Fort Lauderdale Airport Descends Into Chaos After Canceled Flights

Photo: Courtesy of Spirit Airlines.
Update: This afternoon, a judge ruled in Spirit's favor, ordering the union to stop interfering with the airline's operations, according to the Miami Herald.
This story was originally published on May 9, 2017, at 1:15 p.m.
Spirit Airlines passengers yelled and threw punches at security at Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport last night after the airline canceled nine flights, which left hundreds of people stranded.
According to the Miami Herald, Spirit's pilots went on strike because they say they're not getting paid anywhere near what their peers are, despite the company having turned a profit for 27 consecutive financial quarters. Spirit had been negotiating a contract with its pilots for over two years.
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"Since we started current negotiations in February 2015, the company has made more than $642 million in net profits," Capt. Stuart Morrison, chairman of the Spirit unit of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the labor union that represents the pilots, said in a statement. "While pilots at comparable airlines have seen substantial improvements in compensation, our pilots continue to work under a seven-year-old agreement that puts us well below the industry standard."

#spiritairlines right now 😳 this shit is wild, canceled flights

A post shared by Jary Romero (@kallejero) on

But Spirit Airlines is blaming the incident on the pilots, going so far as to file a suit against them in federal court for causing about 300 flight cancellations. Company spokesperson Paul Berry told the Miami Herald that the airline was "shocked and saddened" by the madness at the airport.
"This is a result of unlawful labor activity by some Spirit pilots designed to disrupt Spirit operations for our customers, by canceling multiple flights across our network," Berry said in a statement. "These pilots have put their quest for a new contract ahead of getting customers to their destinations and the safety of their fellow Spirit Team Members. It is for this reason, Spirit has filed suit in Federal Court to protect our customers' future travel."
In a statement, the ALPA responded to the lawsuit: "The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l and the Spirit pilot group it represents are not engaged in a job action. Rather, ALPA and the Spirit pilots are continuing to do everything possible to help restore the company’s operations, which have experienced significant problems over the past several days. While we will continue these efforts, we will actively defend the association, its officers, and its member pilots against the unwarranted and counterproductive legal action brought this evening by Spirit Airlines."
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According to a recently issued annual travel report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), ultra-low cost Spirit Airlines had the lowest customer-happiness score for the third year in a row, with a 61; down 2% from last year. (JetBlue got the top score.)
A Spirit spokesperson told CNN Money that the company aims to improve its operations and customer service. "Beginning last spring, Spirit initiated a number of programs that have led to major improvements in on-time performance and a 64% reduction in complaints year over year," he said.
It looks like there's still a lot of room for improvement. Pay your pilots, Spirit, and stuff like this won't happen. (Also, give us more legroom.)
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