Amid Cancelations & Delays, Court Orders Spirit Airlines Pilots To Halt Alleged Work Slowdown

Image courtesy of airlines470

With cancelled Spirit Airlines flights resulting in fisticuffs at the nation’s airports, a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the union representing Spirit pilots, hoping to get passengers moving again.

Yesterday, Spirit sued some of its pilots and the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents thousands of pilots at multiple national and regional airlines, alleging a “pervasive illegal work slowdown” resulting in hundreds of cancelled flights, thousands of passengers with disrupted travel plans, and millions of dollars in lost revenue for Spirit.

The ALPA denied these allegations, saying the Spirit pilots were not engaged in any work slowdown, and that they were in fact trying to restore normal operations to the airline.

However, this morning, a federal court judge in Fort Lauderdale granted Spirit’s request for a temporary restraining order (TRO), finding that the airline was likely to prevail in its claim that the pilots were violating the Railway Labor Act by making a concerted effort to not perform normal flight operations.

“Unless this Court issues a TRO… Plaintiff will suffer immediate and irreparable damage in the form of damage to its business reputation and customer goodwill, increased costs for measures designed to avoid flight delays and cancellations, and loss of revenue and associated costs caused by flight delays and cancellations, none of which may be recoverable from Defendants, and much of which can never be recovered,” writes the court [PDF]. “Spirit has shown, through affidavits, that it will suffer substantial and irreparable injury without the TRO. It further appears that unless such activity is restrained, the travel plans of large numbers of Plaintiff’s customers will be disrupted, and the public will be deprived of transportation services, causing serious and substantial damage to the public interest.”

So until the court holds further hearings on this dispute, the pilots are barred from “calling, permitting, instigating, authorizing, encouraging, participating in, approving, or continuing any form of interference” with Spirit’s operations.

Specifically prohibited actions include, “strike, work stoppage, sick-out, slowdown, work to rule campaign, concerted refusal to accept voluntary or overtime flight assignments… slow taxiing, writing up maintenance items, calling in fatigued, delaying flights, refusing to answer a call from the scheduling, refusing to fly an aircraft that meets legal requirements for flight, or refusing to accept voluntary or overtime flying.”

According to live flight tracking on, 38 Spirit flights have already been cancelled today — more than any other carrier in the U.S. Yesterday, the airline called of 65 flights and delayed more than double that number.

UPDATE: Both the airline and the union have emailed the following statements to Consumerist —

“We sincerely apologize to our customers for the disruption and inconveniences they have suffered,” says a spokesperson from Spirit. “We believe this is the result of intimidation tactics by a limited number of our pilots affecting the behavior of the larger group. We are also shocked and saddened by the events that took place yesterday at Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and at other airports across our network.”

The ALPA writes:
“Spirit pilots are committed to helping impacted passengers and the company restore normal operations. Spirit pilots were instrumental in returning operations to normal in 2015 and several times since then by going above and beyond their schedules, and waiving contractual restrictions in order to accept more flying. The court has spoken and Spirit pilots will fully comply with the order handed down, which is completely in line with our overriding goal: the resumption of normal operations. We call on the company to join forces with ALPA and the Spirit pilots to do just that.”