Can Spirit Airlines come to this passenger’s rescue?


When Alex Avila agrees to be voluntarily bumped from his Spirit Airlines flight, he is happy to receive travel vouchers that will allow him to visit his father before his dad’s upcoming deployment. But will he be able to use his vouchers on the dates he needs?

Question: First I would like to say that I really enjoy Spirit Airlines. They always provide me opportunities to travel at an affordable cost to see my family in Ohio. Today, however, I was disappointed. I was held on a phone call for 54 minutes with various Spirit employees. My call was simply to book a reservation for Aug. 2- Aug. 11 using a voucher I acquired a month and a half ago. Unfortunately, I was not successful in doing so.

I received these vouchers on May 22, after I agreed to give up my seat on my flight to Los Angeles because my flight was overbooked. A Spirit Airline employee had informed all passengers that the flight was overbooked by five persons and that volunteers would be accepted and random selection would occur if needed.

As I boarded the flight and waited for departure, a family that arrived late tried to board. One person from that family was unsuccessful in boarding due to the overbooking occurrence. I understood the family’s cry for help as I have been in that same situation. So without hesitation, I exited the flight, allowing the family to travel together.

Upon exiting the aircraft, I was given three vouchers to travel on any future date of my desire. I was even told I could transfer the vouchers to someone else.

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Now, I would like to book my new flights. The dates that I requested are not flexible due to the fact that my father is being deployed overseas. As a avid Spirit Airlines traveler and continued customer, I would like my concerns to be addressed and to be resolved. Can you help? — Alex Avila, Anaheim, Calif.

Answer: How disappointing for you. You believed you were doing a good deed so that a family would not be separated on their flight and that, as a result, you would be rewarded with a flight to see your dad before his deployment.

A win/win situation for everyone involved.

But when I read your complaint, the red flag that started waving at me was when you said that you were told the vouchers could be used anytime, anywhere and that you could even transfer the vouchers to other people.

Since your complaint is one that we receive on a fairly regular basis, I am familiar with the restrictions that are associated with the various types of vouchers that airlines offer.

There are always some restrictions. Always. And that is true no matter what airline you are using.


And your vouchers were no different. Visiting Spirit Airlines’ website can be helpful in understanding the terms of your voucher.

Under the heading “Restrictions,” the airline is quite clear that there are, in fact, some restrictions associated with redeeming your voucher.

The final sentence of the list of restrictions is the part that prevented you from using your voucher on the fixed dates that you needed.

“Restrictions may also apply during peak travel periods and certain destinations,” it reads.

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Because your travel dates were firm and occurred during the peak travel month of August, you hit a wall in trying to redeem your voucher for your desired flights.

But, since there was a specific reason that your dates were inflexible, having to do with your father’s service, I thought the airline might be willing to take a second look at your request.

When I contacted Spirit on your behalf, I pointed out your enthusiastic Spirit loyalty and the reason that your dates were set — your father’s deployment.

Our contact at Spirit made it clear that the majority of Spirit Airlines’ customers are able to use their vouchers without any problems. There are no blackout dates for these vouchers, but sometimes when a passenger tries to book at the last minute or on a popular route, those planes do not have availability in the class of service in which the voucher can be used.

Additionally, he explained that before any passenger is allowed to voluntarily give up their seat in an overbooking situation, they are presented with a volunteer card that explains the restrictions of the voucher they will receive. After the passenger has a chance to review the information, they are asked to check a box that they agree to the terms.

Our contact reviewed your record and I was told that you did sign the form indicating that you understood all the terms of the voucher.

But then came the good news for you.

Spirit was sympathetic to your situation. And, as a goodwill gesture, our contact agreed to make sure that you receive your requested flights so that you can visit with your dad before he deploys.

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It is unclear where your confusion about your voucher originated, but you are pleased with this outcome and Spirit remains your “go-to” airline.

In the future, remember before you sign any form that indicates the you understand the terms, make sure to actually read them. Because whether you read them or not, the terms still apply.

You got lucky in this situation because Spirit made a compassionate exception for you. But don’t bank on that happening again — with Spirit or any other airline.

Enjoy your visit with your father and thank him for his service. I wish him — and you — a safe journey.


Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, consumer advocate, writer and photographer who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. She is Advocacy & Editorial Director at Elliott.org.

