I witnessed a murder and I needed to cancel my Spirit flights

After witnessing a horrific crime in front of her home, Holly Jackson needed to cancel the Spirit Airlines flights she purchased through CheapOair.com. The online travel agency wouldn’t help her, and Spirit initially said it “couldn’t” help her. Now what?

Question

I’m looking for assistance with a ticket I bought through CheapOair.com. The ticket was for a round-trip flight between Cleveland, Ohio, and Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Spirit Airlines.

Unfortunately, a few days prior to my flight I was an eyewitness to a brutal murder outside my apartment building. I am currently suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and debilitating anxiety. I couldn’t possibly travel.

I pleaded with the airline and CheapOair for a credit to be able to use at a later date.  CheapOair had me cancel my Spirit flights and appeal to the airline for a refund. Spirit has refused to do anything.

While I should have probably bought travel protection, I didn’t. But this is not something that is my fault or in my control. I’m a single mom and really unable to sustain even a small $125 loss. I’m suffering and distraught.

Can you please see if you can assist me in getting a refund? — Holly Jackson, Oakwood Village, Ohio

Answer

I am so sorry to hear about this series of events. Witnessing a murder must have been horrific and anyone — including CheapOair and Spirit Airlines — should have been understanding of your condition.

You mentioned that you “should have probably bought travel protection.” There are probably people reading this right now thinking the same thing.

While I think travel insurance is often a good investment, in this case, it’s unlikely to have helped. If you review the terms and conditions of the travel protection policy offered by CheapOair, through TripMate, you’ll find among the exclusions, “a mental or nervous condition, unless hospitalized for that condition while the Plan is in effect.” Since you weren’t hospitalized, the insurance offered by CheapOair wouldn’t have helped you.

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The travel insurance policy available for purchase on the Spirit Airlines website — a TravelGuard policy — also excludes “mental, nervous and psychological disorders,” according to its terms and conditions, so it wouldn’t have helped you either.

Most travel insurance policies exclude mental conditions. I suppose you could have purchased a “cancel for any reason” policy. But that name is misleading. Even those policies don’t cover every condition. So please put your mind at ease on the travel insurance issue. The reality is that your situation is unique (and I would hope quite rare), and it should have been dealt with swiftly and immediately.

How about a flight credit?

CheapOair deferred to Spirit Airlines in this case, which is somewhat understandable. The airline tickets it sells are subject to the rules of the airline that operates the flights you purchased. On the other hand, you weren’t asking for a refund — you were asking for a future flight credit. CheapOair could have easily provided a credit for you to use on its site.

You could have reached out to the contacts we list for CheapOair on our website. But you took CheapOair’s advice and contacted Spirit Airlines. Unfortunately, the person you spoke with said she couldn’t help you. You could have then reached out to Spirit contacts we list. Instead, you came to us, and we contacted Spirit on your behalf.

We received a response back from Spirit almost immediately. Our contact researched your reservation and found no record of your calling the customer relations team. It was suggested that there was a miscommunication and you might have been speaking with reservations. If that’s true, the representative was correct that she could not help you.

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This may be the case, but you should have been referred to a department who could help you.

The good news

The good news was that our contact agreed with our assessment of the case and requested a copy of the paperwork from your doctor, which you were happy to provide. Spirit issued you a flight credit for the cost of the ticket.

Spirit Airlines takes a lot of criticism for its low cost, unbundled, nothing-for-free business model full of add-ons and extra fees, but we actually get a relatively low number of cases involving Spirit Airlines. And unlike other airlines that refuse to help us or ignore us completely, Spirit has been reviewing and resolving the cases we bring to them. They definitely did the right thing in this case and gave you the credit you requested, but I still wish Spirit had done it without your having to come to us for help.

I am glad we were able to help with this resolution. I hope your recovery is going well and that you will be able to take your trip sometime soon.

Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans. Read more of Michelle Bell's articles here.

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