Bad Spirit? Airline reschedules Thanksgiving flight, offers useless vouchers

spirit planeDebbie Gitlan’s Thanksgiving flights, which she booked last March on Spirit Airlines, kept getting rescheduled to the point where she couldn’t take the trip anymore.

Some airlines would offer a full refund under those circumstances. But not Spirit.

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The carrier issued a credit that ended up being as difficult to use as her original tickets. Which is when she contacted me.

Over the next months I tried to use the credit to purchase tickets to visit my daughter in Atlanta, but Spirit would not allow me to use the voucher – claiming the tickets were “on-line specials” or special discounts.

Trying to reason with people has proven frustrating and useless. I don’t understand what the problem is. I have a credit, the credit is money – why do they care how or on what I use my money?

Trying to get in touch with anyone at Spirit is a joke – navigating their Web site for service is impossible. Speaking to their “supervisors” is like banging your head against a wall. I know for sure that vouchers are disallowed – but why credits? Why vouchers? I wonder if they are making it so impossible for me so that I will give up, and the credit will go unused, and thus, money in their pockets.

I have only until a year from the purchase of the original tickets to use this credit, that time is sooner than later.

A look at Spirit’s contract of carriage suggests her options are limited. Check out section 7:

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 ticket in case of necessity. Schedules are subject to change without notice. Spirit is not responsible or liable for making connections, or for failing to operate any flight according to schedule, or for changing the schedule of any flight.

In other words, Spirit can change its schedule as often as it likes, and you have to take the flight.

Is that legal? Yes. I’ve spoken with the Transportation Department about this in the past, and as the government allows airlines to write their own rules. It just has to ensure that they follow them.

So is Spirit being bad, here? Actually, it is only doing what the government is allowing it to do.

Still, I contacted the airline on behalf of Gitlan to see if it could help. I figured it was worth a try. Yesterday, I heard back from her.

Mission accomplished! I just spoke with Tabatha at Spirit, and she processed my refund as we spoke – she seemed very apologetic, and took care of the matter immediately!

I am sure this would never have been so successfully resolved without your assistance – so thank you again. I teach English as a Second Language to adult immigrants from all over the world – and as a matter of interest, next week’s topic is transportation and travel! Now I have a story for them! I actually plan to use your column for discussion and problems solving within that topic.

Thank you for assisting me in my problem, and thank you for providing me with some solid teaching material!

You’re welcome.

Spirit’s customer service director, Heather Harvey, filled in a few details:

As for her schedule change that she was unable to take: 9:40 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. – she elected the voucher and she attempted to secure a promotional fare that was only available online. The reservation agent advised her that he could not apply it since it was a web promo. We never told her that she was unable to use her voucher.

Are there any lessons to be learned from this episode? There’s one I can think of, which is to check the fine print on your airline contract before you buy a ticket. You might be getting less than you bargained for.

(Photo: Kymberly Janisch/Flickr Creative Commons)

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