It’s been a pretty rough stretch for Spirit Airlines over the past week. CNN reports that the company has canceled over 300 flights in the past seven days, and tensions among travelers are beginning to boil over.
On Monday, a brawl involving consumers and airline staff took place at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after passengers on nine canceled flights angrily approached the front ticket counter, cutting in front of others who were waiting in line. Deputies on the scene struggled to separate the angry fliers, and several were detained in the aftermath.
It’s a PR disaster that Spirit is blaming on pilots in a lawsuit filed the same day. The company accuses the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and some of its members of “purposely and unlawfully disrupting the airline’s operations” by conducting a slowdown.
“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,” said company spokesperson Paul Berry.
In its suit, Spirit says that its pilots are turning down last-minute assignments and “open time” flights because of a contract dispute. Since 2015, Spirit and the ALPA have tried to come together on contract negotiations, but they haven't yet come to an agreement.
Spirit further alleges that union members are actively threatening and intimidating other pilots who do accept last-minute assignments. Union leaders say that the accusations are unfounded, and on Friday it encouraged members to take up work.
“Simply put, pilots who want to pick up open time should do so and not be questioned,” an ALPA message read.
After the lawsuit had been filed, the union affirmed that it was doing everything possible to avert flight cancellations and keep things running smoothly.
“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,” said a union spokesperson in a statement.