July 9, 2007
Spirit Airlines Forces Pilots To Fly Long International Hours Without Commensurate Pay
FT. LAUDERDALE – The Spirit pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International, are calling foul on their management which is forcing them to fly longer hours internationally over those agreed to in the contract to make up for staffing shortages, and then not compensating pilots appropriately.
Ft. Lauderdale-based Spirit airlines committed to flying that it did not staff itself to perform. As a result, the airline is now attempting to circumvent the pilots’ union and make individual arrangements with pilots to perform flying in violation of contractual limits. Vacations have been improperly denied and schedules have been set up which bear no relationship to the actual flying hours that are required.
Spirit pilots stepped up to help the company with a concessionary contract in 2003 that was designed to allow Spirit to survive and grow. At that time the Company demanded that Caribbean and Latin American flying be treated as domestic flying, thereby allowing the company to avoid paying international overrides to pilots performing such assignments. To protect pilots from fatigue and enhance the safety of Spirit operations, the union insisted that in agreeing with the demands, the company had to follow domestic hours of service rules, which are more restrictive than international hours of service rules. This system has worked for more than three years.
Now, in the face of its self-inflicted staffing shortage, Spirit management insists that it can require pilots flying into the Caribbean or Latin America to perform additional flying pursuant to international hours of service rules, but still deny them the international override.
“This is a case of the company wishing to have its cake and it eat too,” said Captain Matt Nowell, head of Spirit ALPA unit, “but our pilots are not interested in being played for saps in this fashion and ALPA will fight this absurd violation in every forum necessary, seeking full redress for any member affected.”
Along with demanding that pilots fly additional hours under international rules while refusing to pay for it, Spirit Airlines management is also circumventing the union and its contract on the domestic front by trying to persuade Spirit pilots, who already fly more than most legacy carriers, to risk fatigue by flying more. The Spirit pilots’ contract contains specific limits on how many times you can be ordered to fly when you are not scheduled to do so (i.e. junior manned). The company is trying to persuade pilots to circumvent these limits and ALPA by offering pay incentives not negotiated with the union.
“The limits on junior manning—or forced flying when a pilot is not scheduled to fly—were put in the contract to assure safety and ensure that we don’t have fatigued pilots in the cockpit,” said Capt. Nowell. “ALPA is instructing its pilots to reject these obvious bribes and put the safety of our passengers above all else. We are committed to providing first rate service to the public. The company needs to address the pilot staffing shortage instead of resorting to these dangerous machinations.”
Spirit pilots have been in negotiations with the company for more than ten months. Pilots are committed to working with management to reach a fair new mutually acceptable collective bargaining agreement that addresses the pilots’ professional abilities and allows the company to grow and prosper. It is disappointing that Spirit Airlines has followed the example of Northwest Airlines’ recent fiasco with respect to inadequate staffing and pressuring pilots to bypass contractual protections and limits.
“Spirit pilots call on our management to ignore destructive actions used elsewhere in the industry and focus on running an honest operation that respects its pilots, their families and our union,” added Nowell. “It’s in everyone’s best interest, including our passengers.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 60,000 pilots at 41 airlines in the United States and Canada, including 450 pilots who fly for Spirit Airlines. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org.
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ALPA Contacts: Karen Byer or Anya Piazza, (703) 481-4440