Spirit Airlines has canceled all of its flights through June 16 as a result of a pilot strike that began Saturday.
The Florida-based airline, which provides travel to the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean, runs roughly 150 flights carrying about 16,680 passengers a day, according to The Associated Press. This accounts for less than 1% of U.S. air passenger traffic, but so far thousands of travelers have found themselves stranded at the airport, unable to book a flight due to an overall decrease in availability due to the economic downturn.
"We are accommodating Spirit passengers as best we can," Christopher White, a spokesperson for AirTran, told The Wall Street Journal. "But we have very high load factors over the next few weeks."
Those who are able to get a seat have to pay two to three times more the cost of the original flight due to same-day airfare prices. Spirit is currently offering future flight credits at the cost of the original purchase plus an additional $100 flight voucher to passengers who have had their flights canceled. Passengers who are interested in a cash refund can call (800) 772-7117 for assistance.
The strike started early Saturday morning when approximately 450 pilots walked off of the job early after four years of contract negotiations failed to address wage concerns.
“Spirit pilots are willing to withdraw their services to get the contract they deserve,” Captain John Prater, president of ALPA, said in a press release. “Every one of the 53,000 pilots of ALPA stands with them as they go on strike. As pilots, our livelihood is in the air, not on the picket line, but the inability of Spirit management to negotiate a contract that adequately compensates our professional members has created this dispute.”
ALPA claims that Spirit pilots, especially first officers, have been working at below-market rates for years “under substandard work rules.”