  • sirwired

    Everybody else gives you a set dollar amount of vouchers to spend as you wish… Only Spirit does this monkey-business with telling you the vouchers have “some” restrictions, but you don’t find out what those restrictions are until you actually want to use them.

    It looks like Spirit vouchers are treated the same way as the availability of the cheapest Frequent Flier seats… you simply can’t use them if you want to go somewhere a bunch of other people want to go.

    I guess it’s nice Spirit made an exception (total surprise ending!), but they shouldn’t be issuing these stupid restricted vouchers to begin with.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    Useless vouchers! Who’d have thought !

  • Kerr

    Blackout dates and routes vary, but Spirit’s vouchers are very restrictive in terms of time (must be used within a few months) and use (can only be used once, only applies to airfare portion, etc.)

    If the new CEO is truly interested in tangible improvement, removing some (if not all) of the restrictions on the vouchers would be a good start.

  • Rebecca

    I’m sorry but I’m still stuck on why someone would actually “enjoy Spirit Airlines”. I just can’t seem to get past that part.

  • Alan Gore

    This is a classic case of being lied to by an agent whose words contradict a written policy you don’t become aware of until you try to use the vouchers. When you’re on the road and away from the retail ecosystem in which you normally operate, never assume honesty,

  • Chris Johnson

    Me neither. My first and last flight on them was just horrific. While I guess they do an okay job getting flights in and out, some of the passengers were extremely obnoxious, shouting obscenities at people as they got on (“what the f— are you looking at”), making noise throughout the flight with no regard for others, and the flight attendants didn’t exercise any control over them. It was like a flying insane asylum where the worst inmates were running it. On most other airlines, those passengers would have been kicked off right away, or arrested at the gate when we arrived. Plus with all the nickel and diming Spirit does with all its added on fees, I am not convinced there is much money to be saved if at all. Oh, and the seats don’t recline at all, I hate that. Even the discounters Southwest and JetBlue have seats that recline.

  • Steve Rabin

    I’m betting the gate agent will tell the pax ANYTHING to get the seat opened and not have to pay the mandated bump compensation. Is it lying? Probably–although if you were to ask that agent afterwards they would say they told the pax everything by the book.

  • BubbaJoe123

    They’re cheap.

  • Lindabator

    so he took the card, read it, signed it – and has no responsibility? I doubt that

  • Lindabator

    but the form he read, and had to sign agreement to, CLEARLY states the restrictions, so I just do not buy it in this case

  • greg watson

    Come on Alan…………………..all he had to do , is read the card he signed…………absolutely no proof that anyone lied to him……………..lighten up !

  • Joe Blasi

    We need some thing like EU261 in the usa and if they bump you then they must give you cash!

  • John Keahey

    Seats don’t recline? Great! But that’s still not enough incentive for me to fly that obnoxious airline.

  • Alan Gore

    Like a passenger jammed in a line of angry people at a counter in the middle of an oversell panic is going to be given time to read a ten-page Contract of Carriage, assuming they wouldn’t zip-tie him as a terrorist for even asking to see it.

    I can’t believe that there are people in here who condone having the agent doing the buyback flatly lie to a customer’s face about an agreement he is signing. This is now edging into Enron territory.

  • jim6555

    Many seasoned travelers consider one of the “discounters” that you mention, Southwest (WN), to provide an experience superior to the coach services of the legacy carriers (American, Delta and United). WN provides a little more seating room for their passengers and does not charge a $200 fee to change an itinerary (just pay the fare difference, if any). WN allows it’s passengers to check two bags without charge and does not charge for carry-on bags. And unlike some other carriers, WN provides free soft drinks and a snack on all flights. I’ve been flying WN for almost 20 years and the vast majority of my flights have either arrived early or on time.

  • BubbaJoe123

    If they bump you in the US, they do have to give you cash (and much more than EU261 requires). If you voluntarily choose to take a later flight in exchange for compensation (which is what happened here), that’s an entirely separate situation.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Hyperbole much?

  • BubbaJoe123

    WN’s certainly superior to Spirit, but there’s also a lot not to like about them. No assigned seating, no First Class, seating room is a mix (more than some, less than others), no same-day standby (which for me is a far bigger loss than the more flexible ticket change policy), etc. Free checked bags are nice, I guess, but I’ve checked a bag once in the last decade, so pretty irrelevant to me.

