NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Three New York residents were arrested as irate passengers skirmished at Fort Lauderdale’s airport after Spirit Airlines canceled nine flights, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, passengers were in a frenzy after the cancellations, triggering confrontations, and a call for sheriffs to swoop in.
Sheriff’s reports released Tuesday say about 500 people were in the Spirit terminal late Monday night when 22-year-old Desmond Waul of Selden and 24-year-old Janice Waul and 22 year-old Davante Garrett, both of Brentwood, were seen by deputies threatening the airline’s front counter employees.
Deputies say their actions caused the crowd to become increasingly aggressive to the point of near violence and that they wouldn’t leave when ordered.
“Very tense, very angry, angry people,” said traveler Debbie McGrandy. “Everybody had places to be and couldn’t be there.”
The confusion started Monday afternoon when the nine Spirit Airlines flights were canceled. Without explanation, some people were left stranded in the lobby had been waiting to be rebooked for eight hours.
As frustrations boiled over inside the packed check-in area, punches started to fly, CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported. Videos posted online show deputies trying to break up fights and detaining some unruly passengers.
The three passengers are charged with inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing. They were being held Tuesday at the Broward jail in lieu of $10,000 bond each.
Passengers at LaGuardia said they knew to expect delays when booking their flights.
“My husband’s group all got put up overnight cause they were cancelled until the next day, so they’ve just gotta settle this,” Nancy Squire said.
The issue Monday was not in the skies, but around the bargaining table. Spirit Airlines has filed a lawsuit against the Air Line Pilots Association claiming the pilots caused disruptions because of contract disputes.
Spirit says pilots aren’t showing up for work in order to influence the ongoing negotiations.
Spirit Airlines’s spokesman Paul Berry issued a statement saying they were “shocked and saddened” to see what took place at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
“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,” Berry said. “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. It is for this reason, Spirit has filed suit in Federal Court to protect our customers’ future travel.”
Spirit says the work disruption has cost them $8.5 million in lost revenue. But the union has denied the accusation, saying their pilots are not on strike but instead working to fix the ongoing issues while the lawsuit continues.
“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,” ALPA said in a statement. “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.”
But a federal judge sided with the carrier Tuesday and ordered its unionized pilots to stop boycotting flights.
District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas said Spirit likely would win its lawsuit charging that the ALPA was engaged in work slowdowns that violated federal law.
Meanwhile, some passengers say they’ll reconsider before booking Spirit again.
“My husband’s group all got put up overnight cause they were cancelled until the next day, so they’ve just gotta settle this,” Westchester resident Nancy Squire said. “I think I’m going back to Jet Blue.”
Several of Spirit’s flights to and from Chicago Tuesday have already been canceled. Spirit estimates more than 20,000 passengers have been affected by the recent wave of cancellations.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)