Spirit passengers grounded by pilot strikeThe skies are anything but friendly for passengers planning to fly Spirit Airlines, as the airline's pilots continue the strike that began June 12. An official in the Spirit pilots unit of the Air Line Pilots Association toldUSA Today that the National Mediation Board will meet with both sides on Wednesday to attempt to make progress in the negotiations.

The Pilots Association claims that the company's latest offer would force pilots to work longer hours and pay more for health care, although Spirit was "ranked as the most profitable U.S. airline" last year. At the end of April, the company had 1,951 full-time employees, almost 500 fewer than at the same point in 2008. The airline flew 4,953,000 passenger in 2009.

Spirit has canceled flights already through Thursday. The company is offering those already scheduled to travel on its flights during the strike flight credit for the full amount of the unflown portion of their trip and a $100 voucher for future travel. Those preferring a full refund are invited to call the airline at 1-800-772-7117.

Spirit is not only losing ticket revenue; it is losing big money on the ancillary charges. After all, it was the first airline to start charging $45 for carry-on bags, as reported here earlier this year by our travel expert Jason Cochran.

Given Spirit's self-description as an "Ultra Low Cost Carrier" and its creativity in finding new income streams, I wouldn't be surprised if its first offer to the pilots to sweeten their income was to put tip jars by the cabin door.

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