Talks to resume between Spirit Airlines and striking pilots, but walkout will continueBy Joshua Freed, AP
Monday, June 14, 2010
Talks to resume between Spirit and striking pilots
Spirit Airlines and its striking pilots are set to resume negotiations on Tuesday.
Even with talks beginning again, relief is still at least a few days away for stranded Spirit travelers. It has canceled all flights through Wednesday.
Sean Creed, the head of the pilot union at Spirit, says the National Mediation Board has asked both sides to meet in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. However, union officials say they will stay on strike until there’s a deal.
Spirit pilots walked out on Saturday in a dispute over pay. The airline has been grounded ever since.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Striking pilots at Spirit Airlines grounded the carrier again on Monday, forcing the discount carrier to cancel all of its flights through Wednesday.
Spirit aircraft have not flown since pilots walked out on Saturday in a pay dispute. At one time the airline had hoped to keep flying through the strike.
Spirit carries about 16,000 passengers every day. The airline is offering customers credit for future flights, plus $100. But if they want refunds instead, customers have to call the airline and ask for one. Several calls to that number on Monday produced a busy signal.
Spirit is usually the biggest carrier at Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey. But on Monday two of its planes sat idle on the ramp, and only a few people were near its ticket counters.
One of them was Macedonian exchange student Dale Velevski, who knew his flight to Michigan had been canceled, though no one had told him why.
Sitting alone with his suitcase on a chair in the nearly deserted terminal, Velevski resigned himself to spending the next 24 hours — at a minimum — at the airport. He had no money for a hotel.
“I’m going to sleep here,” he said. “It’s my only choice. I’m very tired, though.”
Spirit customers trying to rent cars or book a walk-up ticket on another airline often found themselves paying far more than the price of their original airline ticket.
Lee Maron was forced to rent a car to get home to Boston after flying to Atlantic City for a bar mitzvah. She was unimpressed by the voucher for future travel on an airline that she predicted wouldn’t be around for long.
“Giving me a voucher and a credit for something that won’t exist is like getting a bad Christmas gift,” she said.
Privately held Spirit is based in Miramar, Fla. Its pilots walked out early Saturday, saying the company’s last pay offer still wouldn’t get them the same pay as pilots at other discount airlines like JetBlue Airways Corp. and AirTran Airways, a unit of AirTran Holdings Inc. The company has said those other airlines are much bigger than Spirit.
No new talks were planned as of Monday, said Sean Creed, head of the Spirit branch of the Air Line Pilots Association.
Associated Press Writer Wayne Parry in Atlantic City, N.J., contributed to this report.
Tags: Air Travel, Air Travel Disruptions, Atlantic City, Budget Travel, Car Rental, Labor Issues, New Jersey, North America, Transportation, United States