Spirit Airlines flight cancellations spark brawls at airport

Three people have been arrested for disorderly conduct

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The Independent US

Police officers have been called into an Florida airport to control angry passengers protesting their cancelled flights.

Passengers at the Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport caused an uproar after the airline cancelled nine flights out of Fort Lauderdale. Cell phone videos show people slapping, shoving, and yelling at police officers in the Spirit Airlines terminal.

Broward County Aviation Department spokesman Greg Meyer told The Independent the incident started when three passengers "kind of just went ballistic" on Spirit Airline employees. Mr Meyer said the passengers aggressively confronted gate agents, and would not back down when law enforcement arrived.

 

Additional officers had to be called in to assist the airport patrol officers on duty, the Broward County Sheriff's department said. The three passengers were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Passenger Timari Cameron described the scene as “chaotic."

“It started with Spirit and the customers and then it went to the customers against the police and then it went to a standstill,” the passenger told CBS Miami. “Then we got up there to talk to someone and they said you can’t go home until Wednesday.”

The cancelled flights stem from a contract dispute between Spirit Airlines and its pilots. Several people present on Monday night said pilots were on strike, causing staffing shortages and cancelled flights. The airline has cancelled almost 300 flights in the last week, according to CNN.

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Additional officers had to be called in to assist the airport patrol officers on duty, the sheriff's office told The Independent. Three people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Passenger Timari Cameron described the scene as “chaotic."

“It started with Spirit and the customers and then it went to the customers against the police and then it went to a standstill,” the passenger told CBS Miami. “Then we got up there to talk to someone and they said you can’t go home until Wednesday.”

The cancelled flights stem from a contract dispute between Spirit Airlines and its pilots. Several people present on Monday night said pilots were on strike, causing staffing shortages and cancelled flights. The airline has cancelled almost 300 flights in the last week, according to CNN.

Spirit Airlines, however, denies the pilots are on strike, instead accusing them of “purposely and unlawfully disrupting the airline’s operations” in order to advance their contract negotiations. A federal court on Tuesday granted Spirit a temporary restraining order compelling the pilots to return to "status quo." The airline claims that the pilots' "work slowdown" had impacted 15 per cent of their flights.

"We are shocked and saddened by the events that took place yesterday at Fort. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and at other airports across our network,” said Spirit Airlines spokesperson Paul Berry.“We are hopeful that we can put this moment behind us and get back to serving our customers.”

But the APLA, in a statement to the The Independent, denied the pilots had engaged in any coordinated effort.

“The court has spoken and Spirit pilots will fully comply with the order handed down, which is completely in line with our overriding goal: the resumption of normal operations.” the organisation said.

Anticipating legal action from the airline, the APLA released a public message to its members last week, urging them not to “band together” against their employer.

"We ask you to do everything possible to restore Spirit’s operations so we can refocus on securing a fair agreement as quickly as possible," they wrote.

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