Enraged passengers thronged ticket counters and some sparked off a near-riot at Fort Lauderdale’s Airport as Spirit Airlines suspended nine flights. The airline laid blame on the pilots’ door as they refused to fly.
On Monday, hundreds of passengers thronged at the airlines’ Florida terminal. Three New York residents were charged in connections with sparking off a riot, engaging in a violent conduct, and contravening the law after they came to blows with deputies summoned to appease the passengers.
Slowdown is due to pilot unavailability
The Broward Sheriff’s Office said about 500 people thronged at Spirit’s terminal at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Monday night as the airline suspended the flights due to pilot unavailability. A clip posted online captured deputies coming to blows with screaming passengers and ending fights.
Spirit airline says pilots are turning down open flying assignments, which is likely an unlawful slowdown carried by the Air Line Pilots Association to pull strings to have privileges during labour negotiations. It has issued a lawsuit, confirming it has had to either cancel or suspend about 300 flights nationally and internationally over the past days.
Spirit spokesman Paul Berry apologizes to passengers
Spirit spokesman Paul Berry released an announcement apologising to passengers and stating that the company is “shocked and saddened” by the Fort Lauderdale melee.
“We believe this is the result of intimidation tactics by a limited number of our pilots affecting the behaviour of the larger group,” Berry said.
The airport is tightly secured now
In January, Fort Lauderdale airport witnessed a mass shooting that killed five people and injured six. The incident took place in another terminal across the Spirit terminal.
Airport spokesman Greg Meyer said Tuesday that the airport staff has tightly secured the airport, appointing security agents and other staff at the terminal to aid Spirit. He added passengers likely feel apprehensive before flying, so any breaks of serious public disorder provoke perturbation.
“For many people, airline travel is very challenging. A lot of people don’t do it frequently, so they are nervous anyway. When your flight is cancelled and you need to be somewhere at a certain time it is an imposition and we understand that. The airport tries to work with our airline partner to work with our passengers,” Meyer said.