  • Lindabator

    just a simple card – not 10 pages

  • Michael__K

    Since your complaint is one that we receive on a fairly regular basis, I am familiar with the restrictions that are associated with the various types of vouchers that airlines offer.

    There are always some restrictions. Always. And that is true no matter what airline you are using.

    What restrictions is the author referring to? For Voluntary Denied Boarding vouchers issued by reputable airlines, I haven’t encountered any restrictions beyond an expiration date (which is at least 1 year).

  • y_p_w
  • Michael__K

    All your examples are Spirit Airlines. The author claims “no matter what airline.” What airline besides Spirit (and possibly it’s LCC cousins like Allegiant)?

  • Michael__K

    They “lied” by omission. The vouchers technically are valid for any future date, which sounds like what the normal carriers do. Just good luck finding any future date where Spirit has any “availability.”
    Also, in these situations, you often aren’t presented with anything to read or sign until after the aircraft door has closed and it’s too late anyway. I wonder what they would do if you refused to sign at that point.

  • Michael__K

    A simple card which simply says the voucher is good for “any flight dates available in the system.”
    So how is the passenger supposed to interpret what “any flight dates available in the system” means exactly? What “system?”

  • greg watson

    way too many assumptions……..way too many ! Stick to the factual info in the story & don’t make up your own scenarios…………….not one was lied to (no proof)……..no 10 page document (ridiculous)……..no line of angry people in some panic……….Have a great daydream !

  • Michael__K

    No assumptions: so why don’t you show us where in even the WRITTEN terms does Spirit discloses what “travel on any flight dates available in the system” actually means?
    And why is this at least the fourth customer to write to Chris with the exact same complaint about Spirit airline’s vouchers?

  • greg watson

    how would I know…………..I read the same story you did……….the consumer does have some responsibility for what they signed……..if it didn’t state certain necessary information included in what he signed, then Spirit would have some xplaining to do. Would be interesting to see a copy of that form………………….wouldn’t it ??

  • Rebecca

    I almost exclusively fly Southwest domestically. I often just go straight to their website and don’t even bother checking other airlines. The customer service is infinitely better than that of the legacy carriers, and I vote with my wallet. It’s usually cheaper anyways, especially when I factor in baggage fees since I have 2 small children whose car seats I often check and don’t travel light.

  • Michael__K

    You read the story? You read the statements I quoted from the author? I’ve read what I’ve signed for and in my first-hand experience those statements from the author are false. What evidence do you have to the contrary? What would you ASSUME that every airline has such restrictions?
    And precisely what are you ASSUMING the OP signed for and why would you ASSUME it differs from what I cited from Spirit’s own website?

  • Chris Johnson

    That’s true. Southwest provides more than most legacy carriers, as does JetBlue and Virgin America. The employees on WN are also pretty wonderful in general, I’ve never really had a complaint. The only downside of the aforementioned airlines is that they don’t fly to a lot of smaller and midsize cities or internationally. I guess what ultimately makes a “legacy” carrier is not the service they give you but their ability to get you from East Bumblef—, AR to London or something like that. Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America can’t do that and probably never will – when PeopleExpress tried offering flights to London, that was their undoing (I’m dating my self here – eek).

  • y_p_w

    The author never says that Spirit isn’t alone in having these specific restrictions. The wording is that all airlines have restrictions of some sort with regard to these vouchers. I looked it up, and it looks like Delta doesn’t allow theirs to be transferred to someone else while other airlines do, although they’ll allow other passengers on the same itinerary to use part of the voucher, but only in person. American’s vouchers can only be redeemed by going to a ticket counter of by mailing it in. It’s not clear but it sounds like that’s the first part of the process.

    http://freequentflyerbook.com/blog/2015/10/5/beware-delta-bearing-voluntary-denied-boarding-compensation

  • Michael__K

    Again, the author’s exact words:

    There are always some restrictions. Always. And that is true no matter what airline you are using. And your vouchers were no different.

    I’m not aware of any other airline that limits which flights/seats a VDB voucher can be used for. BTW I’ve been able to use AA VDB vouchers online, although it’s possible something has changed more recently.

  • Michael__K

    Oh, and I was able to use a Delta VDB voucher for travel by my mother-in-law, I believe it was in 2010 or 2011. So if that has been restricted, the restriction must be more recent that.

