When Dondre Wise gives up her seat on a Spirit Airlines flight in exchange for vouchers, she’s told that she can use those vouchers at any time — but can’t use them to book a new flight. Can our advocates get Spirit to accept the vouchers instead of charging her for a new ticket?
Question: I recently yielded my seat on a Spirit Airlines flight in exchange for round-trip vouchers that were supposed to be redeemable for a flight within 60 days. The vouchers expired on Jan. 20, 2017.
When I accepted the vouchers, I asked an agent of Spirit if it would be possible for me to redeem them on certain dates in December, and the agent assured me that I could do so. But when I tried to use them to pay for a new ticket, I was told that they could not be used at all in December.
I’ve contacted the Spirit executives you list in your website to ask for usable vouchers in order to book a trip for next weekend, but no one at Spirit seems to be willing to help me.
Can you help me get vouchers that I can use to book a flight on Spirit Airlines? —
Dondre Wise, Houston
Answer: I’m sorry you’re dealing with this problem, which results from another customer service problem on Spirit’s part — that of passengers being asked to yield their seats in the first place. Whether the flight was overbooked or couldn’t take off because of a mechanical problem, Spirit owed every ticketed passenger a flight at that time.
If you were told by a Spirit agent that your vouchers were redeemable on the dates you wanted them at the time you gave up your originally booked flight, then you should have been able to use your vouchers to book your replacement flight on the dates you requested. There is nothing in your paperwork that indicates that you were in any way restricted from using your vouchers on those dates. So why were you told that you couldn’t do so?
A Spirit customer service representative sent you the following when you inquired as to why you were not being permitted to use your vouchers:
I’m sorry to hear about the difficulty you experienced in redeeming your Round-trip Future Travel Vouchers (RTV) toward future travels.
Flights are subject to availability and capacity controlled. This means there are a number of seats allotted for voucher redemption on each flight. The vouchers work best when a customer is willing to be flexible. Although there may be available to purchase a reservation, the same dates and flights may not be available to use a round-trip Future Travel Voucher.
Per our Contract of Carriage, Round-trip Future Travel Vouchers expire 60 days after they’re issued. Travel does not have to be completed in 60 days, however, a new booking for any flight in our system must be secured. Unfortunately, RTV expiration dates cannot be extended nor can they be recreated after their expiration.
I’ve viewed your reservation and it shows that your round-trip Future Travel Voucher is available.
These voucher terms appear to be restrictive as well as inconsistent with the language in Spirit’s contract of carriage, which doesn’t mention “Round-trip Future Travel Vouchers” at all — let alone list an expiration date for these vouchers. But it does contain the following language regarding compensation for volunteers who give up their reservations willingly, as you did:
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. …
Except as provided below, the airline must give each customer who qualifies for involuntary denied boarding compensation a payment by cash or check for the amount specified above, on the day and at the place the involuntary denied boarding occurs. …
The air carrier may offer free or discounted transportation in place of the Involuntary Denied Boarding Compensation payment. In that event, the carrier must disclose all material restrictions on the use of the free or discounted transportation before the customer decides whether to accept the transportation in lieu of Involuntary Denied Boarding Compensation. The customer may insist on the Involuntary Denied Boarding Compensation or refuse all compensation.
Acceptance of the compensation may relieve Spirit Airlines from any further liability to the customer caused by its failure to honor the confirmed reservation. However, the customer may decline the payment and seek to recover damages in a court of law or in some other manner.
Spirit took the position that because you accepted the vouchers, it doesn’t owe you any other compensation. But this language in its contract of carriage required Spirit to disclose any restrictions on the vouchers at the time you were offered them, and you were told at that time that there weren’t any restrictions in regard to the dates you wanted to use them. This was inconsistent with you later being told that they were not valid for travel in December.
When the Spirit executives in our contacts section were unhelpful, you contacted our advocacy team for assistance. We reached out to Spirit on your behalf, and Spirit’s customer relations team agreed to make a “one-time exception” for you. They accepted the vouchers and booked you on your requested flights.