Airline strike: “What is their responsibility?”

I’ve been getting quite a few questions like Joyce Fishman’s lately. She’s afraid her airline is about to go on strike, leaving her stranded.

She writes,

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We have reservations on Spirit Airlines for a family celebration of our 50th anniversary. Our trip is to begin on June 14. The pilots are planning to strike on June 12 if no agreement is reached.

I have contacted Spirit as to their responsibility to protect us in the event of a strike. Each time I get the company line, “Spirit intends to operate through the process” and “Spirit will try to take care of all customers”.

What is their responsibility?

Can you find out anything more than I have been able to? Your help will be much appreciated.

There are actually three airline strikes or potential strikes in the news. Let’s start with Spirit.

The only mention of a strike in Spirit’s contract of carriage — its legal agreement between you and the airline — is in section 4.8 under “Refusal to Transport”

Spirit may refuse to transport, or remove from any flight, any customer for the following reasons:

4.8.2. Whenever necessary or advisable by reason of weather or other conditions beyond its control (including, without limitation, acts of God, labor disturbances, strikes, civil commotions, embargoes, wars, hostilities, or disturbances) actual, threatened, or reported.

In other words, Spirit has no obligation to do anything for you. Period.

How about British Airways, which is in the middle of a strike? Its contract doesn’t even mention a strike, labor dispute or work stoppage.

According to its site, you only have two options:

If your flight is cancelled due to strike action you will have options for rebooking or obtaining a refund.

If you rebook to a flight outside the published disruption period, the fare rules of your original booking will then apply to your new flight dates.

Ditto for American Airlines, which may be headed for a strike, too. Its contract of carriage considers a strike a “force majeure” event, which translated into English, means a “too bad so sad” event. (And that is a polite way of putting it.)

American may, in the event of a force majeure event, without notice, cancel, terminate, divert, postpone or delay any flight or the right of carriage or reservation of traffic accommodations without liability except to issue an involuntary refund.

The involuntary refund will be made in the original form of payment in accordance with involuntary refund rules for any unused portion of the ticket. American will also reserve the right to determine if any departure or landing should be made without any liability except the aforementioned involuntary refund.

No two ways about it. If there’s a strike, you’re outta luck.

Update (noon): This just in from our friends at ALPA.

Time Running Out for Spirit Airlines: Strike Date Set for June 12

Pilots to Picket at LaGuardia Airport as Spirit Airlines Announces Expansion

New York—Spirit pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), will conduct informational picketing Tuesday, May 25, at LaGuardia airport—one of the most profitable bases for Spirit Airlines. This comes just days after the company announced that the company would start a direct route from Detroit to Atlantic City.

Picketing will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 25, at the LaGuardia Airport, Central Terminal B, Queens, New York.

Pilot leaders representing the union will be available for interviews.

“This company made over $100 million in 2009 and continues to expand. Yet, they’ll tell you that they need substantial concessions from the pilot group,” said Capt. Sean Creed. “Those two facts just don’t go together. This company needs to stop pleading poverty while eating caviar—because without a contract, on June 12, this pilot group will strike.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union and represents 53,000 pilots at 38 airlines in the U.S. and Canada, including more than 500 pilots at Spirit Airlines. Visit the ALPA website at

(Photo: Daniel Pascual/Flickr Creative Commons)