Lied to, overcharged and almost abandoned by Spirit Airlines

Noreen Ismail seemed to have an airtight case against Spirit Airlines. Its transgressions against her, her husband, and 11-month old included overcharging her for her carry-on luggage abandoning her in Boston and making promises it never intended to keep.

But as with so many problems I write about on this site, all isn’t as it appears to be. Spirit turned her down after reviewing her case, and my involvement isn’t likely to overturn its decision. But before I file this into my “case dismissed” folder, let’s have a look at why a problem that like such a good candidate for compensation came up empty.

Let’s begin with Ismail’s flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Boston in late last year. Before the family departed they phoned Spirit to find out if they’d need to make any special arrangements for their toddler.

“A customer service representative informed me that we were allowed one carryon bag each at no additional charge, which included my 11 month old son,” she says. “But when I arrived at the airport to check in I was told different. They would not allow me and my family to board the plane unless I paid for my carryon luggage.”

Ismail reluctantly paid $38 to carry her bag on the plane. Spirit is the only U.S. airline to charge passengers to carry on their luggage. It is particularly troubling when the fee is imposed on someone who clearly has no choice in the matter, like a mother with a young child who probably needs to be fed and changed during the flight.

The family tried to call Spirit when they landed in Boston to complain about the charge — a charge they were told they wouldn’t have to worry about. But they couldn’t reach anyone. Spirit outsourced its call center operations to India a few years ago. Reaching someone by phone is difficult; reaching someone who can understand the nature of your complain is even more difficult, some customers say.

But the worst part was the return flight. Ismail called before their departure to verify their flight details. Everything checked out.

When I arrived at the airport I was told the flight was delayed three hours. Hours and hours went by and we were left in the dark not knowing what was going to happen. Finally, they told us the flight had been canceled and that they were issuing refunds to everyone and offering two roundtrip tickets as the compensation package.

But just before they paid JetBlue a pricey one-way walk-up fare to get back home, a Spirit representative agreed to rebook the family on another flight.

The rep gave us no option — he just booked us a flight back home on another carrier.

We made it clear that we were getting the short end of the stick and preferred to just book our own ticket with another airline and take the compensation package like everyone else.

We were quite upset, so he stated he would get us a round trip ticket each for everything we had gone through.

We asked for something in writing, since at this point we didn’t believe anything that this airline told us. He said he could not provide us anything in writing and we had to run to catch the flight he just booked for us.

Once they returned to Florida, she called about the two free roundtrip tickets. Turns out there were no tickets, just two $50 travel vouchers. And there was no refund.

“Basically, they lied to us again and we had no recourse and nothing in writing,” she says.

I suggested getting something in writing and recommended she send a brief, polite email to the airline asking it to honor its oral agreement with her family.

Here’s its response:

Our mission is to operate as closely to our flight schedules as possible. We certainly make a concerted effort to operate on time and when we do not, it is because all efforts to do so have been exhausted.

We can certainly understand your frustration and recognize the inconvenience this can cause to travel plans. At times, airlines need to make changes because of weather patterns, mechanical issues, better organization for the passengers, and overall safety.

I am sorry the delay and cancellation of your December 27, 2011 Boston flight was inconvenient for you and your family. Please note the safety of our valued passengers and crew members is our priority. When we make a decision to ground a flight, it is done with careful consideration.

Spirit also links to its contract of carriage, the legal agreement between the airline and its customers, presumably as a way of saying: We followed our own rules.

It’s obviously a form letter. But if you spend a little time on Spirit’s site, you’ll see that the carry-on charge is legit (immoral, perhaps, but it’s clearly disclosed). And if you accept the airline’s return flight — even if you don’t want to — it owes you nothing. So the $50 vouchers were more than Spirit had to pay Ismail.

If Spirit owed her anything, it was a more thorough explanation of why she had to pay for her carry-on item even though a phone agent assured her she didn’t have to. And we can thank her for helping the rest of us understand that if Spirit promises you anything, get it in writing.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • y_p_w

    I think it’s safe to say that Spirit is the one airline that anyone booking a flight has to be aware of their almost unique status of nickeling and diming for everything – including charging for carry-on luggage.

