With Airline In Meltdown, Spirit Tells Employees To Hide From Passengers For Safety

Spirit Airlines cancelled over a third of its flights on Monday, after having cancelled a similar (though slightly larger) number on Sunday. All day I’ve been hearing about passenger revolts, especially in San Juan, Puerto Rico but also in places like Philadelphia. Naturally language in some of the videos has not been appropriate for blogging.

In some cases employees… just left. What we’re finding out now is that they may have done this for their safety, to protect them from rioting passengers. And it even appears the airline may have advised them to get out of uniform so they couldn’t be attacked by stranded customers.

And in their wake passengers were left to fend for themselves.

There have been rumors of a job action, but no reported strikes or communications put out by unions. Aviation watchdog JonNYC suggests a lack of schedulers at the airline may be driving some of the problems though others have implied the job action comes from elsewhere in the company.

Regardless of the cause passengers were left with little help. Spirit Airlines, of course, doesn’t have agreements with other carriers to put passengers on those other airline flights. It can be difficult to get major airlines to do this at times, but Spirit can’t (other than simplying buying a passenger a new ticket, which they aren’t going to do).

Given how heated things became, Spirit Airlines reportedly told employees to leave – and change out of uniform – for their own safety.

According to Spirit Airlines,

We’re working around the clock to get back on track in the wake of some travel disruptions over the weekend due to a series of weather and operational challenges.

We needed to make proactive cancellations to some flights across the network, but the majority of flights are still scheduled as planned.

In recent years Spirit has done a lot to improve the reliability of its operation. And other airlines, notably Delta, Southwest, and American have all experienced meltdowns of their own in recent months. American’s reliability has been poor, as bad weather was compounded with lack of available employees over the last several days. But right now it seems being a Spirit passenger is worse than traveling on other airlines.

(HT: Live and Let’s Fly)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The tech exists to run a low cost airline with no customer facing employees, at least on the ground:
    Self check in kiosk
    Self bag tagging
    Self boarding through gates

  2. The $47-to-Puerto Rico crowd strikes again.

  3. Cannot wait to hear the crap I will get from some people on this Spirit Airlines issue. Did I say anything wrong? No.

    But some uptight liberal person will jump on me because I do not agree with the behaviour of some Spirit Airline travellers. Just like she did yesterday…..

  4. It may be awhile before we know all of the facts about what has been going on at Spirit Airlines but we can probably be sure that it is a number of factors that have exploded at the same time. One of the problems facing all of the airlines is the decrease in number of flights and filling every seat on every flight. Might make sense when it comes to revenue, but unfortunately, for smaller airlines that have no relationship with other airlines it creates a huge bottleneck when flights are canceled. I have noticed on the last few flights that I have taken on Spirit Airlines that crew was late arriving to the plane, including pilots. Also, it seamed that it was taking longer to get to the gate when arriving at destinations because they were waiting for ground crew. What ever it is, it isn’t good.

  5. At Stephen Morrisey: bad behavior by passengers no matter their color or orientation is never ok. Sometimes things break in the real world. People need to accept that and move on. Please carry on…..

  6. Hey Gary

    Weren’t you suggesting that we sign up for Spirit credit card not too long ago?

    Who wouldn’t want to use their credit card spend to secure “free” seats on a barbaric airline which is patronized by a trash clientele?

  7. Sorry for those passengers but you get what you pay for!
    People are so clueless they don’t even understand the consequences of the few bucks they saved by using a garbage airline like Spirit.
    Now they are stuck, can’t go back home, will have to pay for last-minute fare hotel rooms on their own, or even pay for last-minute airline tickets. And worse, some of those people that are not going to be able to show up at work are certainly going to be laid off.

  8. Screw those paying customers they got a cheap ticket from us
    What do they expect?

  9. Hey Gary! Still want to flood the market with competitors/cheap tickets so the “deplorables” can fly the friendly skies?

  10. Let’s be very clear.
    Delta cancelled a fraction of the flights over 3 months that Spirit and American are cancelling in a weekend. Delta was blocking seats at the time of its operational issues, accommodated its passengers within hours of cancellations -which were made in advance – and Delta personnel certainly didn’t leave the airport in plain clothes to avoid facing the public.

