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Sunday night, a brawl erupted at Florida's Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood International Airport at the Spirit Airlines ticket counter. Three passengers, all from New York, whose flights were cancelled, were arrested during the incident.
While Spirit has issued an official apology, the brawl has brought the airline's situation under much more public scrutiny due to the rash of recent airline public relations disasters. Videos posted to social media sites have gained viral status.
A few customers, rightfully upset after Spirit cancelled over 80 flights in a single day, refused to leave the ticketing counter when asked by the Spirit agents. There were over 500 people in the area, many of whom also had their Spirit flights cancelled.
The airport, which has been on high alert since a shooting earlier this year, had several officers nearby who witnessed the incident escalating. When officers stepped in to attempt to diffuse the situation, tensions rose. When the officers started to remove the three customers, a scuffle ensued. The three arrested individuals were still in custody as of Tuesday, each being held on $10,000 bond. Reportedly, they are being charged with inciting a riot, trespassing, and resisting arrest.
Although Spirit issued an apology, the content of the apology is somewhat curious. Rather than just apologizing and stating that the company will learn and move forward to ensure this does not happen again, the airline blamed their pilots (whom the company is engaged in a labor dispute with) for the customer service incident that happened at their ticketing counter. Doing so has put Spirit's labor dispute with their pilot's on center stage.
Spirit alleges that the pilots have been orchestrating delays and cancellations in an effort to manipulate the salary negotiations and collective bargaining agreement negotiations that have been ongoing for the last two years. Furthermore, the airline secured a federal court order preventing the pilots from orchestrating service disruptions. Regardless, Spirit, while known by consumers for their low, a la cart, fares, is now becoming known for paying their pilots less than their major competitors.
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