Strike Grounds Spirit Airlines through Wednesday

A Spirit Airlines airplane sits on the tarmac at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. June 13, 2010 amid a pilot strike. AP Photo

Striking pilots at Spirit Airlines grounded the carrier again on Monday, forcing the discount carrier to cancel all of its flights through Wednesday.

Spirit aircraft have not flown since pilots walked out on Saturday in a pay dispute. At one time the airline had hoped to keep flying through the strike.

Spirit carries about 16,000 passengers every day. The airline is offering customers credit for future flights, plus $100. But if they want refunds instead, customers have to call the airline and ask for one. Several calls to that number on Monday produced a busy signal.

Spirit is usually the biggest carrier at Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey. But on Monday two of its planes sat idle on the ramp, and only a few people were near its ticket counters.

One of them was Macedonian exchange student Dale Velevski, who knew his flight to Michigan had been canceled, though no one had told him why.

Sitting alone with his suitcase on a chair in the nearly deserted terminal, Velevski resigned himself to spending the next 24 hours - at a minimum - at the airport. He had no money for a hotel.

"I'm going to sleep here," he said. "It's my only choice. I'm very tired, though."

Spirit customers trying to rent cars or book a walk-up ticket on another airline often found themselves paying far more than the price of their original airline ticket.

Lee Maron was forced to rent a car to get home to Boston after flying to Atlantic City for a bar mitzvah. She was unimpressed by the voucher for future travel on an airline that she predicted wouldn't be around for long.

"Giving me a voucher and a credit for something that won't exist is like getting a bad Christmas gift," she said.

Privately held Spirit is based in Miramar, Fla. Its pilots walked out early Saturday, saying the company's last pay offer still wouldn't get them the same pay as pilots at other discount airlines like JetBlue Airways Corp. and AirTran Airways, a unit of AirTran Holdings Inc. The company has said those other airlines are much bigger than Spirit.

No new talks were planned as of Monday, said Sean Creed, head of the Spirit branch of the Air Line Pilots Association.
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