Flight attendants at Spirit Airlines say they’ve had enough of “blatant contract violations” and are loudly making their gripes known to passengers with a series of picketing events planned at airports across the United States. The protests come as Spirit, like many airlines, struggles with staffing shortages that are heaping pressure on a strained and pandemic-weary workforce.
Many of the contract violations are connected with a series of operational meltdowns that have left flight attendants stranded away from base. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) claims Spirit has failed to assist flight attendants who have been forced to sleep in airports overnight because the airline didn’t supply them with a hotel room.
“Empty promises from Spirit management ‘to do better’ will no longer suffice,” the union said in a statement on Monday. “Flight Attendants will not be silent and standby while Spirit Airlines continues to violate their employee contracts.”
The first picketing event took place at Orlando airport on Tuesday and the union has already obtained permission to stage a second picket at Las Vegas Harry Reid airport. Other events are also planned but the union is still trying to get approvals from various airports.
Spirit suffered a major operational meltdown last August when the airline was forced to scrub nearly half its planned schedule for four days. The situation became so bad that flight attendants and airport staff were allegedly told to hide from angry passengers and to change out of uniform to avoid being accosted by stranded customers.
At the time, the union worked with management to ‘reset’ the operations but since that meltdown, Spirit has experienced four more mass disruption events. The last meltdown happened just over a week ago when the airline cancelled around 30 percent of its schedule.
“With staff shortages already straining the system, Spirit Airlines does not have the staff to quickly recover from mass cancellations and delays, which leaves Spirit Flight Attendants burdened with picking up the pieces,” the union complains.
A spokesperson for Spirit, however, says the airline is actively working with flight attendants to “address” recent issues.
“We are grateful for our incredible Spirit Family, and we’re committed to finding ways to better support our Team Members and address the issues of most importance to them,” a spokesperson told us in an emailed statement.
“We’ve been through so much together throughout the pandemic, and we are committed to making the necessary investments to build a stronger and more resilient airline for both our Team Members and Guests.”
Spirit is currently reviewing an uninvited takeover bid by JetBlue which could derail a merger agreement with fellow low-cost carrier Frontier.
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.