Thousands of Spirit Airlines customers are waking up to the fourth day of mass cancellations as the ultra-low-cost carrier struggles to recover from weather-related disruption and other “operational difficulties” which is likely to be code for staffing woes.
By Wednesday afternoon, Spirit had proactively cancelled 418 flights which is around 60 per cent of its planned schedule. That is a slight improvement on Tuesday when the Florida-based airline nixed 429 flights or 61 per cent of its schedule and delayed a further 137 flights.
The airline has failed to recover from mass cancellations on Sunday that resulted in staff being told to hide as tempers flared in some airports including in Orlando and San Juan. There are even reports that one flight was diverted because of “civil unrest” that made the airport unsafe to land at.
American Airlines had also faced several days of mass cancellations but while AA has managed to recover its operations, Spirit is still treating the disruption as it would the recovery from a major hurricane.
“Spirit management has begun treating this irregular operation as a hurricane recovery and strategically canceled flights around the system with the possibility of a system reset,” the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) said on Wednesday.
Both AFA and the ALPA pilots union had denied incorrect reports that Spirit’s problems had been caused by employees downing tools.
“We understand how frustrating it is for our guests when plans change unexpectedly,” a Spirit Airlines spokesperson said of the continued disruption.”We’re working to provide refunds for cancellations and, when possible, to re-accommodate our guests.”
The airline said it was “working around the clock to mitigate the travel disruptions”.
After meeting with the flight attendant union, Spirit said it would carry out a ‘reset’ which will result in more cancellations but allow the airline to position planes and crew to where they need to be in order to start over again.
“Today, management is again proactively canceling flights to reboot the operation and reposition crew,” the AFA union explained. “As the airline rebuilds the schedule, we have negotiated premium pay trip pickups to help recover the operation.”
“We also negotiated additional safety and security measures to protect crews and ensure adequate rest,” the statement continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.