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Published: Saturday, 6/12/2010

Spirit Airlines cancels flights as pilots strike

Doug Ferraro, of St. Petersburg, Fla., checks his phone for messages as he sits on the floor at the Spirit Airlines counter as his birthday-vacation flight to Nassau was canceled at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.. Doug Ferraro, of St. Petersburg, Fla., checks his phone for messages as he sits on the floor at the Spirit Airlines counter as his birthday-vacation flight to Nassau was canceled at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla..
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Spirit Airlines pilots went on strike Saturday in a dispute over pay, and the discount carrier immediately canceled all of its flights for the day.

The walkout and cancellations were expected to affect thousands of travelers. Spirit flies from several airports in the eastern U.S., through Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to points in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Talks were extended past a midnight deadline, but pilots walked out after the last extension expired at 5 a.m. EDT.

The extensions were “in order to review final proposals put forth by both parties to keep the airline running. In the end, both sides could not reach an agreement,” said Sean Creed, a Spirit captain and the head of the airline's branch of the Air Line Pilots Association, in a statement on the union's website.

He said pilots “will not return to the cockpit until a fair and equitable contract is negotiated.”

“Spirit Airlines is continuing to work with our pilot union to reach a fair and equitable agreement that ensures the long-term stability of the company,” the company said on its website.

Spirit said it was refunding fares for Saturday flights plus a $100 credit toward future flights. As recently as Tuesday it had said it was “partnering with other air carrier providers to continue to serve our customers.”

Privately-held Spirit runs roughly 150 flights a day, making it much smaller than major carriers like Delta Air Lines Inc., with 6,200.

Spirit pilots have said their pay lags competitors such as AirTran Airways and JetBlue. The two sides have been in negotiations for more than three years.

The airline has about 440 active pilots and is based in Miramar, Fla. It dubs itself an ultra low-cost carrier, and says some of its tickets go for $9. It attracted notice recently when it announced that beginning Aug. 1 it would charge passengers up to $45 for carry-on bags.



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