A passenger fight broke out at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Monday night after angry Spirit Airlines travelers faced massive delays and flight cancellations due to labor issues with the carrier's pilot's union, which have resulted in over 300 flight cancelations over the past 7 days. Video posted online showed upset passengers confronting airline employees as Broward Sheriff's deputies were on hand attempting to keep order in the terminal after at least nine flights were canceled.
According to CNN, Spirit’s front ticket desk “turned into chaos,” when angry passengers exited a plane after their flight had been cancelled and swarmed the already crowded ticketing counter. Broward County deputies struggled to calm down passengers, with videos showing some passengers being put in handcuffs. CNN said some travelers were detained, but it’s unclear whether any passengers face charges.
Broward County Sheriff's deputies responded to the incident at the airport as about 500 passengers became irate, police said. Video showed people falling down fighting as security officials tried to restrain them. Three people were arrested for threatening to harm airline employees and challenging them to fight, police said, adding the trio had made the crowd become "increasingly aggressive."
The Miramar-based Spirit blamed the flight cancellations on labor negotiations with its pilots, who they are suing in federal court.
"We are shocked and saddened to see the videos of what took place at Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport this evening," Spirit said in a statement. "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."
"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," an airline spokesman said.
According to the online travel site Skift, Spirit filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Miami on Monday accusing its pilots of taking "an unlawful job action."
Meanwhie, the Sun Sentinel reported that lines at the Spirit Airlines counter were persisting Tuesday morning as passengers qued up to see if they could get booked.
Visiting from Chicago, Tamari Cameron, 23, and Latreece Smith, 26, spent the night at the airport after their flight was canceled. "It started last night, flights were canceled," Cameron said.
"Fights broke out due to the frustration with Spirit and customers and then it turned into customers against police." With an 8:30 a.m. flight to Chicago showing as canceled, Cameron and her travel companion were eventually told they could fly out Wednesday morning.
"But I am even skeptical about that," Cameron said.
Tensions between travelers and airlines have been running high since a passenger was violently dragged off a United Flight last month to make room for airline employees.