  • djp98374

    I am surprised they havent charged for use of oxygen yet……

  • djp98374
  • LeeAnneClark

    SHHH!!! Don’t give them any ideas.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    I don’t get it. When a flight is cancelled, doesn’t the airline have to re-book you? Or were they giving people the option of 1) we rebook you or 2) refund + free flight? Perhaps it was only Option 2 if Option 1 wasn’t available. The OP’s return travel experience sucked (however doesn’t seem she has any reason for disputing the carry-on charge). Not sure what she wants in compensation, though. Doesn’t look like Spirit is willing to offer her Option 2.

    Lesson 1: If you don’t like the nickel-and-dime approach, don’t book Spirit.
    Lesson 2: Children always cost more money.

    Question, though: What should one do if an agent / hotel clerk / tour service provider refuses to put their promise in writing?

  • Simon De Lao

    It is Spirit Airlines – leading the race to the bottom with all the legacy carriers close behind. Why do you even bother answering the complaint letters regarding Spirit? I blame the people who buy tickets on them as much as I blame Spirit for the dismal state of customer service industry wide. 

  • $16635417

    I’m a bit confused about the carry on charge. As Chris noted, the charge is clearly disclosed on the website. Did the OP misunderstand the difference between a personal item (free) and a carry on (not free)? It is also clearly noted that an infant diaper bag, stroller, food, etc. are not counted toward your allowance. So what exactly was the $38 for? Is it possible that the adult’s personal items were too big to be a personal item and were really carry ons?

  • TonyA_says

    I just read Spirit’s LONG menu of fees. While I can understand why no one wants to pay them; the fees are very clear. People here can badmouth Spirit all they want. But if you look at the numbers, Spirit’s filling up their planes well. That tells me that many Americans will fly Spirit because they are cheap regardless of those stupid fees, their lousy call center in India, and their apparent lack of customer service.  They are like Walmart. We go there to buy something we consider CHEAP and we do NOT EXPECT CUSTOMER SERVICE. There are many other ways to get from FLL to BOS. If anyone nowadays flies Spirit DESPITE ITS REPUTATION, then you get what you deserve.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I voted no. While customer service in the airline world generally sucks, it sucks even more with Spirit. 

    That said, the OP’s story about the airline offering everyone compensation but insisting she take the other flight makes no sense. UNLESS…the other people were headed to different destinations and wouldn’t make it there? Meaning…they had a connection and the OP did not?! Perhaps that is the reason? 

    Bottom line:You fly a cut rate airline, you get cut rate service.How is this so difficult to understand?

    Why anyone gives this circus of an airline their business, I have no idea. Charging for a carry-on is the lowest of the low. Soon, they’ll have quarter slots on the potties.

  • TonyA_says

     Price a ticket from Chicago to Las Vegas. Here, I’ll do it for you.

    **  MONEYSAVER  FARES  ** LOADED 05APR 06:55EDT/05APR 10:55GMT
      US TAXES VARY                                               
              * SEG/PFC/FUEL CHARGES MAY APPLY                    
     LN A/L  F.B.C.  USD   OW       RT    EFF     LTK   AP MIN/MAX
      1 NK   R7Z6NR      23.00    46.00  8MAR12    –    ##  – / – 
      2 NK   T7Z6NR      45.00    90.00  8MAR12    –    ##  – / – 
      3 NK   V7Z6NR      58.00   116.00  8MAR12    –    ##  – / – 
      4 NK   K3Z6NR      88.00   176.00  8MAR12    –    ##  – / – 
      5 DL  #TR07A0SN            202.00 17APR12    –    ##  – / 30
      6 US  #EXAUNL6P   122.00   244.00  2APR12    –    ##  – / – 
      7 UA   KA14KN     142.00   284.00  2APR12    –    ##  – / – 
      8 UA   TA14KN     142.00   284.00  2APR12    –    ##  – / – 

    $23 before tax one-way, 7-day advanced purchase. You think United (hubbed in Chicago) would be anywhere close? UA is $142 before tax for a 14-day advanced purchase (one way).

    A carryon for Spirit costs $30 online, $40 at airport. So what? Your total cost won’t even be close to what the others will charge just for the ticket.

  • TonyA_says

    Chris, do you ever take into account how cheap Spirit’s fare is? Take for example FLL-BOS.

