There are heated situations, and then there’s the kind of chaos that has the police stepping in to break things up. Sheriff’s deputies had their hands full at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport last night, where a slew of canceled Spirit Airlines flights had frustrated passengers ready to rumble with the airline.
Passengers streamed off a plane after their flight was canceled and joined dozens of other passengers waiting in line at the ticket counter, frustrated with the situation. Nine flights were reportedly canceled last night.
“Very angry angry angry people – everybody had places to be and couldn’t be there,” one passenger told CBS News. She was trying to get home to Detroit after a cruise, and said this was the third Spirit flight she’s had that has been canceled since Thursday.
Things turned chaotic, with video footage showing sheriff’s deputies pulling some passengers aside and handcuffing them.
“There were several people there that were upset,” a Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman told ABC News. “We were called in to just make sure that things were kept from getting very unruly.”
Last night may have been the final straw for passengers: 300 flights have been canceled in the last seven days, a situation that the airline blames on the pilots union.
In a lawsuit [PDF] filed on Monday against the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the airline claims it and some of its members are “purposely and unlawfully disrupting the airline’s operations” in at least four major airports, including Fort Lauderdale.
“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 last night. “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.”
ALPA says it isn’t to blame for any slowdowns.
“The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l and the Spirit pilot group it represents are not engaged in a job action,” the union said in a statement. “Rather, ALPA and the Spirit pilots are continuing to do everything possible to help restore the company’s operations, which have experienced significant problems over the past several days. While we will continue these efforts, we will actively defend the association, its officers and its member pilots against the unwarranted and counterproductive legal action brought this evening by Spirit Airlines.”