911 calls depict airport chaos after Spirit Airlines cancels flights

The chaos erupted after Spirit Airlines cancelled nine flights on Monday.

ByABC News
May 11, 2017, 10:42 AM

— -- Police have released the 911 calls depicting the moment when chaos erupted among customers at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Monday after a slew of flights were cancelled.

Spirit Airlines cancelled nine flights at the airport on Monday, leading to long lines, enraged travelers and altercations at the ticket counter, according to ABC News affiliate WPLG.

Desmond Waul, 22, Janice Waul, 24, and Devante Garrett, 22, were arrested at the airport Monday night in connection with the fight and face charges of inciting or encouraging a riot, disorderly conduct, resisting an officer and trespassing after a warning, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said the suspects were "screaming at airline employees who were attempting to assist customers" and were "threatening bodily harm to employees and challenged them to come outside to fight." The behavior of the suspects caused the crowd of approximately 500 people to become enraged and the atmosphere was one "that resembled the start of a riot,” according to an incident report from the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Broward Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Gina Carter told ABC News that there were no injuries reported in the altercation.

At least five phone calls were placed to 911 during the incident, with callers describing the crowd of passengers as “irate,” “rowdy” and “upset.” Some callers requested police assistance at the gate while others asked for “crowd control” at the Spirit Airlines ticket counter.

“The passengers are being rowdy because they cancelled the flight,” one caller told the dispatcher. “Another flight.”

“This is in reference to Spirit just cancelling the flight and they have a lot of upset passengers,” another caller said.

“They had a few cancellations and the passengers are rowdy, very rowdy,” a third caller told the dispatcher.

Video posted on social media captured the chaotic scene in the terminal as angry travelers yelled at employees while authorities tried to restore order.

Spirit Airlines, a Florida-based discount carrier, said the cancellations were a result of labor negotiations with unionized pilots who were allegedly boycotting flights. The Florida-based discount airline accused the pilots of putting their "quest for a new contract ahead of getting customers to their destinations" and the safety of Spirit Airlines staff.

"We are shocked and saddened to see the videos of what took place at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport this evening," Spirit Airlines said in a statement Monday. "This is a result of unlawful labor activity by some Spirit pilots designed to disrupt Spirit operations for our customers by canceling multiple flights across our network."

The company said it filed a federal lawsuit against the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), which it accused of intentionally disrupting the airline's operations, violating federal law and leading to hundreds of canceled flights.

"ALPA and the Spirit pilots are continuing to do everything possible to help restore the company’s operations, which have experienced significant problems over the past several days," the Airline Pilots Association told ABC news in a statement Tuesday. "While we will continue these efforts, we will actively defend the association, its officers and its member pilots against the unwarranted and counterproductive legal action brought by Spirit Airlines."

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday that a temporary restraining order has been issued against the pilots’ union to stop the work slowdown.

ABC News’ Karma Allen, Luke Barr, Courtney Connley, Andrew Evans, Matt Foster and Whitney Lloyd contributed to this report.

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