    **  MONEYSAVER  FARES  ** LOADED 05APR 06:55EDT/05APR 10:55GMT
      US TAXES VARY                                               
              * SEG/PFC/FUEL CHARGES MAY APPLY                    
     LN A/L  F.B.C.  USD   OW       RT    EFF     LTK   AP MIN/MAX
      1 NK   R21Z6NR     27.00    54.00  8MAR12    –    ##  – / – 
      2 NK   T14Z6NR     51.00   102.00 28MAR12    –    ##  – / – 
      3 NK   V7Z6NR      62.00   124.00  8MAR12    –    ##  – / – 
      4 DL  #TA14A0SP   104.00   208.00  1JUN12    –    ##  – / – 
      5 AA  #OA14EQP1   104.00   208.00  1JUN12    –    ##  – / – 
      6 B6   UH14QE2U   104.00   208.00  1JUN12    –    ##  – / – 
      7 DL  #TA10A0SA   105.00   210.00 13APR12  5APR12 ##  – / – 
      8 DL  #TA10R2SA   105.00   210.00 13APR12  5APR12 ##  – / – 

    $27 each way before tax for a 21-day advanced purchase. Delta, American, and Jet Blue are $104, by comparison. So roundtrip, if they fly the other 3, it could potentially cost them $154 more per pax (before tax). Note the tax is proportional to the fare (7.5%) so the savings with Spirit can even be more.

    We are arguing over a $38 baggage fee of some sort while saving more than $308 on the husband and wife’s fare before tax. Pretty absurd if you ask me.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Tony, where can I get one of those cool fare displays? ;-)

  • TonyA_says

     GDS :-)

  • Raven_Altosk

    I agree, but only when people accept those terms and don’t whine about them later. This case involves a woman whining because she had to pay a bag fee, which is clearly disclosed in Spirit’s website. The website also says infant care bags are allowed on free of charge. My guess? She tried to bring the diaper bag and a rollaboard claiming it was for “infant care.”

    So…while Spirit may be the Flea Mart of airlines, people can’t go into the Flea Mart and expect that Gucci bag to be real. ;)

    Bottom line: She got what she paid for and now has buyer’s remorse.

  • Bob

    What I don’t quite get is why she flew Spirit in the first place. It she took 5 minutes to read about Spirit, even if only on their own website (to see the carry-on fee), she would see that it probably wouldn’t be the airline for her, considering that she had an 11-month old child with her.
    My guess is that she ignored everything about the flight but the price when she bought it.
    Also, typical compensation for cancellations is either a refund + voucher OR rebooking on another airline + a voucher if significantly delayed. Besides, the $50 was probably most of what a round trip ticket would cost anyways.

  • Bob M

    I don’t know why people book on this airline, and I really don’t feel sorry for anyone that has problems, when there are so many good airlines to choose from, you get what you paid for with Spirit, lousy who cares attitude and service. As far as them outsourcing there call center, wish they would outsource there entire airline to some other country and just go away. Hopefully someday they will fail and disappear.

  • sirwired

    No.  They don’t have to re-book you.  They have the option to do so, but the only thing they are actually required to do is to book you on the next Spirit flight OR issue you a money (not voucher) refund, and leave you on your own.  (Free flight vouchers are never required.)

    I’m actually surprised that Spirit rebooked the passenger on another airline; that’s not real common with “low-fare” airlines.  Southwest, Allegiant, etc. would not have done so.

    Really, given how awful Spirit is, I would have gladly taken the free rebook on another airline… if she had taken Spirit up on their original offer, she would have ended up spending far more than her refund on a new flight, and she’d be “stuck” with vouchers for free flights on an airline she hates.

  • sirwired

    What I can’t figure out is why she is so upset about not getting the original compensation package.

    Last-second one-way fares are REALLY expensive, and it would have more than “eaten” her one-way Spirit refund.  On top of that, she’d be stuck with two round-trip tickets on an airline she clearly does not like.  I would have gladly taken the offer of re-booking on another airline at Spirit’s expense.  (Actually, I’m surprised they offered to do so.)

