The massive disruptions that have inconvenienced, angered and stranded tens of thousands of Spirit Airlines passengers since last weekend continued Friday, with the budget carrier again canceling more than 40 percent of its flights.
The company blamed staffing shortages, system outages and the weather, although no other airline faced problems at the same scale, leaving irate passengers stewing in crowded airports. Spirit agents, facing angry passengers earlier this week at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, called the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for assistance. Deputies were photographed behind the counter and a plastic shield being questioned by passengers.
“I want to be angry at someone, an individual person. But I know it’s not any employee at Spirit — it’s not their fault,” said Sarah Daly, an assistant criminology professor whose flight from Myrtle Beach, S.C., was among the 450 canceled Thursday.
Daly and her boyfriend, firefighter Justin Perry, scrambled to find another hotel and paid for new flights on United Airlines so they could get back home Friday to Pittsburgh, racking up nearly $800 in additional costs, she said. Daly filled out an online form seeking a refund.
“I really don’t want to fly Spirit ever again,” she said.
Spirit Airlines president and chief executive Ted Christie, in apologizing again to the company’s passengers, said, “We’re going to do everything we can to earn back your loyalty.”
The company said in a statement that its “plan to recover from the current operational disruption is working,” and that cancellation rates are moving in the right direction. Christie said he expected a return to normal by the middle of next week. “I am truly sorry,” he said.
American Airlines said it wrestled with weather-related problems earlier in the week that left crews out of place and led to significant cancellations. Southwest said technological issues led to “extreme delays” and cancellations in mid-June and early June, but that summer storms this week brought only modest disruptions.
Aviation experts said some airlines face planning and employee scheduling problems as they seek to recoup revenue after being hit during the pandemic amid the peak travel season.
Spirit said its problems this week stemmed from a “tough” July.
“What started with weather and its associated delays led to more and more crew members getting dislocated and being unable to fly their assigned trips,” the company said in a statement. “Ultimately, the number of crews facing those issues outpaced our crew scheduling department’s capacity for getting them back in place.”
Daly said she and Perry tried to make the most of their extra day in South Carolina. The weather cleared, and they saw a rainbow over the water in the hours after the cancellation.
“We have a limited amount of vacation days. A lot of time has been spent making changes … It kind of puts a damper on the vacation part of it,” Daly said. But she said she feels fortunate they had the resources to avoid the kind of multiday ordeal facing others they met.
“I also feel I can tolerate things a lot better when I’m 50 feet from the ocean,” she said.