Airport & Businesses Sweating the Spirit Strike

South Florida economy taking a hit as pilots picket

By Amara Sohn
|  Tuesday, Jun 15, 2010  |  Updated 1:51 PM EDT
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Spirit Strike Hurting SoFla Economy

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - JUNE 14: Spirit Airlines Inc. pilots hold signs as they picket against the airline at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport after the pilots went on strike in a dispute over pay and benefits on June 14, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Miramar, Florida discount airline is seeing the first strike at a U.S. passenger carrier in nearly five years. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Spirit Strike Hurting SoFla Economy

The Spirit Airlines pilots' strike is hurting Fort Lauderdale Airport as well as the local economy.
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With 10,000 fewer passengers are traveling through Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport everyday, everyone is feeling the impact. 

The airport has not seen a strike of the magnitude of the Spirit pilot strike in recent history, according to spokesman Greg Meyer

Spirit Airlines is the airport's number one carrier when it comes to passengers. So when a low-cost airline that brings in 41 percent of international travelers and 19 percent of domestic passengers shuts down for the 4th consecutive day, airport officials can't help but worry.

"If Spirit passengers are not coming here, then they're not eating here, parking here, or renting cars," said Meyer. "There's a ripple effect in the airport community."

Spirit canceled flights for Thursday as they met with pilots over the labor dispute.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International raises revenue through fees passed on to the passenger and airlines including parking fees, landing fees, and passenger facility charges. The money is used to maintain the facilities and fund construction projects.

"That's money the airport is losing," said Meyer. The exact figure isn't known yet but under a "residual agreement" with the airport, the Miramar-based carrier would be responsible for the difference. 

The ripple effect is reaching the tourism industry.  Nikki Grossman, President of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitor's bureau, said area hotels have already begun fielding calls from concerned foreigners inquiring about their prospective South Florida vacation plans. 

Grossman said Spirit brings in 9% of tourists to Broward County during the slow summer season.  She said that during the summertime, Fort Lauderdale typically gets a lot of business from Central and South American tourists. 

Some hotels report a temporary boost in occupancy as stranded passengers have nowhere else to go. Others are forced to extend their current accommodations.  NBC Miami spoke with several hotel managers along A1A along Fort Lauderdale beach who say they haven't seen a drop in business yet, but expect a wave of cancellations if the pilots' strike is not resolved soon.

Both sides are coming back to the bargaining table Tuesday to discuss the higher pay the pilots are demanding.  All Spirit flights remain canceled through Wednesday June 16th, until further notice.  

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