Travelers at at an airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, brawled with Spirit Airlines employees and local police Monday after the carrier canceled several flights out of the city, a local CBS affiliate reports.
Spirit has canceled about 300 flights over the past week and delayed a host of others, affecting roughly 20,000 customers, according to CNN. After the budget airline scrapped yet another flight at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, passengers booted from the plane mobbed the ticket counter, where a number of customers were waiting in line.
"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," passenger Cindy Matthews Beard told CNN. "And then in walks these people off their flight raising a ruckus, cussing and screaming, and they went straight to the counter."
The scene quickly escalated into what cops described as resembling "the start of a riot." As a few belligerent passengers swore, yelled, and pushed others out of the way, one poor soul toppled over after colliding with a stanchion used for one of those weird makeshift aisles. Spirit called in the police, who pulled some passengers out of the crowd and pinned others to the ground, placing them in handcuffs. Three customers were arrested on charges of inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and trespassing, Newsday reports.
Spirit has blamed the Airline Pilots Association, International (APAI) for the barrage of delays. Aside from saying they were "shocked and saddened" to hear of the incident, the airline tried to pin responsibility for what went down Monday on the union.
"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," airline spokesman Paul Berry said in a statement.
Spirit has filed suit against the APAI for intentionally disrupting the airline's service, a claim the pilots' union has denied.
The brawl in Fort Lauderdale is just the latest in a recent burst of embarrassing incidents for the American airline industry. In early April, United Airlines came under fire for violently dragging passenger David Dao off a flight, sparking a PR nightmare that wasn't exactly eliminated when they settled with Dao for an undisclosed amount. That same month, a bunny on track to become the world's biggest died after a transatlantic United flight, a flight attendant with American Airlines almost went to blows with a passenger over a stroller, and a Delta passenger claimed he was kicked off a flight for using the bathroom.
Maybe we should all just start driving?
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