  • emanon256

    Wow, I never realized how inexpensive Spirit was, so she was even saving money after paying the carry-on fee.  As I’ve said before, the cheap comes out expensive. But I think in this case it was still cheap.
    Oh, and Chris, Allegiant also charges Cary On fees now, so Spirit is not the only airline to do so.
    I am actually pleasantly surprised that Spirit was willing to re-book her on an alternate carrier.  I have always heard horror stores about LCCs not rebooking people over a cancellation and making them wait days sometimes for the next flight on their airline.  That is the #1 reason I avoid them.  I think the re-booking is far better deal than paying the walkup fare and getting a free ticket later on Spirit.  As far as employees making empty promises, that has always been a pet peeve of mine.  But I still think she got the better deal by not having to pay a walkup fare.  She could have easily paid $1,000 for to get home, her refund and future free flights would have been less based on the fares tony posted, so she saved money, got home, and got vouchers anyway, which are almost enough for a free R/T ticket pre-fees.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Really? This is news to me. So they can simply refund the low price travelers paid by booking far in advance and force them to buy a new ticket at a walk-up price? What happened to the good old days when they’d automatically try to get you out on the next flight, no matter with which airline? Wow. Glad I’m based in Asia now…

  • Steve_in_WI

    I agree with everything you said, but would argue that even a cut-rate airline should not be allowed to promise something verbally and then refuse to provide it. That to me is the only issue here. (I think charging for carry-on bags is ridiculous, but the fee is applied to everyone so the fact that she was traveling with an infant is irrelevant here).

    I don’t doubt that the Spirit rep (who, in fairness, is probably just as mistreated by the company as their passengers) saw an opportunity to get her out of his line quickly by promising free tickets that he knew she’d never get.

  • cjr001

    The “good old days” were lobotomized some time ago.

  • cjr001

    I wonder if one can put a dollar amount on how badly Spirit treats their customers? It’s generally worse than even the likes of the legacy carriers.

  • sirwired

    Yes, I’m pretty sure the contract of every airline (including Asian carriers) do not obligate them to book you on another airline for anything but being bumped.  They are only obligated to give you a choice between the next flight on their own airline, or a refund for unused flight segments.

    Now, as a matter of good business, most of the “legacy” carriers sometimes will book you on another airline (depending on circumstances), and they generally have agreements with other carriers allowing them to “write” your ticket over to the other airline for such situations.

    The low-fare carriers, such as Southwest, Spirit, and Allegiant, have no such agreements; if you get booked on another airline, they pay out the same price you would.

    Most passengers choose the “next flight on the same carrier option.”  On, say, Southwest, this wouldn’t be so bad; you’d generally be on your way in an hour or two.  (Or after an overnight stay if it’s late.)  On Spirit or Allegiant, they often have routes that days may pass between flights.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    And if it entails an overnight, are you on your own or do they put you up? (You can tell I haven’t traveled in the States for a while…)

  • severnwatcher

    Agreed, seems like a no-brainer and something beyond generous for an airline noted for scalping pax with fees.  It’s a wonder the other pax didn’t riot to get the same deal!

  • Charlie Funk

    Choosing any two of the three elements involved in a transaction – speed, quality, and price – excludes the third.

  • Charles Owen

    These are not the real fares. With the awful “$9 club” you can actually get that “fare” for $25.22 each way. The total price for that flight is then $198 round trip (not including the $9 club membership fee). Without buying that membership, the same flights are $300 round trip. That GDS fare does not include the fuel charge, which is over twice the fare, and what Spirit now calls the “government’s cut”. Delta the same day is $382 round trip. So, Spirit is cheaper, but if you have any luggage at all, carry-on or otherwise, the difference is negligible. The irrational perception that you will save $308 is what is absurd.

  • TonyA_says

    Whining about the return flight is pretty bogus, too.

    Spirit Air has one non-stop flight from BOS-FLL. It is scheduled to depart BOS around 635PM. It is important to understand that this is one of the last flights on that route.

    If you look at its flight history, NK615 had a major delay last 29DEC. Instead of departing at 635PM, it flew out of BOS at 10:21PM – a more or less 4 hour delay. Note: I could not find any other day close to 27DEC where NK615 had a major delay so I will assume the day of the “disaster” return flight was on 29DEC.

    Ok so let’s follow the OP’s story:

    When I arrived at the airport I was told the flight was delayed three
    hours. Hours and hours went by and we were left in the dark not knowing
    what was going to happen. Finally, they told us the flight had been
    canceled and that they were issuing refunds to everyone and offering two
    roundtrip tickets as the compensation package.
    The rep gave us no option — he just booked us a flight back home on another carrier.

    We made it clear that we were getting the short end of the stick and
    preferred to just book our own ticket with another airline and take the
    compensation package like everyone else.

    We were quite upset, so he stated he would get us a round trip ticket each for everything we had gone through.

