June 13, 2010 / 6:33 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-Spirit Airlines pilots strike grounds flights

* Carrier says flights halted through Tuesday

* Walkout began Saturday

(Updates with details of Spirit’s offer to union)

ATLANTA, June 13 (Reuters) - Privately held Spirit Airlines said on Sunday it has canceled flights for the next few days as a pilots’ strike continued.

Spirit’s 440 pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association walked off the job on Saturday after U.S.-mediated talks failed to bridge differences with management over pay, scheduling and benefits [ID:nN12151204].

Flights at the discount carrier have been canceled through Tuesday, June 15, the carrier said in an update on its website on Sunday. The Miramar, Florida, airline carries less than 1 percent of U.S. air-passenger traffic and offers flights in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The strike at Spirit was the first notable job action at a U.S. passenger airline since Northwest Airlines mechanics walked off the job in 2005. Northwest was acquired by Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) in 2008.

Spirit said the ALPA rejected an offer that amounted to compound average 29 percent pay rise and which would have cost the airline an additional $70 million over five years. The offer included a signing bonus and an increase in pilots’ 401K match by the company, according to a statement from Spirit.

    The offer would have paid senior captains over $200,000 a year, Spirit airlines Chief Executive Ben Baldanza said in the statement.

    Baldanza added that he was concerned employees were being used in “a broader political game.”

    “This deal should be about Spirit and Spirit only, not about the pilots whose contracts are under negotiation at other ALPA carriers, but it would appear other forces have intervened.”

    A spokesperson for the ALPA was not immediately available to comment. (Reporting by Karen Jacobs, additional reporting by Elinor Comlay in New York; Editing by Bill Trott and Marguerita Choy)

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