From the Annals of Monday: Thousands Stranded As Spirit Airlines Pilots Continue The Third Day Of Their Walkout

7 years ago
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - JUNE 14: Spirit Airlines Inc. planes sit on the tarmac after all flights were cancelled when the pilots went out on strike at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport on June 14, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The pilots went on strike in a dispute over pay and benefits with the Miramar, Florida discount airline which is seeing the first strike at a U.S. passenger carrier in nearly five years. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

My neighbor Anita, who works as a nurse in a Minneapolis hospital, was on strike for one day last week. She, along with every other nurse who works in a Twin Cities hospital, held a one-day work stoppage. Anita didn't want to go on strike, but she did. She is part of the union. In talking about the media coverage, however, Anita said something that I've heard from everyone that I've ever talked with who has been involved in a strike negotiation. The issues are complex and nuanced; they are rarely as simple as, "The pilots wanted a 40 percent increase; the airline offered 30 percent."

The media is not so good at complex and nuanced. They are good at simplifying issues and globbing onto a topic that everyone understands: salaries and stranded airline passengers. And so it goes with the coverage of the Spirit Airlines strike. There are the few bloggers and tweeters like John Stossel, of Fox Business News, that automatically takes the side of the airlines.

With the headline, Spirit Airlines Held Hostage, Stossel opines:

Spirit's relatively low pilot pay helps it offer cheap flights, which brings more customers –- which creates more jobs for pilots. I fail to understand how union demand for big pay raises helps the majority of pilots in the long run.  It certainly doesn’t help passengers.

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Saying this is just another example of "prideful, arrogant unions," Goodwrites blogs;  the pilots are gluttonous for not accepting the 30 percent pay increase.

If Spirit Airlines goes under in the near future, it will be because of these pilots. I hope they enjoy the pay they receive on unemployment better than that 30 percent over five years they would have received in the Spirit Airlines proposal (not including other benefits increases also offered).

Tweeters don't seem too angry at the pilots, either. Just found two tweets slamming the pilots for their actions.

Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines

 

For the most part, the tweets have a  Detective Joe Friday quality to them. Long on the facts. Short on the analysis:

Spirit Airlines

What is striking (intentional pun) about this situation is that from a stranded passenger perspective, it's all quiet on the tweeter front. A virtual dearth of tweets from stranded passengers. The tweet silence is deafening. In the past 24 hours, just one lone Spirit passenger tweet.

Spirit Airlines

 

For the most part, this is still a mainstream media story. And the story the mainstream media likes is the stranded passengers. Who can't identify and feel empathy for a family of 12 from Puerto Rico who is stuck at the Orlando airport? Elalimar Sabat shared her story:

It's a nightmare," she said.

She says it's been tough having to sleep and eat at the airport with five kids ages three to nine.

"We have to use the bathroom to take a shower, and it's very uncomfortable here," said Sabat.[...]

The airline did provide a refund for the cost of the family's tickets back to Puerto Rico. But Sabat says that money went to the travel agency they booked with on the island, and they've been closed all weekend. So the family has had nowhere to go since Saturday.

Whether you feel empathy or schadenfreude, there are plenty of stranded passenger stories. The Orlando SunNews.com has stories of several stranded passengers.

Reporter Alsy Acevedo of El Sentinel/Orlando Sentinel was on Twitter earlier today trying to connect with stranded passengers for a story she's working on. In an e-mail, she shared this about her social media strategy:

My colleague in Fort Lauderdale went to the airport today and I stayed working the phone and other stories. Tomorrow I’ll be in the Orlando airport first thing in the morning. Twitter was effective in letting people know the story I was working on and spreading the word through RTs. I also used facebook. It helped me find people who knew people who are stranded in airports across the nation. I did some phone interviews with them already and will follow up on how they got to their final destinations. Basically, the social media network helped me jump start a story that I was assigned today at 11 a.m. However, the complete article will have the traditional reporting element, too.

Her story is scheduled to run Saturday in the print editions of El Sentinel, a Spanish weekly.

While most people feel bad for anyone stuck in an airport for three days, the Travel Diva at the Detroit Free Press says, "They Got What They Paid For.

The big shock to passengers is this: Unlike mainline airlines, Spirit has no reciprocal arrangements with other carriers. When flights were canceled in this strike, agents didn't book passengers on a competitor. No competitor will honor a Spirit ticket.[...]

But what do people expect when they pay $9 or $29 for a plane ticket? Did they take time to read Spirit's rules, which clearly state its stingy policies in case something goes wrong?

How big a story is this? If you are to judge it by the top Twitter topics, not so big. But here's the thing, what happens at Spirit could be a barometer of what will happen at other airlines. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, lots of airline employees are unhappy. They made huge concessions to management over the past several years, and they want to get back to salaries they used to have.

Most airlines are in wage talks with pilots, flight attendants and other employee groups. Fifty-two negotiations spanning 30 airlines have landed in federal mediation, including Spirit's roughly 650 flight attendants, after labor and management failed to strike pacts.

A strike at a small airline such as Spirit could "send a loud, clear message to the larger airlines" from organized labor about union resolve, said Vaughn Cordle, an analyst at AirlineForecasts LLC in Washington, D.C.

Related Spirit Airlines Blog Posts With Help for Stranded Travelors

What would you do if you were stuck?

Elana
BlogHer Contributing Editor: Business & Career
FunnyBusiness

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