A Spirit Airlines plane lands at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on May 9, 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

A recent passenger brawl was the boiling point in an ongoing legal dispute

By Aric Jenkins
May 9, 2017

A federal judge has ordered the union of pilots behind hundreds of Spirit Airlines cancellations to return to work after passengers broke out into a brawl at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Monday night.

The violent scene (and subsequent arrests) was the boiling point in an ongoing legal dispute between the airline and the Air Line Pilots Association, International. Judge William Dimitrouleas of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued the ALPA a temporary restraining order Tuesday to prevent them from any “concerted refusal to perform normal pilot operations consistent with the status quo,” Spirit said in a statement to Fortune. The order will go into effect until at least a hearing on a preliminary injection set for May 15.

Pilots started to cancel flights over contract and benefits frustrations, which they claim fall below industry standards, Time reports.

Spirit, grappling with roughly 300 cancellations since the beginning of May and increasing customer dissatisfaction, filed a federal lawsuit against the ALPA. The airline claims the disruptions are in direct violation of the Railway Labor Act, “which prohibits work slowdowns and strikes during collective bargaining negotiations,” according to a copy of the lawsuit seen by Fortune. The suit also accuses pilots of “putting their quest for a new contract ahead of getting customers to their destinations and the safety of their fellow Spirit Team Members.”

That said, after the restraining order was issued, Spirit said it was hopeful it could put the “moment behind us and get back to serving our customers.”

The ALPA would agree.

“The court has spoken and Spirit pilots will fully comply with the order handed down, which is completely in line with our overriding goal: the resumption of normal operations,” a spokesperson said in a statement to Fortune. “We call on the company to join forces with ALPA and the Spirit pilots to do just that.”

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