Spirit Airlines Incorporated (ticker: SAVE) is the latest U.S. airline dealing with a public relations nightmare. On Monday evening, another round of flight delays and cancellations resulted in physical altercations between angry Spirit passengers and police at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
According to flight-tracking site Flight Aware, 11 Spirit flights out of Fort Lauderdale were canceled on Monday and another 30 flights were delayed. The Broward County sheriff’s office reports a crowd of around 500 passengers became “enraged, fearful, or visually upset,” leading to a confrontation with police that resulted in three arrests.
Phone videos of the chaos have gone viral on social media.
Spirit has already canceled around 300 flights so far in May, and the airline is blaming its pilots. According to Spirit, pilots have been turning down flight assignments in an effort to gain negotiating leverage for the Air Line Pilots Association, a pilots union, which has been negotiating with the airline for better pilot wages since 2015.
“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,” Spirit spokesman Paul Berry says. Spirit has filed a lawsuit against the ALPA accusing the union of encouraging a “pervasive illegal work slowdown.”
The ALPA has denies the allegations.
“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,” the union says in a statement.
Spirit’s negative customer service headlines come roughly a month after Delta Air Lines (DAL) dealt with the fallout of canceling more than 3,300 flights in a five-day stretch after severe weather hit its Atlanta hub. United Continental Holdings (UAL) has also been dealing with its own negative PR storm after videos of a customer being dragged off an overbooked flight went viral last month.
SAVE stock fell…
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