Spirit Airlines Flight Attendants are Taking their Frustrations to DFW

April 14, 2022

Spirit Airlines flight attendants are looking at the upcoming summer vacation season with skepticism after eight major cancellation meltdowns in the last eight months left crews without hotel rooms, working longer-than-allowed days and stranded them in unexpected cities with no idea when they would get home.

So they’re taking their frustrations to DFW International Airport on Thursday in the second of three demonstrations in a week as Spirit plans an aggressive flying schedule that union leaders say the carrier can’t handle.

“Our biggest concern is that all of this has happened ahead of our summer schedule, which will be the biggest flying schedule that Spirit has ever put out,” said Don Reno Intreglia, an Orlando, Fla.-based flight attendant and Association of Flight Attendants vice president for Spirit. “We are very afraid that what has happened will keep happening over and over again.”

Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit has been one of a handful of airlines that have been repeatedly blindsided by operational meltdowns that have resulted in thousands of cancellations, a group that also includes Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Dallas-based Southwest Airlines. The story is similar in almost every occurrence: A minor weather event or technical problems early in the weekend snowballs into thousands of nixed flights over several days.

The disruptions tend to trickle out across the country as planes, pilots and flight attendants that were booked for several legs of trips are out of position, with few options to get to their next assignment. And when they do get on planes, they are encountering equally frustrated passengers.

About 580 Spirit flight attendants are based at DFW, one of the carrier’s seven crew bases.

Recent problems have started with thunderstorms in Florida, not at all uncommon in an area that leads the nation in lightning strikes. Over the last two weekends, Spirit has canceled hundreds of flights. Again, the airline blamed weather problems in Florida and subsequent staffing issues from the disruption.

Flight delays and cancellations not only upset passengers but often leave pilots and flight attendants without hotel rooms, taxis and other necessities as software and backup systems get overwhelmed with the enormous number of requests. Similar problems have plagued American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, along with JetBlue and at times even Delta and United.

Spirit has been working on new crew scheduling software and other fixes to help stranded flight attendants and passengers and has been reworking its network for less complicated flight patterns. Spirit has also added about 1,300 employees since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Spirit is planning about 9,800 more flights this summer than it did during the same period in 2019, according to flight-schedule tracker Cirium.

“We are grateful for our incredible Spirit family, and we’re committed to finding ways to better support our team members and address the issues of most importance to them,” Spirit said in a statement. “We’ve been through so much together throughout the pandemic, and we are committed to making the necessary investments to build a stronger and more resilient airline for both our team members and guests.”

Unions for pilots and flight attendants at Southwest and American have issued similar warnings, saying that fatigue makes it dangerous to fly and that erratic schedules make the airlines less attractive to new employees.

Spirit is in the midst of competing takeover bids from Denver-based Frontier Airlines and New York’s JetBlue, another airline with consistent mass cancellation issues over the last year.

“We need a network that’s reliable based on current staffing levels,” Intreglia said. “They’ve come to the table saying that they will look at the entire operation to try to fix the problem. But if anything, things have gotten worse since last August, much worse.”

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