My Spirit Airlines flight was canceled. Am I owed compensation for my distress?

When Sandra Wucher hears that her Spirit Airlines flight has been canceled, she wants compensation for the emotional distress she suffers. Is Wucher’s request reasonable? And can our advocates help her get it?

Question: I booked a round-trip ticket on Spirit Airlines from Minneapolis to Cancún, Mexico, for this September and paid for it with 10,000 frequent flyer miles. But I received a call from Spirit notifying me that all flights out of Minneapolis in September have been canceled.

Hearing this was extremely distressing for me. I was forced to purchase another ticket from Sun Country Airlines in order to take the trip.

Spirit has told me that it will refund the miles and money for airport taxes. But it won’t reimburse me for the Sun Country ticket or compensate me for the distress I suffered on hearing of the cancellations. It won’t even offer me a luggage voucher. And it refuses to explain why all the flights out of Minneapolis were canceled.

I still haven’t received the miles or the tax money back from Spirit. Can you help me get Spirit to refund them to me and provide some additional compensation for my distress? — Sandra Wucher, Anoka, Minn.

Answer: I’m sorry for the distress you experienced when you heard that your flight was canceled.

But when our advocates reached out to Spirit Airlines to find out what had happened to your flight, Spirit told us a completely different story. According to Spirit, your flight was not canceled at all — it had a schedule change.

We also learned from Spirit that you requested that your outbound flight ticket to Cancún be canceled, and that Spirit immediately refunded you 5,000 frequent flyer miles plus $32 in airport taxes. Your return flight on Spirit remains uncanceled.

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“Admittedly, the refund process for miles takes longer than I’d like,” Spirit’s agent told us. It takes about a week for refunded miles to reappear in their owner’s accounts, but one week hadn’t elapsed as of his response to us. He also told us that the tax refund was issued immediately to your credit card, and it’s up to your bank to credit your account for that amount.

But you were the only passenger on the flight to request compensation for the schedule change.

No airline guarantees passengers that their flights will depart or arrive on time or according to any pre-set schedule. Spirit is no exception. Its contract of carriage contains the following language with regard to flight schedules:

Times shown in a timetable or elsewhere are not guaranteed and form no part of the terms of transportation. Spirit may, without notice, substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, and may alter or omit stopping places shown on the reservation. Schedules are subject to change without notice. Spirit is not responsible or liable for… failing to operate any flight according to schedule, or for changing the schedule of any flight…

When a customer holding a confirmed reservation on a Spirit flight which is delayed because of a schedule irregularity (including but not limited to… [a] schedule change), Spirit may rebook the customer on Spirit’s first flight on which seats are available to the customer’s original destination without additional charge…

A change may be made to an itinerary without a charge and/or fare difference when the itinerary was affected by a cancelled flight, an eligible schedule change or a delayed flight (greater than two hours from the original departure time) provided:

  • The same departure and arrival airports are booked and;
  • The itinerary is rebooked within Spirit’s authorized date ranges (currently within seven days of the departure date).

With limited exceptions, Spirit will not reimburse customers for flights that they book on other carriers.

So you could have accepted the schedule change or asked Spirit to rebook you on its first available flight to Cancún. If Spirit didn’t do this for you, then you might have appealed your case to its customer service executives using the contact information on our website.

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You have notified us that you have received the miles and airport tax refund. But Spirit won’t provide you with any additional compensation for your distress.


Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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