Spirit makes a deal to end pilots' strike

Spirit Airlines planes at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Flights are expected to resume Friday.
Spirit Airlines planes at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Flights are expected to resume Friday.
Posted: June 17, 2010

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Spirit Airlines made a deal with its pilots on Wednesday that will end their strike, and the airline said it would fly again starting Friday.

The strike will not officially end until pilots sign a back-to-work agreement, the union said.

"I think our people will be more than willing to assist the company in getting itself back together and fully operational as soon as we possibly can," said Sean Creed, a Spirit captain and head of the Air Line Pilots Association unit there.

Spirit had already canceled its Thursday flights before the agreement was reached. Before the strike, Spirit had said it intended to fly through any job action. That didn't happen, and many of its customers were stranded with limited ability to use their tickets on other airlines.

"We apologize," chief executive officer Ben Baldanza said to customers who were stranded. "We did the best we could to re-accommodate. We tried to arrange other services for customers where we could," and the airline refunded tickets when it could not get them on another flight, he said.

Spirit carries roughly 16,000 passengers a day, or about 1 percent of the nation's air traffic. Its biggest hub is in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with flights to U.S. cities, including Atlantic City and Detroit, as well as the Caribbean and Latin America.

Spirit is privately held and is based in Miramar, Fla.

Airline strikes are rare in the United States because of strict federal rules aimed at keeping the transportation system moving. The last strike at a major carrier was a walkout by Northwest Airlines Corp. mechanics in 2005.

Spirit pilots had been negotiating for more than three years before the strike started Saturday morning. The union said first officers in particular lagged their counterparts at other discount airlines such as JetBlue Airways Corp. and AirTran Airways when it came to wages.

Negotiations resumed Tuesday afternoon and lasted until early Wednesday morning, Creed said. After a break, they made a deal around midday, he said.

The union's Master Executive Council has agreed to send the tentative agreement to pilots for a vote, but it will not be final until they approve it.

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