How can my Spirit Airlines vouchers be worth just two cents?

After Melanie Boock agrees to give up her seat on an oversold Spirit Airlines flight, she accepts two vouchers for future flights – only to find that they have almost no value. Our advocates wonder whether Spirit Airlines’ “bare fare” includes vouchers for two cents.

Question: On a recent Spirit Airlines flight, I agreed to be bumped in exchange for two vouchers for future flights on Spirit worth up to $500 each. I have been trying to book two flights from Denver to Las Vegas on Spirit’s website in compliance with Spirit’s rules, but each time I try to apply the vouchers, the website credits my airfares by two to 30 cents.

I’ve emailed the Spirit executive contacts listed on your website, but the only responses I have received are from representatives of Spirit who don’t address the issue.

After being bumped from the original Spirit flight, I spent 29,000 miles for a new flight on Southwest Airlines. The miles are worth a minimum of $300. Can you help me either get Spirit to refund me $300 in cash or provide me credits that I can use when booking flights on Spirit? After this experience, I don’t want more vouchers. — Melanie Boock, Minturn, Colo.

Answer: Spirit’s math is definitely off. If you paid for a flight, agreed to be bumped and accepted vouchers worth up to $1,000, it makes absolutely no sense that the airline is only giving you a credit of pennies off your airfare when you try to use those vouchers.

And the credit only applies to your base airfare.

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As per the voucher terms that you agreed to when you accepted the bump, the voucher can’t be applied to taxes or other fees charged by Spirit Airlines, such as luggage fees.

Spirit’s contract of carriage provides that

If a flight is oversold (more customers hold confirmed reservations than there are seats available), no one may be denied boarding against his or her will until airline personnel first ask for volunteers who will give up their reservation willingly, in exchange for compensation of the airline’s choosing.

Would anyone “willingly” give up their confirmed seat for a voucher worth just 2 cents?

I think not. Something went wrong here.

And your case is not the only instance we’ve seen where Spirit vouchers only allowed minuscule credits.

What’s going on with Spirit’s vouchers?

Our advocate reached out to Spirit Airlines on your behalf and learned that, as with the earlier case, the malfunctioning vouchers were the result of a glitch in Spirit’s computer system.

Spirit, in response to complaints about its voucher program, is revamping the system. Meanwhile, the airline booked the tickets that you requested, applying the full value of the vouchers you received. And as a goodwill gesture, it covered the taxes and fees associated with the tickets.

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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