Spirit Airlines won’t compensate me for flight cancellation

Steve Leadroot was all set to fly from Chicago to Atlantic City for a wedding last September when an airport ticket agent gave him some bad news: The airline had discontinued its service to Atlantic City. As in, it doesn’t fly there anymore.

The company? Spirit Airlines. Now, before you roll your eyes and say, “Good luck with this one, Christopher,” let’s let Leadroot tell his story.

Back in April, he paid $334 for two round-trip tickets through Spirit Airlines’ website. In June, he even received an itinerary confirming his flight.

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But when he arrived at the airport, Spirit Airlines started singing a different tune:

The counter-person for Spirit greeted us and informed us that Spirit no longer flew to Atlantic City.

The airline claimed a broadcast email was sent notifying all ticket holders of this change. I NEVER RECEIVED ANY SUCH MESSAGE.

Dismayed and really ticked off, I was left in a bind that required me to purchase tickets on another airline (American) at a price I never would have paid to begin with.

Not wanting to miss the wedding of my niece, I was forced to take the first flight to Philadelphia. My total was $1,142.

Spirit refunded Leadroot’s original ticket while he was at the airport. But he wonders if it shouldn’t cover the cost of the replacement flight, minus the $334 fare he would have paid it.

“Is Spirit responsible in any way?” he asks.

Let’s go to its contract of carriage (PDF).

9.2 Involuntary

In the event that Spirit is unable to provide a previously confirmed seat and is unable to reroute the customer via Spirit, Spirit will refund as indicated below:

9.2.1. If no portion of the reservation has been used, the refund will be equal to the fare paid by the customer.

9.2.2. If a portion of the reservation has been used, the refund will be equal to the amount of the unused portion.

9.2.3. Customers involved in a Spirit Airlines initiated cancellation in excess of two (2) hours will have three (3) options available to them: 1) re-accommodation, 2) Future Travel credit, or 3) a refund.

So according to Spirit Airlines’ contract, the answer to Leadroot’s question is: absolutely not.

But just because the paperwork says you aren’t covered doesn’t mean you shoudln’t be covered. I think Spirit failed to notify him about the schedule change until he got to the airport, and in doing so not only inconvenienced him, but cost him an extra $808.

I agreed to contact Spirit Airlines on Leadroot’s behalf. The airline normally responds to requests like these with either a thumbs-up or, more frequently, a thumbs-down. This time, it pleaded the Fifth; I heard nothing but the sounds of crickets.

That’s too bad. Spirit already has a battered reputation, when it comes to customer service. A small gesture might have helped it score some big PR points. But apparently it just doesn’t care.

Mind you, Spirit didn’t have to do anything. It wrote itself a convenient contract that let it off the hook. And yes, Leadroot should have confirmed his flight before leaving for the airport. But still, this is no way to treat a customer, even when you’re an “ultra” low cost carrier.

Update (7.a.m.): I edited this post to point to the correct part of Spirit’s contract.