Among major U.S. airlines reporting 2016 earnings, Spirit Airlines was the third highest with a nearly 20 percent. These profits are tangible proof of the critical role that Spirit pilots and their fellow Spirit employees played in the success of the airline and the need for it to be recognized by Spirit management. Spirit business plan is to grow the airline significantly in the next five years, with current aircraft orders requiring upwards of 1,500 pilots. During this same period other major airlines will hire nearly 10,000 new pilots in response to unprecedented mandatory retirements. The market for pilots is tight and airlines will need to compete for qualified pilots for the foreseeable future.
Contract negotiations at Spirit have now been going on for well over two years—the past year of which have been with the assistance of the federal government’s National Mediation Board. Negotiations stalled in early September and currently there are no bargaining dates scheduled. With Spirit’s compensation and benefits currently lagging well behind our peers at similar airlines, potential applicants are electing to work elsewhere and many of our current pilots are choosing to leave Spirit for these other airlines. We are concerned about Spirit’s future success and ability to execute its growth plan absent a competitive pilot contract now.