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Spirit Airlines CEO Sends Email To Customers Apologizing For Pilot Shortage -- 2 Weeks Later.

Spirit Airlines CEO Sends Email To Customers Apologizing For Pilot Shortage -- 2 Weeks Later.
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Airline debacles seem to be a common theme in 2017.

While United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE: UAL)'s “re-accommodation” — the passenger removal disaster — dominated headlines last month, low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines Incorporation (NASDAQ: SAVE) had a disaster of its own: a pilot shortage that ended up in an airport melee at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airport.

Spirit perhaps learned from United's incident by not taking a page out of United’s CEO Oscar Munoz's book; Munoz received a lot of backlash for his comments immediately following the incident. Spirit CEO Bob Fornaro waited two weeks after the incident to release a statement.

A Calculated Move?

“A couple of weeks ago, we suffered service disruptions and had to cancel approximately 15 percent of our flights over the course of a few days,” Fornaro wrote. “We regret the inconvenience this caused and have been hard at work to ensure this does not happen again. We are committed, as always, to providing our valued customers with safe, reliable and on-time flights to their travel destinations.”

In the statement, Fornaro admitted that the airline did not live up to its commitment of delivering great service and vowed to make a change. Spirit, ranked the worst airline in America, is wildly unpopular among customers.

“Over the past year, we invested heavily to improve your customer experience,” added Fornaro. “We increased staffing and our focus on service training. We built a new state-of-the-art hangar and opened new training centers to keep our crew and equipment in tip-top shape. And we brought on 16 new aircraft, adding to the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleet in the country.”

Instead of directly addressing the pilot shortage and eventual riot at the airport, Fornaro instead touted the airline's improvements — Spirit was recently named the Most Improved Airline in the Airline Quality Rating this year and customer satisfaction increased by 50 percent. Albeit, the customer satisfaction levels were incredibly sunken to begin with.

Thus, while the move appears to have been a calculated effort to avoid the eventual PR disaster that United ended up with, the stakes may have been lower to begin with taking into consideration the sentiment surrounding Spirit. That being said, investors may have been reacting to the potential PR fallout — over the past one month, shares of Spirit are down 6.37 percent.

Editor Note: A previous version of this article called the Spirit incident a strike. However, Spirit denies this moniker. The title and description have been changed to reflect this.

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Posted-In: bob farnaro Oscar MunozNews Travel Management Events Media General Best of Benzinga


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