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Three TIA flights canceled in midst of Spirit pilot strike

TAMPA — Three Spirit Airlines flights out of Tampa International Airport were canceled Saturday as part of a pilots' union strike.

Spirit runs roughly 150 flights a day from airports in the eastern United States. The airline canceled all its flights the day after its pilots walked out in a dispute over pay.

TIA spokeswoman Brenda Geoghegan said there are no other Spirit flights scheduled for Saturday. Passengers on the canceled flights can visit Spirit's Web site for refund instructions.

The airline is now offering an additional $100 flight credit to affected passengers.

"Spirit Airlines is continuing to work with our pilot union to reach a fair and equitable agreement that ensures the long-term stability of the company, and allows us to continue offering you the ultra low fares you have come to know and love," a statement on its Web site said.

Spirit pilots said their pay lags competitors such as AirTran Airways and JetBlue. The two sides have been in negotiations for more than three years.

Pilots could have walked out as early as midnight Friday, but kept talking under the guidance of federal mediators until about 5 a.m. Saturday.

"In the end, both sides could not reach an agreement," said Sean Creed, a Spirit captain and the head of the airline's branch of the Air Line Pilots Association, in a statement on the union's website.

He said pilots "will not return to the cockpit until a fair and equitable contract is negotiated."

The company said it offered to raise pilot pay by 30 percent over five years. It would have included work rule changes but would have retained a four-day break between every pilot trip, something the company said no other ALPA contract has. The offer also included a $3,000 signing bonus and a larger retirement plan match.

"We are frustrated and disappointed that our pilots have turned down an over 30 percent increase at a cost of over $70 million over five years while disrupting thousands of our customers and jeopardizing the livelihoods of our over 2,000 employees," Spirit President and CEO Ben Baldanza said in a statement.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Three TIA flights canceled in midst of Spirit pilot strike 06/12/10 [Last modified: Saturday, June 12, 2010 1:35pm]
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