems with its aircraft.

Those cancellations, combined with existing staff shortages at the airline, had a domino effect, leading to the cancellation of 22 other flights and several more delays.

The airline estimated that around 5,000 passengers have been affected so far and at least another 2,500 would be affected Tuesday.

“August is the busiest period of the year for British Airways and services at Heathrow are stretched,” the airline said. “We have also had some technical problems with our aircraft and these combined has resulted in the cancellations.”

The airline, which is recruiting more staff, said it was about 120 staff short at Heathrow. A spokesman declined to provide full strength staffing numbers.

The airline last week headed off a strike planned for the August 28-31 Bank Holiday weekend by offering its baggage handlers and check-in staff more pay.

Workers have complained that they are underpaid and overworked, particularly during the busy summer vacation periods at Heathrow.

Passengers affected by the delays and cancellations are being accommodated on later flights, provided with overnight hotel accommodation or being asked to rebook their flights.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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