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Some Spirit Airlines customers report being stranded at airport for 3 days

Frustration at FLL: Spirit Airlines customers face nightmarish ‘operational challenges’

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Chantel Otero, a wheelchair user, was among the Spirit Airlines customers who said they had been stranded at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for nearly three days.

Otero was traveling with her two children from Puerto Rico. Amid a series of cancelations, she was at FLL and her husband was at San Juan Airport Monday trying to get back home to Houston. But the ultra-low-cost carrier headquartered in Miramar released a statement saying they were still dealing with “operational challenges.”

“Unacceptable, disfunction and a headache to my children,” Otero said describing the experience after several cancelations.

For most customers at FLL’s Terminal 4, the issues began this weekend. There were people of all ages sleeping on the floor and taking turns to charge their phones. Some took public buses to get food and come back. Despite the risks of the Delta variant, there was a lack of social distancing.

“We needed to make proactive cancellations to some flights across the network, but the majority of flights are still scheduled as planned,” Erik Hofmeyer, Spirit Airlines director of communications said in a statement.

A video showed customers who needed to get to FLL were stranded in the Dominican Republic. Some chose to bang objects on the plastic dividers at the counters and shout. On Sunday at FLL, a woman described the situation at the Spirit Airlines counter as “a Zoo.”

“First they delayed it one hour, then it was delayed a second hour, and then it canceled on us, and it was a mad rush. It was like everybody ran for the ticket booths,” Bill Chambers said Sunday morning about his flight to Philadelphia, adding he is considering taking the train back home.

Officials at FLL said an operations team was helping some stranded travelers and said the airlines’ difficulties had nothing to do with any pilot/crew strike action.

“You get what you pay for,” Jim Harris said, adding he was considering taking a bus back home.

Some Spirit Airlines customers like Sandra Yepes decided to walk over to the neighboring terminal for United Airlines to find flights back home to Denver.

“The problem is buying tickets at the last minute is not easy and they are very expensive, like three times more expensive than a week ago,” Yepes said.

Spirit Airlines released a statement Monday:

We’re working around the clock to get back on track in the wake of some travel disruptions over the weekend due to a series of weather and operational challenges. We needed to make proactive cancellations to some flights across the network, but the majority of flights are still scheduled as planned. We understand how frustrating it is for our Guests when plans change unexpectedly, and we’re working to find solutions. — Erik Hofmeyer, Spirit Airlines director of communications

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Local 10 News Reporter Janine Stanwood contributed to this report.

About the Authors:

Sanela Sabovic joined Local 10 News in September 2012 as an assignment editor and associate producer. In August 2015, she became a full-time reporter and fill-in traffic reporter. Sanela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a concentration in radio, television and film from DePaul University.

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.