Spirit Airlines is known for cheaper ticket prices – prices that usually come with a few inconveniences and a general gamble on takeoff and landing times. Those inconveniences, however, have recently taken a turn for the worse, with a large portion of flights getting flat-out canceled.
But canceled flights aren’t just leaving passengers stranded. Spirit employees say they've repeatedly been left in cities around the country without information or recourse from their employer. That's why around 20 Spirit flight attendants picketed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday morning.
Standing outside the Spirit ticketing office at the departure gate at DFW, a line of flight attendants and pilots held signs and chanted slogans. “What do we want? Respect!" they shouted. "When do we want it? Now!"
This picket was organized by the flight attendant’s union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
“A week ago, Spirit Airlines management once again cancelled over 30% of our flights for the fourth time since August,” said David Bedene, president of the AFA’s Local 74 out of DFW. “We Spirit flight attendants are out picketing today to raise our voices to say enough is enough and stop stranding our passengers and crew.”
Since the start of the year, airline travel has been hampered time and again by fits of bad weather, COVID-19 surges, logistical mishaps and staffing shortages
. Earlier this month, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants union said stranded flight staff were left to sleep in airports
. On Thursday alone, nearly 500 flights within, out of or into the U.S.
were canceled, according to FlightAware.
At DFW on Thursday, the protesting flight attendants held up placards criticizing Spirit over the cancellations.
“Stranded for 3 days without a hotel and no answers? Us too,” said one.
The pandemic and staffing shortages have led to an uptick in flight cancellations this year.
Another read, “Low fares, low wages, low morale, Spirit Airlines.”
Yet another said, “You think it is bad flying Spirit? Try working here.”
Despite being stranded without hotel accommodations, food, overtime pay or any other support from the company, the flight attendants remain on the clock and still have to help the equally frustrated customers, they say. Even when they call their employer to try to get answers, they simply aren’t given any clarity.
"You think it is bad flying Spirit? Try working here." - protest placard
“We will not remain silent and stand by while Spirit continues to violate our contract leaving us on duty for 20+ hours after flight cancellations,” Bedene said. “They left us on hold with the company for hours without answers and [are] making us sleep on airport floors.”
This is the second picket from the Spirit employees this week, the first being held in Orlando on Monday
By email, Spirit Airlines responded to questions about the cancellations and pickets with a prepared statement.
“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,” the company wrote. “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 employees claim that Spirit has a contractual obligation to fix these problems and stop stranding them across the country.
Bedene said Spirit did not offer any reconciliation after the picket in Orlando, but he hopes they will come to the table to discuss solutions.
“We’re hoping … to make them listen to what we need and to make sure they follow our contract going forward,” Bedene said.
The attendants say they will continue to picket if things don’t improve. There's already another demonstration scheduled for Friday in Las Vegas and another on April 19 in Detroit.