Monday, August 25, 2008

With union support, Spirit Airlines pilots vow to 'force this company back on track'

Spirit Airlines A321The pilots at U.S. low fare carrier Spirit Airlines have been at odds with the airline's management for some time -- and that's putting it mildly. For more than a year, the pilots have been accusing the airline's management of contract violations. More recently, the situation deteriorated further when, among other things, pilots who legitimately called in sick or fatigued were being disciplined and threatened with job loss by Spirit Airlines management. Now the pilots' union is formally stepping in "to support the Spirit pilots and their efforts to fight against the irresponsible actions of Spirit management."

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has authorized a $2 million grant to the Spirit Airlines pilots. According to the union, the grant from ALPA's Major Contingency Fund will fund "training, education, and activities that will shine a spotlight on the activities of Spirit's increasingly out-of-touch management with its workforce, its customers, and its business model."

The pilots contend that, in the two years since Ben Baldanza and his management team took the helm at Spirit Airlines, they have repeatedly disregarded labor contracts and blamed the pilots for service, planning, and staffing failures for which management alone is responsible.

"From the often offensive advertising campaigns to the unethical treatment of their employees, management's actions have destroyed much of the reputation and customer base of Spirit Airlines," said Capt. Sean Creed, chair of the Spirit unit of ALPA. "With the backing of our national union, we will work to restore the proud tradition of Spirit airlines that we helped build and make it a great place to work and a great airline to fly.

"Baldanza appears to be intent on destroying Spirit Airlines," Capt. Creed continued. "Since the investors seem unwilling to rein him in, it's up to the employees to force this company back on track."

This is not the first time in recent months that ALPA's Executive Board has granted money from the union's Major Contingency Fund to one of its units for the purpose of responding to what the pilots see as threats to the pilot profession and to their careers. In May of this year, ALPA announced allocations of $5 million each to the ALPA units at United Airlines and Continental Airlines. At that time ALPA’s president, Capt. John Prater, warned airline managements to include pilots in their business planning, stating, "Those who try to exclude us will fail. We are airline pilots who are determined and committed to restoring our contracts as the foundation of our profession."

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