Spirit Airlines CEO says cancellations to continue into next week


(WASHINGTON) — Spirit Airlines customers should expect hundreds more cancellations in the coming days as the airline works to rebuild its network.

CEO Ted Christie said weather issues coupled with staffing shortages led to mass flight cancellations at the airline this week.

“How we got here really starts with a very challenging, operating month in the month of July,” Christie said in an interview with ABC News. “Weather delays and logistics delays throughout the air transportation system built throughout the course of the month and ate away at all the redundancy that we had in our system.”

By the end of July, Spirit was forced to cancel flights for lack of crew availability, leading to a crew disruption throughout the airline’s network.

“They were in the wrong places at the wrong time,” Christie said. “And we needed to start to build that puzzle back together again. And, unfortunately, that takes our group a lot of time to do.”

The carrier has canceled more than 1,700 flights this week alone. Christie said he expects the cancellations to continue into early next week.

“We are starting to turn the tide here and get our operation back moving again,” Christie said. “There will still be cancellations over the next few days, but we can start to build back to a full operation.”

Amid the breakdown at the airline, passengers were left stranded at airports across the country.

Maria Martinez was stuck in Tampa, Florida, for three days, trying to get home to Detroit.

“We boarded the plane, they de-boarded us out of the plane and then they told us it was canceled,” Martinez told Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ.

“It’s been a terrible week for us, for our guests,” Christie said. “We offer our apology to all of our guests that have been impacted here, and to our team members who are working really hard it’s been a rough week for sure.”

Despite this, Christie said he believes they have “taken care of” their guests and have provided adequate accommodations and vouchers.

“We believe we’ve taken care of our guests at this point, and we think we’re caught up there. We’ve either gotten them reaccommodated on Spirit or another airline or we’ve put them into a hotel or gotten them where they needed to be.”

Christie acknowledged Spirit’s reputation has taken a hit due of the issues. He hopes his airline will learn from it.

“While we strive for perfection in everything we do, in the times that we don’t we are humble enough that we look inside and figure out ways to get better and Spirit has been getting better over the last five years or so, and while this has been a terrible last few days we have to do the same thing here.”

Christie said Spirit will be working over the next few days to not only rebuild its network, but its trust with passengers.

“We have to do everything in our power to earn back their confidence, their business,” he said. “And that starts with building the airline back, making it as reliable as we want it to be.”

ABC News’ Mina Kaji contributed to this report.

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