Spirit has started canceling flights as a pilot strike, which could begin as soon as midnight tonight, appears more and more likely. The Associated Press (AP) reports that both sides have publicly stated they would like to make a deal, but so far negotiations have produced nothing.
The news of canceling flights is significant because earlier this week, Spirit claimed it had arranged “partnerships” with other airlines to ensure service isn’t disrupted, at least not severely, during a strike. However, the airline did not provide any details about these partnerships, leading some (including me) to wonder if the airline really had a realistic contingency plan in place. This news doesn’t necessarily confirm those suspicions, but it certainly doesn’t cast Spirit as prepared for the strike.
Further, the AP reports that Spirit is not selling tickets for this weekend. The airline said all flights from its Ft. Lauderdale hub this Saturday and Sunday are suspended. Spirit spokesperson Misty Pinson told the AP, “Although Spirit remains committed to reaching a fair and equitable deal, we are taking precautionary and proactive measures to shield our customers.” She said customers are being provided with other options.
Spirit’s pilots have been trying for years to get a better deal from the airline. The head of Spirit’s Airline Pilots Association characterized their demands as “pay parity,” and said pilots simply want salaries similar to those at other low-cost airlines, such as JetBlue and AirTran.
I’ll be keeping tabs on this throughout the day and into the weekend.