No riot, but frustration with Spirit at TIA after customers rebel

Spirit Airlines customers are getting angry as flights get canceled amid labor strife.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Have you the latest airline anger video that’s going viral?

This time they never even made it onto the plane.

At Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, three people had to be handcuffed and arrested when they got into a terminal tirade with ticket agents for Spirit Airlines.

And while it's not the sort of melee that they had in South Florida, frustration with Spirit was also brewing at Tampa International Airport on Tuesday, as the airline canceled flights stemming from a dispute with its pilots’ union.

“They knew what was going on, but they didn't let us know, so that was very frustrating,” said Victoria Tate, a Spirit passenger whose flight from Atlanta to Tampa was canceled on Sunday.

That forced Tate to get a seat on another airline. 

Monday night, Tate says she found out her flight back to Atlanta was canceled too. 

“That was very frustrating and very alarming,” she said.

Tate says she's willing to give Spirit another chance to do right by her, but she understands the growing air rage among passengers who feel like they aren’t being told the truth. 

“You have to be upfront with the public. And that's when the public trust you,” said Tate.

Spirit accuses its pilots of causing hundreds of cancelations. A lawsuit against the union accuses them of an illegal job action - a calculated slowdown during tense contract negotiations.  

Our 10News aviation expert, Mark Weinkrantz, says the tactic has been used before.

“They're not getting paid the way they believe they should,” said Weinkrantz.

To make their point, Weinkrantz thinks the pilots are using a part of their current contract which allows them to decline extra flight hours beyond their minimum. 

“It limits the operation, because the airline historically had these pilots picking up the extra trip,” said Weinkrantz, who is also a commercial pilot.

So, if you’re thinking about purchasing a ticket, how do you protect yourself from a potential labor action or strike?

Travel experts say you may want to fly an airline that isn't in the news for this sort of thing. Also, consider airlines and have alliances with other carriers, so if you got knocked off your flight you might be able to fly another in the same group.

Also, consider purchasing a full-fare ticket if you can afford it, which allows for refunds. Or purchase insurance that covers strikes or labor actions.

Also, while many book their own airfare these days, this could be another reason to work with a travel agent, who can go to bat for you if you run into trouble.

In the meantime, Spirit risks losing more customers like Ciara Green, who says she had to spend $600 more when the airline canceled her flight to Tampa.

“And this was my first time flying Spirit. And I would never do it again,” said Green.

Airline officials at TIA say they're doing what they can. On Tuesday, a 7 p.m. flight to Atlanta had been canceled. Other flights heading for Tampa were delayed.

Eventually, Spirit was able to book passenger Victoria Tate a flight home on Delta.

Even as other passengers in Fort Lauderdale were booked - into jail.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment