Spirit Pilots Declining To Work Overtime


Spirit Airlines has had to cancel or delay 15% of flights in the last month due to a lack of pilots, according to the airline. Cancellations this week thrust the years-long contract negotiation between the ultra-low-cost carrier and the pilots union into the public eye when a small number of angry passengers started a brawl after threatening Spirit employees. The airline asserts the lack of aircrews is due to organized action by pilots to not pick up voluntary overtime assignments. Spirit in a public statement: “We believe this is the result of intimidation tactics by a limited number of our pilots affecting the behavior of the larger group.” U.S. labor laws do not permit employees in critical service public functions, such as airline pilots, to go on strike or participate in work slowdowns.

The U.S. District Court believed Spirit’s story enough to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on Monday enjoining the union and its members from any heel-dragging on picking up open flights. This morning, the union agreed to indefinitely extend the enforceability of the TRO, while simultaneously denying that any concerted effort ever existed. In a statement given to AVweb this morning, the union said, “The Air Line Pilots Association Int’l and the Spirit pilot group it represents are not engaged in a job action. Rather, ALPA and the Spirit pilots are continuing to do everything possible to help restore the company’s operations, which have experienced significant problems over the past several days.”

Spirit pilots have complained of pay far below market levels. A 10th year captain flying for Spirit Airlines on any of their A319/320/321 aircraft earns $160 per hour. A 10th year captain flying for JetBlue flying the A320/321 earns $213 per hour.