Spirit Airlines operations have returned to normal as mass cancellations end

Friday May 19th, 2017


Spirit Airlines Inc.'s pilot problems seem to have ended. The Miramar-based airline (Nasdaq: SAVE) said its abnormal wave of flight cancellations has come to a halt, with fewer than 1 percent of its flights cancelled since Mother's Day and no cancellations since the start of the week. Earlier in the month, the airline was reporting as many as 50-60 flights cancelled a day across its system, stranding thousands of passengers.

“The wave of cancelled Spirit flights is behind us," said Paul Berry, a spokesman for Spirit. "We are seeing a strong and steady operation similar to what we experienced prior to May 1st."

The ultra-low-cost carrier blamed the weeks-long episode on group of unionized pilots who, according to a complaint filed earlier this month, were refusing to pick up extra flights or work overtime at an unusual rate. Washington D.C.-based Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA), which represents pilots from Spirit and more than 30 other airlines in the U.S. and Canada, on Thursday released an open letter to Spirit's passengers saying their members have "stepped up and extended themselves to resort Spirit's flight operations."

"We have every reason to believe our efforts have helped stabilize the operations," the letter said.

Spirit sued ALPA on May 9 alleging that coordinated efforts from pilots caused the airline to lose about $8.5 million in revenue due to about 300 flight cancellations in a seven-day period. The airline linked the alleged slowdown to collective bargaining negotiations that had been going on since February 2015. ALPA on April 28 released a statement bemoaning the unresolved wage negotiations despite the company's $642 million in net profits since the talks began. Spirit accused ALPA pilots of violating the Railway Labor Act, which prohibits work slowdowns and strikes during collective bargaining negotiations.

On May 9, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida has issued a temporary restraining order compelling Spirit Airlines Inc. pilots to return to the status quo. ALPA later said it would help restore operations at the airline and on May 11, ALPA and Spirit agreed to extend the restraining order until wage negotiations ended.

"Spirit customers can have confidence their summer flights will operate as planned, so they can enjoy their family vacations and other fun trips," Berry said.


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