Spirit Airline’s passenger brawl, labor dispute deliver punch to reputation

As if canceled flights and an alleged work slowdown weren’t bad enough, the airline watches an airport fisticuffs go viral on social media.

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Writing a crisis comms plan for your organization?

Here’s a scenario to add your list of PR nightmares: a labor dispute, a lawsuit against an employees’ union, a customer brawl and social media thrashing—all rolled together.

That’s what Spirit Airlines is facing as a labor clash with unhappy pilots and their union led to canceled flights and a wild fisticuffs among passengers at a Florida airport Monday.

The airline won a legal—if not reputational—battle Tuesday when a federal court issued a temporary restraining order barring pilots from interfering with Spirit’s operations.

Spirit was just the latest airline to find itself navigating flak-riddled skies. In recent weeks, United Airlines detonated a PR stink bomb by dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight. Not to be one-upped, Delta kicked a family off a flight as security guards threatened the parents with jail and losing their children to foster care.

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