Now that’s the holiday Spirit, Spirit

Maria Enriquez’s story has a happy ending, and couldn’t we all use a little of that today?

She booked a ticket to meet her son in September. He was stationed at the Gulfport Naval Station, 80 miles from New Orleans, and was going to be deployed overseas, so she wanted to see him before he left.

Oh, one more thing: Her tickets were on Spirit Airlines.

I know what you’re thinking. Was I serious about the happy ending? I was.

A change in her son’s training got in the way of her first day to visit, so she did pay a $90 change fee. But then, before she could go down to see him, he was deployed on an earlier date than the Navy had originally planned for him. Enriquez had to cancel her flight, losing $441.

She received a credit for $123 that was set to expire quickly, so she wrote to Spirit and asked for a full refund. But she received an email response saying that while Spirit honors its military and their families, they were in no position to refund her ticket.

Enriquez contacted our advocates.

“I don’t see how Spirit honors their military and its families with policies like that,” she said. “Any help would be greatly appreciated.”

Our team wrote back informing her of the steps to take so we could help her. They included sending a brief, polite email to Spirit. If that failed, we would have recommended contacting a customer service manager at the airline. We list the contacts on our site. But then she wrote back to us again with this good news:

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I wrote to you and again I wrote to Spirit Airlines. To my great pleasure they have issued a refund for the entire cost of the flight. I was surprised and grateful.

Although you did not have the opportunity to help me this time I wish you good fortune in continuing to help others. Your service is appreciated by many. Keep up the good work!

This story makes everyone feel good. There was a little hiccup in the beginning where Enriquez had to write the airline twice, but she was willing to pay fees for changes and kind of wanted a little more back when her son’s the Navy made the trip a total no-go.

Originally Spirit said it couldn’t do much to help her, but it seems to me that someone over there figured out the true meaning of the holiday spirit. Also, it really does help because Enriquez’s son is in the military and in my opinion, airlines like Spirit should cut them and their families a break when they can.

And they did. They came through and issued a full refund for her ticket, for which we are grateful.

The military has an ever-changing schedule of training, missions and deployment, and with the holidays coming and people rushing around to see family and get things done, we need to take care of the people who are taking care of us.

Our men and women in uniform are the real stars who deserve the limelight, even though they are often too humble and honorable to want it. Spirit has a reputation for being a Grinch, but this holiday season, they showed they could change.

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Maybe it will continue in 2017.

Jeff Filipov

Jeff Filipov is a destination planner and a frequent commenter on this site. He became interested in advocacy when his father died on American Airlines flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2001.

  • Alan Gore

    Don’t these changes have to be made fee-free in any case when they result from military orders?

  • MF

    I was thinking that too, but then again, it’s Spirit. Why do they have to be prodded to do the right thing, just sayin’.

  • greg watson

    complaining about a good outcome ! how cool is that ??

  • Annie M

    “Although you did not have the opportunity to help me this time ”

    What is she talking about? You DID help her by providing her with the proper contacts to get it resolved.

  • PsyGuy

    I don’t find Spirit is a Grinch at all, they provide travel from point A too point B at much less cost than legacy airlines, without the frills. That’s exactly what I like about Spirit (and Ryanair) they provide options unavailable in the market space at a price point I find desirable. So many PAX gripe about a lack of amenities but on certain itineraries I don’t need checked baggage, I don’t need carry on baggage, an advanced seat, early check in, a can of soda, or even a bottle of water. I need a converted grain silo with an engine that moves me at 600mph from where I am to where i want to go. Is it for everyone for every trip, no but if I’m going to NYC for an overnight New Years party I don’t need all that.

  • PsyGuy

    Yes, but the LW wasn’t on orders, they were visiting someone who was. Those orders are not transactional to family and friends travel plans.

  • PsyGuy

    Actually spirit doesn’t have to honor changes based on orders if the airline isn’t under contract as a common carrier with the DOD.

  • LonnieC

    It appeared that she wrote again before she used the contacts Elliott provided…

  • jim6555

    And what happens when your return flight from NYC gets cancelled and they tell you that the next available flight is in five days. You can get a refund of your return fare, but a walk-up ticket on a legacy carrier could cost 10 times more than the refund. I learned a very hard lesson about flying on ultra low cost airlines. Never again!