  • greg watson

    you are still bringing in stuff that is not relevant to this story………”After the passenger has a chance to review the information, they are asked to check a box (on the volunteer card) that they agree to the terms.”……….”our contact reviewed your record and I ( Michelle F. ) was told that you did sign the form indicating that you understood ‘ALL’ the terms of the voucher” Apparently Spirit did the right thing…………………& as I said, wouldn’t be interesting to see a copy of the ‘volunteer’ card & if the information is not correct……..Spirit has some explaining to do. Relax Michael………nobody died.

  • greg watson

    Alan…….did you take your meds ?

  • Michael__K

    Why wouldn’t the actual language Spirit uses to misleadingly describe their voucher not be relevant to the story for you?
    I notice you leave a lot of disapproving comments against passengers even when nobody died.

  • greg watson

    I am all about supporting the OP, in the right circumstances………….but mistakes & misunderstandings do happen on both sides of an issue. To end, what seems to be a futile discussion,…………please show me the ‘volunteer card’ that you claim is misleading & prove what you are claiming to be true……….simple !?!…………I am so done…………adios

  • Michael__K

    I already quoted Spirit’s voucher Restrictions from their own website: https://customersupport.spirit.com/hc/en-us/articles/202097956-How-do-I-find-and-redeem-my-Future-Travel-

    I also already quoted the author’s statements about other airlines.

  • greg watson

    show me the card that he signed…………other airlines……..who cares……..not an integral part of this story…………….not interested in Spirit’s website…………show me the actual wording on the card that he had to sign…………no can do…………too bad for you. You can have the last word if you like……………..but I won’t read it or respond to it. It’s OK to disagree

  • Michael__K

    If that’s the proof you require, then why haven’t you demanded for Spirit to show the card to prove their case? Why would you just take their word for it?
    And what would be the legitimate purpose for Spirit to disclose voucher Restrictions on their website that don’t match the voucher Restrictions they (say they) ask their customers to agree to in person?

    And where is your evidence that every other airline has restrictions?

  • James

    Alan, you are absolutely correct.

  • y_p_w

    It’s not that difficult to parse out. It’s – some restrictions/no matter what airline/your vouchers were no different.

    The author never said the restrictions would be same. It was essentially that there were some restrictions and every airline would have some. Not necessarily the same restrictions, but some. As for Delta’s VDB vouchers, there are tons of postings on the internet where someone reprinted the terms. Just search for this sentence and there are several sources including one as far back as 2012:

    Voucher is non-transferable unless assigned to someone traveling with the original voucher owner on the same reservation at the time the voucher is being redeemed.

    This is the earliest reference I can find, which was June 2012:
    http://renespoints.boardingarea.com/2012/06/27/a-word-of-caution-about-delta-etv’s-if-you-ever-take-a-voucher-i-am-done-delta-air-lines-electronic-travel-vouchers-rules/#comment-14513

  • y_p_w

    Again – “no matter what airline” was linked to “some restrictions”. I don’t see how it says that it’s going to refer to the same types of restrictions?

  • Michael__K

    Again, so then what restrictions besides an expiration date does UA or SW have for example? What restrictions does AA have, aside from apparently making the mechanics of the redemption process more difficult recently?

  • Michael__K

    Besides Spirit and the connector airlines, there are 9 other airlines which have >2% domestic market share. You’ve shown that one of them added limits to transferability, and one of them makes it more complicated than before to redeem their vouchers (not a restriction per se)…..

  • y_p_w

    My understanding about United vouchers is that they come in increments of $100 “paper vouchers” which can be used singly or together. However, I thought that if one had a $350 fare and four $100 vouchers, there would be no credit for the unused portion. So for me that would be a restriction.

    You can get into arguments about what is or isn’t a restriction. I consider having to physically present a voucher a restriction, along with losing any residual value. It may not be a flight restriction, but a restriction nonetheless.

  • Michael__K

    I’ve heard (second hand) of tales — mostly of [old] US Airways vouchers — being limited to one time use. I believe those are customer service vouchers and not VDB vouchers. I have not had the issue you describe with VDB vouchers on UA, although my last experience goes back a few years.

  • PsyGuy

    YAY Spirit so many PAX have bad things to say about them, but I love them.

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