As an industry, commercial aviation is taking a beating.
Airlines are not the only one on the receiving end of a pummeling. The most recent public relations disaster captured by the always-handy smart phone involves a brawl that undermined another carrier’s reputation, not to mention their employees’ well being. Only, this time, the controversy involved Spirit Airlines, a company whose slogan promises, “Less Money. More Go.”
On May 8, “money” was not in dispute. “Go” was.
Anger and confusion reigned at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Spirit Airlines cancelled several flights due to a legal dispute between the budget carrier and the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA). Chaos ensued as hundreds of stranded passengers surrounded employees, pushing, screaming and cursing
Law enforcement intervened to keep order. However, three of the passengers would have none of the peacekeeping efforts as they launched a near-riot. Stanchions holding in the line were pushed over. A sheriff’s deputy was shoved to the ground.
Police arrested and jailed the trio who face charges of inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing.
In an equally rancorous war, but with words, Spirit expressed shock and sadness over the events. They place blame on unlawful labor activity meant to disrupt customer travel. The airline believes that pilots put a new contract over getting passengers to destinations and protecting the safety of their fellow team members.
Spirit has filed a federal lawsuit against the pilots union and others. The ALPA denies the accusations. On Tuesday, a federal judge sided with the carrier and ordered the pilots to end their boycott.
While searching for solutions, further damage could continue to affect the airline industry’s reputation. For individual carriers, as with any business large or small, their image is perhaps their most valuable asset.
For now, ticket counters, not to mention the skies may be anything but “friendly” for Spirit Airlines.