Dispute At Spirit Airlines Could Affect Pittsburgh If Not Resolved

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP/KDKA) – Last February, it was all black and gold and good cheer as Spirit Airlines announced it would be coming to Pittsburgh International in late May.

“Pittsburgh has Spirit,” declared Mark Kopczak, Spirit vice president.

The spirit of good feeling here was in marked contrast to Fort Lauderdale where passengers clashed Monday night at the ticket counters with Spirit employees and each after the airlines canceled nine flights, leaving hundreds stranded.

Video showed passengers shoving, shouting, and cursing with law enforcement attempting to step in.

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“Very, very, very angry people. Everybody had places to be and couldn’t be there,” said one passenger.

Spirit has a contract dispute with its pilots and blamed pilots for a slow-down, which the pilots say is untrue.

The airline blames the Airline Pilots Association for the cancellations in a statement to CBS News. The low-cost carrier says it has filed a lawsuit against the pilots association over an “unlawful job action.”

The association tells CBS that Spirit pilots aren’t engaged in any job action with Spirit and that the airline’s operations “have experienced significant problems over the past several days.”

Whatever the cause, Spirit’s flight schedule has been impacted in many locations, including at the Arnold Palmer Airport in Latrobe where some flights were cancelled.

Local flyers said they had mixed views of the impact of the altercation in Fort Lauderdale, when money editor Jon Delano asked if it would keep them from flying Spirit.

Delano: “Would that deter you from flying an airline like that?”

“If somebody hit me, probably yeah,” said Yves Safari of Southside.

For others, it’s all about spirit’s deeply discounted airfares.

“I think it’s all case by case, circumstantial. If they had a good rate and were taking me someplace I wanted to go, I’d definitely look into it,” said Andy Luhmann of Mt. Washington.

If Spirit Airlines does not resolve its dispute with its pilots by May 25th, it could affect the public flying out of Pittsburgh International.

That’s when Spirit Airlines begins service from Pittsburgh International to Dallas-Fort Worth and Myrtle Beach with five more cities coming on board in June and July.

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(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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