Chaos ensued at Fort Lauderdale airport due to mass flight cancellations by Spirit Airlines. Video footage surfaced late Monday showing physical altercations between police officers and customers. The officers were called on scene when customers became irate with Spirit Airlines employees over mass flight cancellations, a spokesperson for Flordia's Broward Sheriff's Office told Business Insider.
Around 500 people became "enraged, fearful, or visually upset", according to a police report. Three people were arrested.
A witness told ABC News' Florida affiliate WSVN that two people were handcuffed and "dragged" out of the airport.
Paul Berry, a spokesman for the airline, told Business Insider that the company was "shocked and saddened" by the events that ensued and blamed the flight cancellations on its pilots.
Roughly 300 flights were canceled, with 81 canceled on Sunday alone, CNN reported.
Pilots are turning down flight assignments as part of an effort by the Airline Pilots Association, International (ALPA) to negotiate better wages, Berry said. The ALPA, a pilots' union, has engaged in contract negotiations with Spirit since 2015.
"This is a result of unlawful labor activity by some Spirit pilots designed to disrupt Spirit operations for our customers, by canceling multiple flights across our network," Berry wrote in a statement to Business Insider. "These pilots have put their quest for a new contract ahead of getting customers to their destinations and the safety of their fellow Spirit Team Members."
Spirit has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the ALPA, claiming it initiated an "unlawful slowdown."
The ALPA denied those claims in a statement to Business Insider:
"The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l and the Spirit pilot group it represents are not engaged in a job action. Rather, ALPA and the Spirit pilots are continuing to do everything possible to help restore the company’s operations, which have experienced significant problems over the past several days. While we will continue these efforts, we will actively defend the association, its officers and its member pilots against the unwarranted and counterproductive legal action brought by Spirit Airlines."
The ordeal occurs after United Airlines came under fire for calling law enforcement to physically remove a passenger from a full flight in April. Customer David Dao, 69, broke his nose and suffered a concussion after being dragged off a plane by three police officers.
United issued a policy change saying it will "limit the use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only" following the incident.
The United incident has put airlines under a microscope as customers armed with smartphones record incidences and put them on social media. American Airlines suspended a flight attendant after a video went viral showing the attendant challenging a passenger to a fight.
Dao's forcible removal helped initate a Congress hearing assessing how airlines were harming the customer service experience, which prompted dialogue about the practice of overbooking and a lack of competition in the airline industry.