Stella: Spirit, Frontier merger is concerning for workers, consumers

%28Graphic+Illustration+by+Falyn+Sebastian+%7C+The+Collegian%29

(Graphic Illustration by Falyn Sebastian | The Collegian)

Michael Stella, Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines announced Feb. 7 that they will be merging to form the fifth-largest airline. Frontier and Spirit are both low-fare airlines, and part of their plan to merge was so they could offer even better fare rates for their customers. It is hard to trust the word of major corporations, especially when they merge and eliminate competition — a contributing force of lower prices. 

Ad

Having one less airline to employ workers means that there are fewer competing airlines to provide the best wages and benefits to attract workers to their companies. 

Now, the merger between the two companies, which still needs to be approved through the regulatory process, will not be all bad. It is hard to predict the prices of airfare from the company now, and it will help close the workforce shortage both companies are facing. These are some of the positives that will come out of the merge between the two low-cost airlines, but it will take time to see how this affects the workers of both companies. 

“Labor disputes facing the airline industry, especially as airlines are still reeling from losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic makes the newest Frontier and Spirit airlines merger feel concerning to workers.”

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International President Sara Nelson told Yahoo Finance Live, “We heard from the executives a couple of minutes before this was announced to Wall Street and the media. And I have to say that I’ve been around for a lot of airline mergers, and that was something new.” Frontier experienced a recent history of worker strikes in the last few years for better pay and job security, especially with airlines struggling significantly with much less travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Due to a bankruptcy filing by Frontier Airlines on April 10, 2008, Frontier pilots were working under a contract formed in 2011 that would help keep the airline out of bankruptcy and support workers. New contract negotiations began in March 2016 and did not end until 77% of pilots voted to approve a new contract in January 2019. 

Labor disputes over things like wages, benefits and scheduling have not just been a problem for Frontier but for the airline industry as a whole. In August 2021, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association sued Southwest Airlines over changing work rules without consulting the labor union first, and in the same year, the Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents American Airlines, threatened to picket at major hubs in protest of overscheduling and a lack of hotels for their pilots. 

Labor disputes facing the airline industry — especially as airlines are still reeling from losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — make the newest Frontier and Spirit airlines merger feel concerning to workers. Nelson also added that the lack of communication from the airlines to the labor union “didn’t necessarily get off on the best leg with labor here in waiting so long to talk with us.” 

While the merger would make the companies the fifth-largest airline in America, they would still remain relatively small compared to the big four of American, Southwest, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, but this could put pressure on other smaller airlines to merge and create even further consolidation within the airline industry.

Reach Michael Stella at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @Michaelstella_.