    More significantly, when passenger volumes returned to normal, Delta has led the industry in reliability. Comparing what happened before travel demand returned to pre-2019 levels with what is happening now is the height of lack of context.

    Airline service is absolutely horrific right now and US Senators, along with plenty of fare-paying Americans, know it. Spirit always attracts the bottom of the barrel. American’s business model, OTOH, requires having loyal business travelers. It is absolutely a certainty that corporate sales agents from Delta and United will be racing to American’s key corporate clients with on-time data by market for this summer. JetBlue is operating the least on-time airline in the US – day in and day out and weather has nothing to do with it. This isn’t the first time for any of these airlines and it won’t be the last because they have grown accustomed to running terrible operations.

  11. @Tim Dunn,

    Stop revising history.
    I flew DL on Thanksgiving day and my flight was cancelled along with 270+ others.
    It wasn’t in advance and I was not accommodated within hours.
    Only you could turn an article about a Spirit meltdown into a pro-Delta/anti-everyone else propaganda piece.

  12. I guess Mr. Dunn missed the letter Ed was finally forced to pen to his customers for the horrendous telephone wait times too. Them are some might rosy glasses you are wearing.

  13. You get what you pay for! While all of the airlines are reeling from the onslaught of travelers eager to get away from the Chinese Communist virus lockdowns, most of the airlines forgot that the staff has to be brought up to speed. Mr. Dunn, above, is absolutely correct in that Delta has made some errors. Revenue and scheduling planned a schedule that flight training could not meet as the pilots need recurrent training and the company is “sim limited” and “training duty time limited”. But while some passengers were inconvenienced and tempers would flare, none of the Delta people hid from passengers but tried to re-accommodate them as quickly as possible. Commenting on Rule 240, making it into a “law” wouldn’t have helped in this case as there are “no seats available” on other airlines! They are all full! Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier all offer rock bottom prices with rock bottom service and a staff that isn’t trained well nor backed up by their employer. For what it’s worth…Delta’s employees are non-union (with exception to the pilots) and are empowered by the company to: Safety first and “do what’s right” and the company will back them up.

  14. Sal,
    Delta cancelled precisely 302 flights on Thanksgiving Day 2021. That was the highest cancellation date they have had in the better part of a year.
    Your flight might not have been cancelled the day before but the vast majority were.
    Delta was seat blocking during its holiday cancellations which meant they had plenty of seats and flights available.
    And most importantly, did Delta agents walk off the job and leave thousands of passengers without assistance as American and Southwest agents have done over the past couple weeks?

    I have no problems calling a spade what it is but I also look at the data from the industry to know that what Delta experienced on a couple holiday days during their era of seat blocking is nowhere near on the same scale as what other airlines have repeatedly done to passengers. This is neither the first mass cancellation even this summer for Spirit or American or since covid started and JetBlue has near the worst on-time in the industry – just like they did before covid.

    Airlines – ALL of them – need to provide far higher quality service given the . But DOT and industry data shows that Delta continues to rank at the top of the industry in most metrics just as it did pre-covid. That is certainly not the case for other airlines. Because your experience didn’t match the data doesn’t make it less real for you but it also doesn’t turn it into an event on par with the rest of the industry.

  15. @ Gary

    So when I do a simple search on your own website you’re telling me you didn’t write on January 21,2021 about joining the Spirit frequent flyer program including about the new Bank of America Spirit credit card?

    You must be kidding. It’s there in black in white. Or is it that you’re quibbling via semantics about “suggesting”…is that it?

    Facts are stubborn things

  16. @Tim Dunn..

    Hold up. When did AA and WN staff flee the airport and abandon passengers? Please cite specific examples.

    It seems like you are using an article about Spirit to smear everyone but Delta.

  17. Well, hide and run away isn’t going to solve the problem now is it? All it’s going to do is make me sympathetic toward the riotous riff raff, whose behavior I would normally disdain. Seriously, leaving these people in a lurch because of your mismanagement of YOUR business is detestable.

    Change clothes and run? That’s a new level of crap airline. I hope AA hasn’t seen those reports, they might get ideas….

