Spirit Airlines Pilot Contract Fights Lead to Actual Fights

Flickr / TDelCoro

On Monday night, passengers were outraged after ten Spirit Airlines flights were canceled at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport, triggering screaming and multiple arrests.

Jose L. Rodriguez captured a video of the incident showing a mob crowding around as three people were arrested for inciting a riot. He said the passengers were on their way to a graduation and “[they] started pounding on the counter and screaming out of frustration. Airport security tried to [calm] them down to no avail.”

In light of recent events, all eyes are on airlines right now, particularly with United. In April, a United passenger was dragged off his flight after refusing to volunteer his seat to United employees. And in February, an Oregon woman’s healthy golden retriever passed away aboard a flight that was 20 hours delayed. But, Spirit spokesperson Paul Berry said this incident is not the airline’s fault.

“This is a result of unlawful labor activity by some Spirit pilots designed to disrupt Spirit operations for our customers by canceling multiple flights across our network,” Berry told Fortune.

Berry is referring to ongoing negotiations with the Air Line Pilots Association and the filing of pilots’ contracts, which clearly aren’t meeting their standards. But, Berry said ALPA put their “quest for a new contract ahead of getting customers to their destinations.”

In response to the incident, Spirit has sued ALPA in an effort to protect customers and end the mounting cancellations. According to the suit, 300 flights have been canceled in the past week, affecting 20,000 passengers and costing spirit $8.5 million in lost revenue.

Stuart Morrison, chairman of the Master Executive Council for ALPA, said the cancelations were due to “lack of volunteers for open time flying,” which means that pilots can volunteer for flights that are not booked with a pilot or are last minute switch-ups and earn twice their usual pay. Pilots have been banding together to stop open time flying, demanding more organization when booking flights. But, Morrison says, “pilots who want to pick up open time should do so and not be questioned because, under the present circumstances, performing such flying is in all of our interest and supports our long-term objective of substantially improving pay and working conditions for the members.”

Morrison also added in bold words, “we mean what we say and are not sending any ‘coded’ or hidden messages.”

So, it seems, there is blame on both ends, but no one is taking responsibility. As for the arrested passengers, two men and one woman were charged with riot incite, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and trespassing after warning, a Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman told NBC News.