Spirit Airlines is under fire — and questions are being raised — after the low-cost carrier cancels more than 20 percent of its nationwide flights over the weekend.
As of this writing, FlightAware’s live tracker shows that the low-cost airline is currently sitting at number four on the list, worldwide, of the number of delayed and canceled flights. 38 percent of their flights (277 flights total) have been canceled, while 159 flights have been delayed.
Erik Hofmeyer, a spokesperson for the Florida-based airline, blamed “operational challenges” for the mass cancellations. “We needed to make proactive cancellations to some flights across the network, but the majority of flights are still scheduled as planned,” he said in a statement to The New York Post.
On Tuesday morning, Spirit Airlines passengers in Fort Lauderdale, FL — the airline’s hub — still struggled to get out of there, and were told that there was nothing anyone could do.
“They won’t get us home,” traveler Deniqua Holloway said to Local 10 News in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “We get our flight here and then they tell us it’s canceled.”
The local news station also observed that there was only one ticket agent trying to get hundreds of passengers rebooked, forcing them to wait for hours in long lines and even — in some cases — sleep at the airport.
A now removed Tweet from Twitter user @mattrix8733 suggested passengers were rioting in San Juan’s international airport:
“Riots break out in SJU. [Passengers] are breaking computers, attempting to break the jet bridge door, and are assaulting gate agents. 25 crew members are huddled in a ramp break room waiting for SWAT to escort them away. Crews are urged to change clothes to avoid detection. Tempers are flaring at [Orlando] and [Fort Lauderdale] as well,” the tweet initially read.
However, that report has not been confirmed by the airline.
There has been growing speculation that the problems Spirit Airlines is facing is due to a pilot strike — a claim the airline vociferously denies.
“There is no strike,” Spirit representative Field Sutton said in an email to WUSA9. “I’m aware of the rumor of a pilot strike, but it’s 100% false. We have a fantastic team of pilots working very hard during this busy travel season.”
But while Spirit is far from the only airline facing trouble in the wake of the pandemic — American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are just two of many airlines facing organizational issues — customers are being strongly urged to check the status of their flight before leaving for the airport…or to find an alternate mode of travel as soon as possible.