Spirit Air pilots strike; fleet grounded

As of 5am this morning Spirit Air pilots walked off the job, executing a strike against management that has been threatened for several months and one which has been delayed at least twice during negotiations with the company. The airline’s fleet was grounded and all flights for today and Sunday, June 13 are cancelled as a result. No word yet on future cancellations as there is no announced schedule for a renewal of negotiations between the two sides.

Spirit ALPA president John Prater stated the following in the Union’s press release about the strike:

Spirit pilots are willing to withdraw their services to get the contract they deserve. 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.

In the mean time, Spirit has released the following statement:

Spirit Airlines is continuing to work with our pilot union to reach a fair and equitable agreement that ensures the long-term stability of the company, and allows us to continue offering you the ultra low fares you have come to know and love.

In the meantime, as of today, the pilot union has declared a strike.

Therefore, Spirit Airlines flights are cancelled for Saturday and Sunday, June 12-13, 2010. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

For passengers willing to take a credit from the carrier – the default compensation – there is the enticement of an extra $100 credit that will also be issued. Passengers who want a refund will need to call to receive that though the airline is granting those without objection.

Massive flight cancellations just as the heavy summer travel season kicks off are a terrible development. The fact that airline load factors are at record highs as airlines have cut capacity significantly in recent history add to the troubles for customers. And the fact that Spirit has no interline agreements to accommodate customers on other airlines are pretty much the nail in the coffin. Passengers are left looking for scarce seats at walk-up prices. No other airlines appear to be offering those customers a discount or honoring the tickets; this isn’t much of a surprise. Some carriers are considering adding extra sections to carry displaced passengers if demand dictates such but as of now nothing has been announced.

It will be interesting to see if Spirit can convince the pilots to head back to work. It will also be interesting to see if the airline can survive this work interruption and survive. Yes, the company has made money in recent months but that’s no guarantee for livelihood, especially in a market where customers seem to hold a grudge.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.