    All right, suppose the OP arrived at the airport an hour before the flight at around 530PM; could he have taken any other flight out of there? According to flightstats that might not have been possible.

    The last JetBlue flight (B6 973) departed at 629PM. Should I believe the OP’s story of a refund (considering how cheap his Spirit fare would have been), and expect him to coast over the JetBlue counter and buy a walk-up ticket less than one hour before the flight?
    The cheapest one-way fare would have been $330 (before tax) on H-class (and that is assuming seats were available). I doubt he would have bought that.

    Sometimes, stories here are really hard to understand (or believe) especially if you cannot get enough corroborating data.

  • $16635417

    I’ve flown Spirit. I was prepared for the fees and only traveled with a backpack that fit under my seat. I had a movie to watch on my ipod. I had a bottle of water that I purchased once past security. I had my own snacks. I did not pay for a seat assignment, I let them choose for me..a middle…no surprise there. I paid a cheap fare and had very low expectations…and they met those expectations. 

  • Elizabeth Smith

    The policy about paying for carry-ons is available online, in writing. Spirit rebooked the family at no charge and gave them $50 vouchers. I’m struggling with what Spirit did wrong besides be the airline that they are, and one that I will NEVER fly.

  • Joe Farrell

    It looks like it is cheaper to:

    Buy your infant a seat than be charged for them as a carry on.
    Buy the carry on a seat at $23 instead of $40

    Spirit is a small airline so if thy have any aircraft or problems you are screwed. In fact, if you fly Spirit, it seems pretty much you are screwed from a service perspective.

  • TonyA_says

    Disclosure: I do NOT sell Spirit Air, period

    Ok to demonstrate this, let’s pick a date, let’s say 05MAY-12MAY FLL-BOS roundtrip.

    Cheapest NONSTOP tickets are:
    Spirit Air $247.60
    Jet Blue $389.60

    Savings per pax: $142, for 2 pax $284.
    This is pretty close to just comparing RAW fares.
    $284 in savings is not irrational and these are not those club fares. These are PUBLISHED fares.
    Luggage charges is another thing, ok! Jet Blue has one free luggage and carryon is free.

    Data below:

     1 NK 610R 05MAY SA FLLBOS SS1   845A 1201P/O P
     2 NK 615R 12MAY SA BOSFLL SS1   645P  954P/O P

    TICKET     BASE USD                TX/FEE USD       TKT TTL USD
     ADT01       210.22                     37.38            247.60
    *TTL         210.22                     37.38            247.60
    ADT FLL NK BOS Q57.67Q22.32 25.12NK FLL Q57.67Q22.32 25.12USD
       210.22END NK ZPFLLBOS XT5.00AY9.00XF FLL4.5BOS4.5
     TX 15.78US 7.60ZP 5.00AY 9.00XF

     1 B6 968L 05MAY SA FLLBOS SS1   800A 1113A/O $ E
     2 B6 973V 12MAY SA BOSFLL SS1   520P  839P/O $ E
    TICKET     BASE USD                TX/FEE USD       TKT TTL USD
     ADT01       342.33                     47.27            389.60
    *TTL         342.33                     47.27            389.60
    ADT FLL B6 BOS185.12B6 FLL157.21USD342.33END B6 ZPFLLBOS XT
       5.00AY9.00XF FLL4.5BOS4.5
     TX 25.67US 7.60ZP 5.00AY 9.00XF

     B6 FLLBOS  1PC
     B6 BOSFLL  1PC

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “Its transgressions against her, her husband, and 11-month old included overcharging her for her carry-on luggage abandoning her in Boston and making promises it never intended to keep.”

    I can’t believe I’m going to stand up for the airline, but I don’t see how the OP came out all that badly. 

    They weren’t “overcharged” for her carry-on as far as I can see, a customer service rep just gave them the wrong information. I’m not defending that mistake, but that’s not the same thing as overcharging and the carry-on charges weren’t exactly a secret in the first place.

    I’m rather baffled by why they’re upset about the rebooking. They’re hung up on the free tickets that they didn’t receive, but I think they’d have come out behind financially by paying for their own way home even if they’d gotten free tix out of Spirit. Sometimes “free” isn’t free, and this was one of those times.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I’m confused by the article saying she was “overcharged” for the carry-on. That doesn’t appear to be the case. She was given misinformation about whether there was a charge for carry-ons, but that is different from being overcharged.

