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Frontier pilots' union head met with management Tuesday; union says it is satisfied

Posted at 5:35 PM, Dec 20, 2016

DENVER – The head of Frontier's pilots union met with a senior member of the airline's management Tuesday and was debriefed about problems that occurred over the weekend when thousand of passengers were stranded, according to Brian Ketchum, who leads the union.

“I’m satisfied with their response at the meeting,” Ketchum told Denver7 Investigates Tuesday afternoon.  The meeting Tuesday caused the two groups to postpone a planned Wednesday meeting.

"It was a productive meeting, and we’re working together to serve our customers as best we can," Frontier spokesperson Jim Faulkner told Denver7 Investigates.

Frontier confirmed Ketchum met with Jim Nides, the vice president of flight operations, on Tuesday. Ketchum said the meeting lasted an hour and helped paint a picture of what went wrong over the weekend.

Thousands of passengers and bags were delayed. Many passengers have not reached their destinations days later.

Ketchum said he was told snow and staffing problems with contract workers caused the massive delays. He told Denver7 the executive told him problems started when the one to three inches of predicted snow turned into eight inches.

The problem compounded when contract workers who load bags on planes called in sick in large numbers Saturday morning.

Those issues prevented planes parked at Frontier’s gates at Denver International Airport from departing Saturday morning on time.

As flights from the east coast began to arrive in Denver Saturday morning, there was no place for the planes to go because most, if not all, of Frontier’s leased gates were full. Passengers were forced to wait to deplane.

Delays began to ripple across Frontier’s network.

Eventually some morning flights were able to depart hours later, Ketchum said.

However, federal rules allow pilots to work only a certain number of hours before mandatory rest. As the day progressed, many of the pilots reached their maximum allowed work hours  while sitting in other cities even though they were scheduled to fly additional flights.

For example, if a Denver to Phoenix flight was delayed by many hours, a pilot may have been able to fly the plane to Phoenix, but might not have been able to continue flying the plane to other scheduled destinations.

In the hypothetical example, federal rules might have required the pilot to rest for ten hours at a hotel before returning to work.

In several cases, Ketchum said there were no pilots in outlying cities to fly the remaining scheduled legs.

Flights had to be canceled.

“There was a lack of plans in place” to handle such a situation Ketchum said.

It has taken the airline days to get needed crews to cities where pilots and flight attendants are needed to continue normal service because of mounting cancelations, Ketchum said.

Ketchum has previously been very critical of the airline.

He blasted the airline on Monday in a letter to pilots saying Frontier “once again fell on its face.”

Ketchum wrote the airline “simply fell apart” over the weekend when Frontier canceled about 70 percent of its flights due to more

Ketchum said rumors that Frontier pilots are striking is untrue.
 

Jace Larson

 

 

Jace Larson is an award-winning investigative reporter for Denver7 Investigates. If you have a story idea or a tip for Jace, email or text him at jace@thedenverchannel.com or 720-270-1468. You can remain anonymous. Connect with Jace on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

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