  • Carol Molloy

    I have to say I agree with you. Other than the fact that the trips usually take hours, it is no different than any other form of transportation to me. I used to travel 50% of my time, and have always said that air travel is only glamorous to people who don’t have to do it for a living.

    I was always amazed when people complained about the food. Seriously, who travels for the food on an airline? I always told the flight attendants not to wake me up for meal service. I understand that people with medical conditions have special in flight food needs, and agree that they should receive proper service.

    When my son was in the military, he received many unasked for accommodations from merchants. We patronize those businesses to this day, and are grateful for the respect they have shown.

  • PsyGuy

    “air travel is only glamorous to people who don’t have to do it for a living”, I could not be in more agreement with you.

  • PsyGuy

    That scenario just doesn’t exist on Spirit, NYC is one of their hubs and there are several flights per day.

  • Mel65

    For the military member, not his Momma.

  • Michael__K

    Spirit is famous for operating many of its routes less than once a day, with the highest load factors in the industry to boot. And it is famous for scheduling its planes to fly about 2 more hours per day than any other carrier, leaving no margin for errors or maintenance, predictably leading to the worst on-time performance in the industry.

  • PsyGuy

    The NYC route isn’t one of those routes.

  • John McDonald

    if legacy carrier are full, they are full. They can’t make seats suddenly appear out of thin air.

  • John McDonald

    2 more hours per day, doesn’t mean leaving no margin. They probably just start earlier & finish later & do more red eyes/overnight flights.
    No airline plans on leaving spare aircraft lying around, just in case. A Qantas A380 went mechanical in Dubai after arriving from London, just before New Years Eve. People complained … I missed NYE in Sydney(it just a few 1000 fireworks), why didn’t they bring another aircraft in, why didn’t they get an Emirates aircraft(their partner airline, etc etc.

  • John McDonald

    so airlines should leave seats empty just in case, something goes wrong with 1 flight in a 1000 ? Seriously.

  • John McDonald

    on ANY airline the same can apply

  • Michael__K

    “Spirit Airlines Doesn’t Pad Its Schedule — And It’s Last In On-Time”

    In the first quarter on-time statistics from the U.S. Transportation Department, Spirit Airlines didn’t look so good.

    Among the 12 airlines ranked for on-time performance, Spirit finished last with just 65.3% of flights on time, 17 points below the industry average of 82.1% on-time arrivals.
    In an interview, Spirit spokesman Paul Berry said, “We have an extremely tight schedule compared to the rest of the industry. If things like weather or airport issues, things that are out of our control, come up, that can cause delays.

    “But {tight schedules} allow us to keep our fares low, much lower than the rest of the industry,” he said.

  • jim6555

    Legacy carriers have inter-line agreements with other carriers that enable them to transfer passengers if needed. Spirit dies not have an agreement with any other airline.

  • John McDonald

    ok fair enough, if that quote is accurate.
    It does seem that legacy airlines are very scared on LCC’s & ULCC’s as, soon as the economy takes a dive the punters will rush from legacy to LCC/ULCC’s.
    How many legacy carriers will not survive 2017 ? Probably a few big ones ? Who knows, time will tell. Doubt if any LCC/ULCC’s will go under this year, with recession happening now.

  • John McDonald

    doesn’t help at busy times when all airlines are full

  • Michael__K

    The US legacies have all merged in recent years and have plenty of monopoly/oligopoly routes as a result, besides having engaged in a race to the bottom to lower their costs. There’s always a fear of higher fuel prices and/or economic downturns, but I doubt they are particularly scared about survival these days.

  • John McDonald

    UA have just pulled SFO/AKL & Australians/Kiwis, the great travellers aren’t flying. Airlines are giving away seats at record low prices.
    Are you denying that the recession of 2017 is real ?

    + Trump is talking the USD$ down, which means international travel for Americans is more expensive + oil gets more expensive, which pushes up fares or leads to one or more airlines collapsing.

  • Michael__K

    Somehow most of the airlines have been making record profits the past 2 years (United was a shade more profitable in 2015)… I don’t know what’s going on in Australia, but US GDP growth has been modest but stable and positive for 11 quarters…

    Why would you expect the dollar to go down based on the policies being proposed?

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