Spirit Airlines cancelled 446 flights on Thursday according to Flightaware, an aviation tracking website, which is 56% of the airline’s schedule. On Wednesday the airline cancelled more than 300 flights. Rioting broke out in Orlando and San Juan, Puerto Rico on Tuesday as the airline suffered lots of cancellations due to weather which then causes crew staffing shortages. Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie said by cancelling so many flights, the airline is trying to reset its operations and get aircraft and crew to the correct locations. 23 people across four airports were arrested at Spirit ticket counters since Tuesday. Christie did say they are going to be studying this in the future to try and learn from it so it doesn’t happen again.
Spirit operates many of its routes on less-than-weekly service such as twice a week or three times a week service, and with so many flights being completely full, the airline is little to no room to re-accommodate passengers on the next flight that might not be for a few days, leaving passengers stranded for days, many without their luggage which had already been loaded onto airplanes. The ultra-low-cost airline does not have interline agreements with other carriers so it can not put passengers on another airline like traditional airlines such as American, Delta and United do routinely during disruptions to help their passengers reach thier destinations.
Christie said that the airline starting to get back on its feet operationally. There are very long lines at Spirit check-in counters and in a couple airports, Spirit employees were told to leave and change into personal clothing due to the crowds turning violent.
But why didn’t crowds riot when American Airlines had to cancel 12% of its flights, that’s roughly 600 flights? Unlike Spirit, American operates nearly all routes with multiple daily flights, and from several hubs, making it easier for the airline to re-accommodate passengers usually the same day or the next day. The airline staffs ticket and gate agents at a much higher levels, and for the few passengers who didn’t get rebooked onto a different flight, American uses its interline agreements and puts passengers on Delta or United. In other words, passengers were not left stranded with no one to help them.
Part of Spirits strategy of keeping costs down is lower staffing levels, less-than-daily flights and not having those pricey interline agreements. From Texas airports Houston (IAH), Dallas (DFW) and Austin (AUS), Spirit flights mostly to vacation and leisure destinations including; Atlanta, Cancun, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Myrtle Beach, New Orleans, Orlando, Pensacola, San Diego, San Salvador and Tampa.