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.

Related story:   I flew once; I paid twice

“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.

  • sirwired

    I would have dropped the case like a hot potato as soon as you discovered the OP’s story did not even vaguely resemble the truth. This wasn’t a “game of telephone”, or a slight mis-communication, this was an outright fabrication.

  • jim6555

    People sometimes hear what they want to hear and don’t get the entire picture. I believe that Sprint offers her nothing more than the miles and cash that she spent to purchase her flights.

    The story does not say whether she got a refund of miles for the return flight. I wonder if Spirit will refund it since the outbound reservation was cancelled due to a schedule change?

  • ctporter

    Refunds for cancelled flights or schedule changes is one thing, a refund for travel plan distress is completely different. I drove to a project yesterday, it was a trip that should have taken 35 minutes but took 75 minutes due to traffic. That was stressful. But, it is part of our daily life of unexpected things happening to us that we learn to deal with as adults. Having flown enough to amass 10k FF points and use them I would have expected the OP to understand better exactly what she is due. Interesting to see that either she did not or had enough nerve to assume you would not know and take on her case.

  • LeeAnneClark

    If I could get some kind of financial compensation for all of the “distress” caused me by various airlines, hotels, and rental car agencies over the years, I would be able to buy a private get and no longer have to worry about getting distressed!

    That part of the request from this LW cracked me up. ;-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah…I don’t recall any previous cases in which the actual facts deviated so significantly from the OP’s story. A schedule change for one flight, vs cancelling all flights for the entire month? Pretty different! ;-)

  • MarkKelling

    Wo said she has flown even a single flight with the airline? She could have just signed up for their credit card and gotten 15,000 miles. From what was asked for, I don’t think the OP flys much at all.

  • John Baker

    The story must have changed after it was published… The comments below don’t match the story above and the Question / Answer are disjointed.

    Begin rant…
    If the current version is correct and Spirit cancelled every flight from Minneapolis, sorry the way the airline game is played is that they get to change their schedule at any time, for any reason and you only get a refund or a reroute. It doesn’t matter if airline tickets are hundreds / thousands of dollars more expensive now. It doesn’t matter that they may have held your money interest free for months for a service they have decided not to provide. It doesn’t matter that the routing they chose to put you one may have been cheaper when you booked. Oh, and if you have the need to change anything, welcome to fee city.

    If you don’t like it, contact your Congressional Representative. Seriously, until they change the law, airlines are going to continue the same game.

    Rant completed

  • Noah Kimmel

    agree completely. you could fly a plane between the 2 sides of this story…

    Not to be insensitive, but a schedule change, especially not on day of travel, should not be “extremely distressing”, but an inconvenience. If you can’t handle that stress, you probably shouldn’t travel and definitely shouldn’t travel on Spirit!

  • Altosk

    We’ve had a bunch of boring “fix my feels” cases lately. C’mon, guys. There’s gotta be some better ones out there. Either that, or ask us old timers for our favorite cases. That could be a throwback post.

    …and on topic…if this lady gets “distressed” when her flight has a schedule change and the airline does everything it’s supposed to do…IDK what kind of world we’re living in.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I’d just kinda like to know where the idea arose that we are due any sort of financial compensation for the various things that might “distress” us in life!

    Life is full of stressful situations and occurrences. Why, just the other day I was in the middle of cooking for a dinner party, and realized that I was missing a key ingredient for the main course recipe. Ran down to the grocery store, and they were…OUT OF IT! That meant that I had to go back to square one and come up with a completely different main course. Which meant that I’d spent a bunch of money on ingredients that I wouldn’t use.

    I was quite distressed, and felt that the grocery store owed me compensation…a refund on the ingredients I wouldn’t now be using, plus some money for my…y’know…distress.

    But I didn’t ask for it, lest I get carted off in a straight-jacket. I had people coming over that night, after all. ;-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    “Fix my feels” cases! BAHAHAHA!! That’s hilarious – and perfectly descriptive. LOL!

  • Noah Kimmel

    write to the CEO of the company and demand $1000 in cash tomorrow then contact elliott the next day for help. They have some nerve not having their supply chain in place to always have one. If they sell seasoning, they should always have seasoning available, overselling seasoning is wrong! But, where you really screwed up, was using the grocery store in the first place – next time buy direct from the manufacturer and you wouldnt have such issues…

    :)

  • LeeAnneClark

    I know right? You’d think, being a seasoned (ha ha!) Elliott reader, I would know better.

    ;-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Just wanted to add to this – I do find these cases to be entertaining, if only to see what poor Chris and his worthy team of volunteers has to put up with on a daily basis. So I say, when they don’t have a good solid case to publish, go on and give us these “fix my feels” cases! It keeps the articles flowing, and keeps us entertained. :)

  • PsyGuy

    Special snowflake much?
    Emotional distress from having a flight canceled, oh no the suffering, the grief, the anguish, the trauma. The LW will never be the same, though they got back, somewhat slowly what they were entitled to.

  • PsyGuy

    Well you know they just can’t miss or reschedule their self appointed selfie posting appointment, who does Spirit think it is?

  • PsyGuy

    I bet they have an ESA?

  • PsyGuy

    Oh no, $1000, this case surely deserves 2 system first class upgrades to anywhere in the world from Spirit.

  • PsyGuy

    She does understand what she is due, it’s whatever she deems appropriate. There is “fair” and then there is “fair to me”.

  • PsyGuy

    “Fix my feels” I like that. I think the word for it is “entitlement”.

  • Lol!! Perfect.

  • Donna Manz

    Honestly … some people abuse the privilege of flying and staying at hotels …. Some people LIE to get refunds or compensation ….

  • Fishplate

    If you’ve flown enough on Spirit to accumulate the miles needed for a free trip, then you ought to be used to the emotional distress.

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