Chaos at Florida Airport: Passengers Brawl After Spirit Airlines Cancels Flights

Spirit Airlines brawl Screenshot

Passengers at a Florida airport broke out into a brawl after Spirit Airlines canceled nine flights due to issues with the airline’s pilots’ union.

Videos posted on social media showed passengers running amok, screaming, shouting, and throwing punches at sheriff’s deputies at Fort Lauderdale International Airport Monday night, the Miami Herald reported.

The Palm Beach Post reports that three people were arrested by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for disorderly conduct, starting a riot, resisting an officer, and trespassing.

Police say Desmond Waul, 22, Janice Waul, 24, and Devante Garrett, 22 threatened employees of the airport and deputies with physical violence — even after authorities asked them to leave the airport several times.

They are each being held on $10,000 bond at the Broward County Jail.

Hundreds of passengers had been stranded at the airport, scrambling to alter their travel plans after facing days of flight cancellations and delays, when an angry mob broke out at the ticket counter.

“All of a sudden, one particular flight got canceled, and a mob ensued up here at the front counter, in front of everyone else who had been waiting in line,” a passenger told WSVN.

Spirit Airlines said the nine flights were canceled due to a lack of airline staff available because of unresolved contract negotiations with the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA). CNN reports that a total of 300 Spirit flights have been canceled over the past week.

Spirit Airlines filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Miami Monday against ALPA for “an unlawful job action” by the airline’s pilots, Spirit Airlines spokesman Paul Berry told CBS Miami in a statement:

We are shocked and saddened to see the videos of what took place at Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport this evening. This is a result of unlawful labor activity by some Spirit pilots designed to disrupt Spirit operations for our customers, by canceling multiple flights across our network. These pilots have put their quest for a new contract ahead of getting customers to their destinations and the safety of their fellow Spirit Team Members.

ALPA, however, denies that the union had any involvement with the shortage of employees, saying that the suit is “unwarranted.”

The union said in a statement:

The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l and the Spirit pilot group it represents are not engaged in a job action. Rather, ALPA and the Spirit pilots are continuing to do everything possible to help restore the company’s operations, which have experienced significant problems over the past several days. While we will continue these efforts, we will actively defend the association, its officers and its member pilots against the unwarranted and counterproductive legal action brought this evening by Spirit Airlines.

A federal judge ordered Tuesday all members of ALPA to “stop boycotting flights” as a result of the contract dispute, the Associated Press reported.

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