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Archive for Sunday, June 13, 2010

Spirit Airlines pilots strike, stranding thousands

June 13, 2010

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— A strike by Spirit Airlines pilots has shut down the discount carrier, stranding thousands of travelers.

The walkout, which began Saturday, forced the airline to cancel its flights Saturday and today. Its CEO said no talks were scheduled with picketing pilots.

Spirit carries 16,680 passengers per day — about 1 percent of the U.S. total — mostly between the eastern U.S. and the Caribbean and Latin America. But its shutdown is causing major problems for its flyers.

Spirit tickets are only good on a handful of other carriers, and only if there’s space on the flight. The airline said it was refunding fares for Saturday flights plus a $100 credit toward future flights. It was trying to get its passengers booked onto other airlines.

People who needed to replace their Spirit tickets found the cost of same-day fares on other airlines was two- to three times more than their tickets.

That was out of the question for Junior Elliott, a 67-year-old mason from St. Ann’s parish in Jamaica, who was stranded in Fort Lauderdale while traveling to New York for a cousin’s funeral.

Elliott was unable to buy new tickets until his fare was refunded to his debit card. He had no cell phone, no U.S. currency, and nowhere to sleep but the terminal’s seats.

“It’s bad now, man,” Elliott said. “I can’t even buy a cup of coffee.”

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