Pilots' Strike Grounds Spirit Airlines
Air travelers hoping to reach destinations in the Caribbean and South America may want to check their tickets to see if they are flying Spirit Airlines. The pilots' union initiated a strike today after negotiations broke down with the discount air carrier.
Spirit Airlines, which operates out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is an "ultra-low-cost carrier" offering deep discounts to island and other tropical destinations. It even offers a chance to book a special $9 fare to members of a special opt-in club.
According to a press release from the pilots union, Spirit Airlines and the union have been negotiating a contract for four years, with two deadline extensions. When the latest deadline was reached at 5 a.m. on June 12, the union declared a strike.
“Spirit pilots are willing to withdraw their services to get the contract they deserve,” said Captain John Prater, president of ALPA. “Every one of the 53,000 pilots of ALPA stands with them as they go on strike. As pilots, our livelihood is in the air—not on the picket line—but the inability of Spirit management to negotiate a contract that adequately compensates our professional members has created this dispute. I urge Spirit management to reconsider their position on the value of their experienced and professional airline pilots.”
The airline's spokesman said the pilots have turned down a lucrative compensation offer.
“We are frustrated and disappointed that our pilots have turned down an over 30 percent increase at a cost of over $70 million over five years while disrupting thousands of our customers and jeopardizing the livelihoods of our over 2,000 employees,” said Spirit Airlines President and CEO Ben Baldanza.
Visitors to Spirit's Website are now greeted with a message saying that all flights are cancelled for June 12 and 13, and will refund any unused portion of a ticket and provide a $100 travel voucher.
“No one wanted this strike—certainly not this pilot group. We have sacrificed so much to see this company prosper. Now we are sacrificing our paychecks until we get a contract that reflects our contributions to this airline,” said Creed. “This contract is not just for the pilots who currently fly for Spirit, right now. We have a responsibility to maintain our profession and pass down a legacy of a job worth having.”