The 450 pilots, members of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), say the company's offer does not bring their wages up to par with similarly experienced pilots at other low-cost carriers like JetBlue. A first-year pilot at Spirit earns approximately $34,600 compared to $39,500 at JetBlue; first-year captains earn less than half what JetBlue captains take home.
Spirit Airlines has 150 daily flights and represents 20 percent of the airline traffic at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, including 41 percent of all international flights. It also has a significant presence in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Detroit; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The strike is being watched because of ongoing negotiations with pilots at American Airlines and Air Tran. Last month pilots at Air Tran passed a strike authorization vote. They make slightly more on average than their counterparts at Spirit.
"None of the planes are moving and none of our pilots have crossed the picket line," said Paul Hopkins, strike committee chairman of Spirit's unit of ALPA. Spirit had said it would attempt to fly planes with management pilots and those who cross the picket line, but as of June 13 no flights have taken place.
Company CEO Ben Baldanza said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that we would be open to the White House convening a Presidential Emergency Board to break the strike and mandate a contract settlement. "We believe it would be in the public interest," he said.
Spirit had the highest profit margin of any U.S. airline in 2009.
Nurses in Minnesota protest cutbacks in 1-day walkout
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