A brawl broke out in Fort Lauderdale Airport last night after Spirit Airlines canceled at least nine flights, sending frustrated travelers over the edge. The chaos, of course, was well-documented on cell phone video:
Spirit Airlines has cancelled hundreds of flights in recent days (81 were cancelled "on Sunday alone") as it battles its pilots union. CNN reports, "In a federal lawsuit, the airline says cancellations have been caused by pilot unavailability and is accusing the pilots' union—the Airline Pilots Association, International (ALPA)—of orchestrating an unlawful slowdown."
Yesterday was no different, with passengers waiting hours as "at least nine flights" were cancelled. Brionka Halbert, who was heading back to LaGuardia, told NBC News that she and others on her flight were told "they would have 28 minutes to board the flight or it would be canceled."
Another traveler told CNN
"Everyone was stressed. They asked us to take out our boarding passes and be ready," Halbert told NBC News. "Then about 20 minutes after that, they told us the flight was canceled. They sent us to the front desk, so that we could either change our tickets or have our tickets refunded."
She said the passengers then went to the front desk, where approximately 15 police officers were keeping watch.
"People were angry and stressed after this," Halbert said. "Tensions ran high because of the abrupt cancellation. Then, we waited two to three hours at the front desk so that our tickets to be refunded. It got rowdy."
About two hours after her scheduled take off, Halbert said she was inside the terminal witnessing what she described as "excessive force" from the law enforcement officers.
"The cops went about it in the wrong away even if they were trying to do the right thing," she said.
, "Everyone was already aggravated about flight delays and the ridiculousness of standing in such a long line for hours, which Spirit Airlines did nothing to help, and then in walks these people off their flight raising a ruckus (and) cussing and screaming and they went straight to the counter."
Three Long Island residents, Desmond Waul, 22; Janice Waul, 24; and Devante Garrett, 22, were arrested and charged with inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing.
One group of passengers that allegedly clashed with police were reportedly furious because they were missing a graduation ceremony.
In a statement, Spirit Airlines said, "We are shocked and saddened to see the videos of what took place at Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport this evening... 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."
ALPA release its own statement in response: "The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l and the Spirit pilot group it represents are not engaged in a job action. 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."