While Leaving Hundreds Of Thousands Stranded, Spirit Airlines Filed To Add 4 New Miami-Colombia Routes Last Week
Finance Colombia has learned that last week, while Spirit Airlines canceled over 2,000 flights stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers, it had simultaneously filed for permission from the Colombian government to add four additional routes between Florida and Colombia.
On August 3rd, Spirit Airlines filed for permission with Aerocivil, Colombia’s civil aviation authority, to add daily flights between Miami, Florida and the Colombian cities of Bogotá, Medellín, Barranquilla, and Cali. According to Flightconnections.com, Spirit already flies to seven Colombian cities, primarily from Fort Lauderdale, but also from Miami and Tampa. Colombian travelers were not spared in Spirit’s operational meltdown last week, with multiple flights canceled or delayed.
As Spirit runs a broad but shallow network, meaning it flies to many destinations but often with only a few flights per week, per destination, one canceled flight can leave travelers stranded for days with no recourse. Last week, Spirit canceled thousands, leaving hundreds of thousands of budget travelers stranded, many without the financial resources to purchase scarce, same-day flights on other airlines, or to find overnight accommodations, ground transportation, or meals in remote locations.
“It makes me sort of wonder how they had thought about the schedule they’re running and so on,” said former Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza on his Airlines Confidential Podcast. “You know, an airline like Spirit which flies basically about one trip a day per route they fly makes it very, very difficult when they have operational problems. If an American or Delta has to cancel some flights, in many cases…or Southwest, they may have you know, five or eight frequencies in a day so they can cancel three of those, re-accommodate people on other flights, and at least get people there the same day, if late. And in Spirit’s case if they cancel, most likely they don’t have a plane flying between those two cities that day and the next day’s flight is probably pretty full so it’s going to take them a long time.”
Other airline industry executives close to Spirit have said that Spirit’s woes stem from expanding more rapidly than they can hire and train pilots and crew, leaving the existing staff overworked and exhausted. The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) representing gate agents at Fort Lauderdale issued a written statement saying that the Spirit employees it represents are “being subjected to ongoing mandatory overtime, no breaks, and no meal periods.”
“TWU is imploring passengers to take their ire out on the airline’s executives, since they are directly responsible for these travel disruptions! Our Agents who are doing everything they can, with their hands tied behind their backs, to take care of every passenger (sic). Executives who hide in the office and create catchy sound bites for the media are doing little to fix their passengers’ experience. These same executives have shown little concern for the safety and mental well-being of their frontline Agents at FLL, who have been attacked and even spat on – just for doing their job,” said the union in a statement.
“As the Union for the Guest Service Representatives at FLL, we want to make it crystal clear – these Agents are being subjected to circumstances far beyond their level of control or responsibility – do not take your frustrations out on them because they are the victims of the airline’s bad decision making, too.”
Will Sprit be able to keep expanding, and adding multiple new routes while normalizing its employment situation and improving reliability? Will budget-conscious travelers forgive Spirit and trust them again on intercontinental flights between North & South America? Time will tell.
We want to make it crystal clear – @SpiritAirlines Agents are being subjected to circumstances far beyond their level of control or responsibility – do not take your frustrations out on them because they are victims of the airlines bad decision making, too #EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/vIy9rhJI3f
— TWU (@transportworker) August 5, 2021