A Spirit Airbus A319-132 during an early morning preflight walk-around.
Spirit Airlines pilots received some welcome news as this issue of Air Line Pilot went to print—the pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC) announced in early January that after nearly three years of bargaining, the pilots and management had reached an agreement in principle on a new labor contract. Although the MEC was under a gag order from the National Mediation Board (NMB) and couldn’t divulge the details, Spirit pilot leaders were able to report that the agreement in principle added approximately $56 million to the value of the package management offered last fall.
The airline has been highly successful, posting record revenues including 29 straight quarters of profits. In fact, the company announced a third-quarter 2017 total operating revenue of $687.2 million—an increase of 10.6 percent compared to the third quarter of 2016—despite more than 1,650 flight cancellations brought on by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
In addition, Spirit reported on plans to introduce more than 125 new routes over the next five years. To accommodate this aggressive growth, the carrier has orders for 49 new aircraft through 2021. To hire the additional 1,200 new pilots needed to keep up with this ambitious expansion, Spirit will be competing with a host of other major, national, and all-cargo airlines for the available pool of pilot candidates—added incentive for reaching a deal.
“Spirit Airlines continues to be successful thanks in large part to the hard work and professionalism of its pilots, and we deserve a new contract that reflects this commitment,” said Capt. Stuart Morrison, the pilot group’s MEC chair. “This agreement in principle represents a positive step toward this recognition and should help to ensure that our airline is better able to attract and retain the highest quality of pilots available,” he added.
Once language is complete and the two parties officially approve the tentative agreement, the pilots’ Negotiating Committee will present the agreement to the MEC for formal consideration. In addition to evaluating the terms, the MEC will decide whether the agreement should be forwarded to the Spirit pilot group for a ratification vote.
Last September, 100 percent of the pilots voted to authorize the MEC to conduct a legal strike if the two parties were to reach an impasse and the NMB released them from collective bargaining. Morrison previously stated that the MEC would make every effort to secure “the contract every Spirit pilot has earned.”
Throughout the negotiations, the Spirit MEC conducted a robust education campaign, surveying its members about their priorities and keeping them apprised of any developments. As part of this unity-building effort, the pilots engaged in a series of successful, well-attended informational picketing events.
The pilots also launched a multiplatform ad campaign with strategically placed digital billboards in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; ads in the Florida Sun-Sentinel and Detroit Free Press; press releases; and a far-reaching social media campaign to build unity among the pilots and educate the public about their fight for a fair contract that brings them in line with their peers.
“We look forward to completing the details of the agreement in principle. In the interim, we’re advising our members to continue to do the outstanding professional work they do, each and every day, until the MEC can make a final determination about the tentative agreement. If we decide to proceed, Spirit pilots must make every effort to read the agreement and attend domicile road shows so that they can ask questions and make informed decisions about our collective future.”