FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A strike by Spirit Airlines pilots has shut down the discount carrier, stranding thousands of travelers.
The walkout, which began Saturday, forced the airline to cancel its Saturday and Sunday flights. Its CEO said no talks were scheduled with picketing pilots.
Spirit carries 16,680 passengers per day - about 1 percent of the U.S. total - mostly between the Eastern United States and the Caribbean and Latin America. But the shutdown is causing major problems for its customers.
Spirit tickets are good only on a handful of other carriers, and only if there's space on the flight. The airline said it would refund fares for Saturday flights plus a $100 credit toward future flights. It was trying to get its passengers booked onto other airlines.
People who needed to replace their Spirit tickets found the cost of same-day fares on other airlines was two to three times more than their tickets.
That was out of the question for Junior Elliott, a 67-year-old mason from St. Ann's parish in Jamaica, who was stranded in Fort Lauderdale while traveling to New York for a cousin's funeral.
Elliott was unable to buy new tickets until his fare was refunded to his debit card. He had no cell phone, no U.S. currency, and nowhere to sleep but a chair in the terminal.
"It's bad now, man," Elliott said. "I can't even buy a cup of coffee."
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is Spirit's main hub, where it is the only airline to 14 international cities and five U.S. destinations, airport spokesman Greg Meyer said. Around the country, Spirit runs roughly 150 flights per day. In the Philadelphia region, it flies from Atlantic City International Airport.