  18. @Stepehn Morrisey, these are all MAGA first time fliers….they should go back to their trailer parks and stay there…the world would be a better place.

  19. Sal,
    life is full of anecdotes- each of our own personal stories. What you or I have experienced are meaningful for us but they aren’t indicative of trends or what anyone else experiences.
    Statistics exist to paint larger scale pictures -whether that be about covid or poverty or airline service – and the DOT has specifically been collecting and publishing data about US airlines for decades.
    As much as you or anyone else wants to believe otherwise, Delta’s holiday cancellations are nowhere near on the scale of what has happened with American or Southwest on a repeated basis over the past year. And the DOT’s on-time, cancellation, baggage handling and consumer complaint data all highlight that Delta’s holiday cancellations had a negligible impact on Delta’s traditional high rankings in those metrics. I can absolutely assure you that AA, NK and WN will separate much more from other airlines that are simply managing their operations better when DOT statistics for the summer start coming in.
    I in no way am diminishing the personal experience you or anyone else has experienced; I am simply noting that your anecdotal experience is not reflective of what larger groups are experiencing. This site features alot of anecdotes esp. about bad passenger behavior and most people can understand that they are not likely to be impacted by the bad behavior that is increasing.

    and there are abundant stories of American employees walking off the job leaving hundreds of people in line, whether they received a memo from HDQ to leave through the back door.

  20. @Pat Dunn: Judging from the videos, I’d say they were definitely Biden voters taking a couple of days away from their Section 8 housing to spend their stimmy checks.

  21. Sal,
    the link to the DOT’s Air Travel Consumer Report is attached

    Spirit has now cancelled 52% (366)of their flights today while American is at 10% (298 flights). Southwest has cancelled 2% (100 flights).

    There are literally hundreds of thousands of Americans that have been impacted by flight cancellations this week with very, very little capacity left in the entire US to accommodate them.

  22. A lot of you are all disgusting racists, that have no clue of what you’re talking about. These people sat in an airport for two plus days with no access to water or food after a certain time because spirit kept cancelling flights and then lying to customers that they would be put on the next flight and then cancelling that flight as well. They took their luggage and held it for those days so, even if they wanted to book with another airline, they had no clue how to get their belongings. I was in San Juan airport yesterday and there were absolutely no riots! Lies and propaganda. Someone banging on a door to try and get their children’s belongings after two days with no help, assistance or anyone to speak with at Spirit is hardly a riot!

  23. Why do people keep flying on these bottom of the barrel airlines? What kind of pax do you think buys the cheapest tix available? Dirt bags who can’t form a complete sentence, so they just hit someone … anyone close will do. A cheap airline is cheap for a reason, guys, get a clue. A perfect example of this is cancelling half your flights and ignoring the pax. They don’t do this on purpose, they don’t have enough employees … because they’re a cheap airline.

  24. $29 airline fares, whatcha expect. Its like voting democrat and then wondering why taxes rise and the city turns into a magnet for bottom feeders and starts smelling like a sewer.

  25. @Tim Dunn

    Still no example of American or Southwest staff just abandoning their posts like you stated. I’m waiting. Stop trying to smear.

  26. I know it’s pointless to feed the trolls with attention but I can’t resist! It’s trumps America, with a company abandoning it’s obligations (like trumps many failed companies-so sue me you hard working contractors!) after inviting the deplorables with it’s too good to be true message and the great unwashed excusing it (they will be back in line for more in a few days) and blaming some left wing conspiracy for the weather. It’s classic Freud lunacy…..

  27. @Sal,
    nowhere did I say anything about WN employees walking away from their positions with customers standing in front of them.
    There are multiple blogs and news stories with public comments that discuss AA doing exactly what I said. I don’t link to other blogs. Feel free to do your own research – or keep the blinders on that prevent you from admitting how bad the situation is in the eyes of some airline customers.
    Putting your hands over your ears while you yell that you can’t hear because you don’t want to know the truth is what children do.

  28. @ Tim Dunn

    You said:

    “And most importantly, did Delta agents walk off the job and leave thousands of passengers without assistance as American and Southwest agents have done over the past couple weeks?

    Prove it! That is slander.

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