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Spirit Airlines makes deal with pilots, ending strike

Spirit Airlines made a deal with its pilots yesterday that will end their 5-day-old walkout, the union said.

The airline said it will resume flights Friday. Pilots were working out a back-to-work agreement and technically remain on strike until that is done, said Andy Nelson, the vice chairman of the council for the Spirit branch of the Air Line Pilots Association.

"Our intention is to help get the airline back up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible," he said. Spirit had already canceled its Thursday flights before the agreement was reached. A Spirit spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Spirit pilots walked out Saturday morning in a pay dispute, saying they ought to make a wage comparable to their counterparts at other discount airlines like JetBlue Airways Corp. and AirTran Airways. They returned to negotiations Tuesday.

The strike grounded Spirit, which had said it intended to fly through any job action.

That didn't happen, and many of its customers found themselves stranded with limited ability to use their tickets on other airlines.

Spirit carries about 1 percent of the nation's air traffic. Its biggest hub is in Fort Lauderdale, with flights to U.S. cities including Detroit and Atlantic City, as well as the Caribbean and Latin America.

Spirit is privately held and based in Miramar, Fla.

Airline strikes are rare in the United States because of strict federal rules aimed at keeping the transportation system moving.

Spirit pilots had been negotiating for more than three years before the strike started Saturday morning.

Spirit was offering raises. But pilots said the raises were too small considering that they would have to fly more to get the extra money, and that the increases were spread over eight years, counting both the proposed five-year contract and the years leading up to it.

Details of the new agreement weren't immediately available.

- AP

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