Yet again, cellphone video has captured a chaotic slice of air travel â this time, on the ground.
Anger and confusion boiled over at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Monday night as nine Spirit Airlines flights were canceled,Â leaving hundreds of passengers stranded, CBS affiliate WFOR News reported.
What followed was chaos as frustrated passengersÂ clashed with Spirit employees, and law enforcement officers tried to maintain order.
Video from the airport showed crowds clustered around Spirit Airlines ticket counters, with people pushing, screaming and cursing.
At one point in one of the videos, the stanchions holding in the line were knockedÂ over, and aÂ Broward County Sheriffâs deputy was shoved to the ground. Sheriffâs deputies detained several passengers and charged them with disorderly conduct, Fox News affiliate WSVN reported.
âAll of a sudden, one particular flight got canceled, and a mob ensued up here at the front counter, in front of everyone else who had been waiting in line,â passenger Paul Smith told the station.
Another passenger told the station that Spirit employees âcouldnât handle what was going on, so they called in for the police.â
The flight cancellations were reportedly the result of a legal dispute between the budget airline and the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA).
In a statement to The Washington Post, Spirit Airlines blamed its pilots for the cancellations and the resulting chaos.
About 300 Spirit Airlines flights have been canceled in the past week, according to CNN.
âWe are shocked and saddened to see the videos of what took place at Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport,â Spirit spokesman Paul Berry said in a statement. âThis 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. These pilots have put their quest for a new contract ahead of getting customers to their destinations and the safety of their fellow Spirit Team Members.â
â Brionka Halbert (@brionkahalbert) May 9, 2017
Berry said the airline had filed a federal lawsuit MondayÂ against theÂ pilots unionÂ and others for âpurposely and unlawfully disrupting the airlineâsÂ operations, leading to hundreds of canceled flights, which has negatively impacted thousands of Spirit customersâ travel plans.â
âSo we reluctantly filed this suit to protect our customersâ and our operations,â Berry said. âThis is clearly unlawful activity under the Railway Labor Act, which governs labor relations in the airline industry. ALPA and those individuals responsible should be held accountable.â
ALPA is disputing the airlineâs accusations, saying the two are ânot engaged in a job action.â
âRather, ALPA and the Spirit pilots are continuing to do everything possible to help restore the companyâs operations, which have experienced significant problems over the past several days,â an ALPA representative told The Post in a statement. âWhile 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 (Monday) by Spirit Airlines.â
Tygear Kelly was one of the hundreds of Spirit passengers stranded at FLL on Monday night, according to WFOR.
âIt was chaotic; it was packed, this whole area was full of people,â Kelly told the station Tuesday morning. âI had to rebook my flight and everything. I missed my flight, I had to go back to the hotel where I was staying and Iâm back here now to go back to New York.â
Spirit, a low-cost carrier based in Miramar, Fla., often advertises fares as low as about $20 or $30 each way.
But it had the highest rate of consumer complaints in 2015, the first year the Transportation Department included the airline in its consumer complaints report, according to CNBC.
The department showed that 11.73 out of every 100,000 customers who flew Spirit in 2015 filed a complaint against the airline, most related to âflight problems.â
The industryâs overall complaint rate that year wasÂ 1.9 per 100,000 fliers, CNBC reported.
The mayhem in Fort Lauderdale was the latest in a string of high-profile, airline-related incidents captured on video.
Perhaps the most notorious came in April, whenÂ viral videos captured a passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight.Â The incident caused a public-relations crisis for United, which initially defended itself by stating that the passenger, David Dao, had ârefused to leave the aircraft voluntarily.â
Dao and United eventually reached an âamicableâ settlement for an undisclosed amount, the airline said.
A few weeks after Unitedâs dragging fiasco, American Airlines grounded a flight attendant after a video showed a confrontation between him and a passenger, allegedly after removing a womanâs baby stroller from the plane. Also in late April, aÂ Delta Air Lines passenger said he was kicked off a plane for using the restroom; a few days later, a video emerged showing a Delta pilot hitting a passenger on the Jetway in Atlanta. The airline said the pilot was trying to break up a fight.
Earlier this month, a Southern California father posted video showing him and his family getting booted from a Delta flight after refusing to give up a seat for their toddler. They had bought the seat for their teenage son and were attempting to use it for his 2-year-old sibling, The Postâs Lindsey Bever reported.
The airline eventually apologized and offered a refund and âadditional compensation.â
Deep into this season of viral air-travel incidents, several airline executives came to Washington, where they got a brutal lashing on Capitol Hill last week.
As The Postâs Peter Holley wrote, congressional panelists grilled United CEO Oscar Munoz and other airline executives about unpopular policies that have infuriated customers and spawned viral videos, such as overbooked flights, hidden charges and absurdly confusing contracts.
The result, according to Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.), is âlowered expectationsâ that lead many to believe that flying is âa horrible experience.â â¦
âWeâre all sick of it,â Capuano added.
By the end of the four-hour hearing â which also included statements from executives at American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines âÂ Capuanoâs surprisingly candid language was among the tamest blows that airline executives absorbed. TheÂ lawmakersâ collective message: Fix your airlines, or expect to hear back from us.
Said Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.): âHow much do you hate the American people?â