Spirit Airline pilots ordered back to work, but more local flights canceled

A Spirit Airline's flight departs Myrtle Beach International Airport.
A Spirit Airline's flight departs Myrtle Beach International Airport. jlee@thesunnews.com

At least two Spirit airline flights were canceled at Myrtle Beach International Airport on Wednesday, just one day after a judge ordered pilots to end a union-related work slowdown and get back in the air.

The 3:41 p.m. flight from Niagara Falls, New York, was canceled as was the 5:10 p.m. flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, while several other flights were delayed.

Hundreds of flights have been canceled in the last week, including some into and out of Myrtle Beach, because of the slowdown, which the airline blames on the pilots’ union that is negotiating contracts for the workers.

U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida issued the restraining order Tuesday to prevent pilots from conducting strikes, work stoppages, sick-outs or slowdowns.

The order was prompted after an incident Monday at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport when nine Spirit flights were canceled and hundreds of angry passengers were stranded.

Video released of the incident shows passengers screaming and swearing at the ticket counter, while local law enforcement officials tried to maintain order and one officer was pushed to the ground. At least three passengers were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

A statement from the Air Line Pilots Association urged pilots to comply with the court order.

Spirit Airlines declined to respond to several requests for comment on how many flights through Myrtle Beach were affected in the last week, and whether Wednesday’s cancellation was union-related.

Kirk Lovell, director of air service and business development for the Horry County Department of Airports, said the airline has not communicated with the airport about the slowdown.

“Passengers were being impacted before (the Florida incident),” Lovell said. “We were aware something was going on, but didn’t know exactly what.”

Lovell said the airport did not know the total number of flights delayed or canceled in Myrtle Beach, but that it was clear from social media posts there were “some very upset passengers.”

“When there are delayed or canceled flights, it impacts passengers when they miss connecting flights and their travel is disrupted,” Lovell said. “It’s horrible customer service.”

Spirit is a major carrier for Myrtle Beach International Airport and operates numerous daily flights — at least 15 outbound flights were scheduled Tuesday to Boston, Atlantic City, Dallas-Ft. Worth and La Guardia Airport.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson