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 the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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