As reports emerge about the meltdown at Sprit Airlines earlier this moth, rumored incidents of crews barricading themselves behind metal doors and changing out of uniforms in fear of passengers have proven to be true.
True Story: Spirit Airlines’ Operational Meltdown Sparked Employee Fear For Safety
When Live and Let’s Fly covered the historic meltdown at Spirit Airlines, the rumors were almost unbelievable. Were staff really ordered to hide from customers? Were flight attendants told to ditch their uniforms and leave the airport for their own safety? Did passengers try to rush past barricades and onto airplanes?
Yes, yes, and yes. The New York Times spoke to crewmembers involved and there did reach a point in San Juan (SJU) when ground staff and flight crew hid behind locked doors before being escorted to an office on the tarmac. Inside, Spirit employee were advised to change into street clothes and quickly depart the airport.
In that first half of August, more than 2,500 flights were cancelled. Back when it happened, Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie told CNBC:
“There’s definitely some angry people. Right now, all I can say is we’re very sorry for what happened.”
But now it appears that employees should also receive an apology for being subjected to such dangerous conditions.
Naturally, Spirit Airlines wants to move on from this incident rather than dwell upon it, but it is not clear what measures have been taken to address the root cause of the cancellations. While Spirit Airlines publicly blamed weather for the meltdown, the true culprit was running operations with no room for error, a risky proposition any time of year but especially with in the Southeast during the summer.
It is not clear how pilot and other staffing shortages plaguing Spirit Airlines have been addressed to avoid a repeat occurrence.
No airline employee should have to hide from customers or change out of a work uniform to avoid detection. As bad as the operational meltdown was, the consumer reaction at San Juan was worse. No amount of empathy or understanding can justify putting human beings in danger over a flight cancellation.