As Floridians brace themselves from Hurricane Ian to make landfall later on Tuesday, flight attendants at Miramar-based low-cost carrier Spirit have accused the airline of “nothing short of radio silence on the current hurricane season and affected areas”.
Residents of the Sunshine State are on alert for a potential “major disaster” as the category two hurricane barrels towards the west coast. Governor Ron DeSantis has warned that Hurricane Ian could have “broad impacts throughout the state”.
But the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), the largest flight attendant union in the United States, claims Spirit Airlines has so far failed to address its member’s concerns, some of whom have been put under mandatory evacuation orders.
In a special memo to address the situation, the union told its members: “Time and time again we are seeing a lack of proactive planning or assistance in times of trouble or turmoil.”
“Spirit would rather react to emergencies after they have occurred than to be proactive to alleviate the severity of such conditions,” the memo continued.
Late on Monday night, Tampa International Airport (TPA) said it planned to suspend operations from 5 pm on Tuesday in advance of an anticipated storm surge. American Airlines also issued a travel alert on Monday for 20 airports across the Caribbean and Florida.
The airline said it had slashed airfares to enable more people to escape the path of the storm and waived check bag fees for up to two items.
Other airports, including Miami International (MIA), say they will remain open as they are not “in the cone of concern”.
Spirit’s own flight attendants have been increasingly frustrated with the airline in recent months and in April, hundreds of crew members picketed airports in protest at “blatant contract violations” like failing to provide hotel rooms during periods of operational disruption – such as severe weather.
The airline suffered a major operational meltdown last August when it 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.
According to Flight Aware data, Spirit has so far only scrubbed 1 per cent of scheduled flights on Tuesday, but this number is anticipated to rise as the storm system approaches.
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.