Why are these Spirit Airlines vouchers worth almost nothing?

When Allyson Englishman and her daughter surrender their seats on an overbooked Spirit Airlines flight, a representative promises them a voucher they can use for a future ticket. So why is the airline credit worth almost nothing?

Question

My daughter and I flew Spirit Airlines to visit my folks in Florida this past February. We have flown Spirit before and are very aware that it’s a “no frills” airline. We were just taking a quick trip during her winter break from high school.

On our return, the flight was overbooked and they asked for any volunteers. I went up to the desk and asked what they were giving out. The answer: two round-trip tickets anywhere. We could travel within 365 days, but would have to book within three months.

So we volunteered. We flew 10 hours later on a JetBlue flight. I totally expected some restrictions, but to my surprise, I can’t find any availability to use my vouchers.

I tried booking a simple trip back to Florida. I have a lot of flexibility — almost the entire summer. I feel as if I’ve been scammed. I want to call customer service, but there is no such number.

I sent an email to Spirit. In response, it sent two new vouchers with fewer restrictions. I then tried booking again. Same thing happened. The voucher doesn’t translate into a “free” roundtrip ticket anywhere.

A representative told me the voucher covers the “base” price for the flight. But you have to drill down to see what the “base” price is.

For example, I just looked up a flight from Columbus to New Orleans. The flight showed a $49 fare, but when I looked at the fare breakdown, here’s what I found:

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Flight $0.02
Regulatory Compliance Charge $13.02
Fuel Charge $14.88

I want a refund of the $336 Spirit promised. Can you help?  Allyson Englishman, Oakland, N.J.

Answer

Spirit’s rhetoric didn’t match reality — which is to say, it promised you a ticket, but delivered half of one, at best.

It used something I call airline math to justify the broken promise.

This site has covered Spirit’s airline math in so many previous stories. Here’s a case that’s similar to yours.

About Spirit’s funny math

Spirit likes to break down its fares in a way that makes them look ridiculously low. By now, everyone should know that.

Math may not be Spirit’s top subject. But I have to wonder about your math, too. The fare you cited would come to about $27, which, to be fair to Spirit, is a ridiculously low fare. Heck, even $49 is preposterously cheap.

But let’s not get bogged down with numbers. Spirit made you a promise it didn’t keep when you gave up your seats. No frills doesn’t mean it can play fast and loose with the facts.

What to do when Spirit Airlines’ vouchers are worth nothing

Spirit tried to address this problem by issuing new, less restrictive vouchers. If the scrip didn’t work for you the first time, it should have worked the second.

How to avoid this? Never accept an offer of “free” tickets from Spirit. If Spirit overbooks a flight and must bump a passenger, it is required to pay cash under Department of Transportation rules. Wait for that to happen.

You could also contact Spirit’s executives, which I list on this site. Which is exactly what you did. A representative called you and helped you make a reservation.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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