  • TonyA_says

    Believe me, today people will vote with their pocketbooks more than ever. The first thing out of the mouth of a casual caller (not a repeat customer) is “Can you beat this so-and-so fare I found in the internet?”  Wow, go figure.

    There is no point “educating” the broad population about how horrible these LCCs are suppose to be. A lot of people in the 99% expect to be treated ‘accordingly’. Their expectations are a lot, lot lower than the folks complaining here.

    As for me, I book my family on Southwest and JetBlue first. If they don’t have a seat available, then it’s a toss up between DL/AA/UA. Note we are just outside NYC so we don’t get those West Coast carriers.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I’m really confused by their being hung up on those “free” Spirit tickets. Spirit is dirt cheap to begin with and the walk-up price they’d have paid to get them home on another carrier would have been huge. They’d have come out behind on the deal. I’d be celebrating the rebooking rather than crying about it.

  • TonyA_says

    I agree. LCCs rarely have interline agreements and their tickets are NON-ENDORSEABLE.

  • TonyA_says

    From the flighstats or flightaware data, it does not look like it was really cancelled; just delayed about 4 hours. Sometimes the terms CANCELLED and DELAYED is confusing.

  • TonyA_says

    That sounds like Delta’s Basic Economy, the new UNBUNDLED fare! :)

  • TonyA_says

    We all need to stop bashing Spirit and forcing it to be a high class airline that it does not claim to be. Let’s bash the so-called high class airlines and take them down to the level of Spirit. Have a nice day.

  • Audrey Strong

    Rule 240 immediately please. 

  • TonyA_says

    Be careful what you ask for. Outsourcing the WHOLE USA is exactly what the 1% want to do. Maybe I need to move to India or the Philippines to do my job. See ya there.

  • TonyA_says

    I agree 100%. If they took the so-called FREE tickets, they would still be in Boston for the night or the weekend (on their own dime) since they might not have enough money to buy a walk-up fare (easily $330 plus tax on JetBlue). Some of the cheaper fares still need at least 7 days advance purchase. They would have been a FOOL to accept those Spirit vouchers.

    The OP and family should be counting their blessings instead of whining. They got home about 4 hours late.

    PS. To everyone, pls don’t send me hate mail. :)
    I hate having to defend Spirit Air.

  • TonyA_says

     For Spirit that means your departure will be 240 minutes late. :-)

  • TonyA_says

    Perhaps the reason why they were going to REFUND the ticket was because it is cheaper to refund rather than to pay accommodations and fly you the next morning. These guys are smarter than we give them credit for.

    BOS ain’t a cheap place.

  • TonyA_says

    Emanon, a real smart flyer will try to think through the what-ifs. I know you do; that’s why you stick it out with UA.

    For FLL-BOS R/T, one is playing with fire with Spirit since it has only ONE non-stop both ways. Jet Blue has at least 4 non-stops and a number of connecting flights if you still need them. For those traveling w/ kids and those what need to be at work the next day, getting the B6 tickets for this route makes a lot of sense.

    So people should consider the backup alternatives when they go for those dirt cheap fares. They might get burned badly.

  • Charles Owen

    You’re comparing non-stop only, which is not a very fair comparison, since I can’t see that anyone other than Spirit and Jetblue fly that route non-stop. I can fly the same route and day via American for $246.20 with one stop and they won’t charge me for a carry-on bag. I can fly Delta for $270 with one stop and I’ll even get to check a bag for free, since I have the Amex card. 

    How about we try somewhere where nonstop is an alternative on other airlines. Detroit (Spirit Hub!) to Orlando, 5/19 to 5/26 (Spirit was sold out on your dates). Nonstop.

    AirTran: $248
    Delta: $258
    Spirit: $270

    The reason to fly Spirit is to save money. American will be cheaper on your route, with the inconvenience of a stopover. Given the problems many have with Spirit, why would you be so concerned about non-stop? Face it, if you fly Spirit BOS-FLL, you are doing so because you want a non-stop flight, not because you are saving money.

    I’m cheap. I’ve flown Spirit several times before. But, it’s not that often that it really is cheaper, even discounting the stupid extra fees, and I usually fly out of Detroit. This idea that it’s so much cheaper is a myth.

  • TonyA_says

    Are you traveling with a lap child?
    The OP was and I assume that (non stop) was a big factor to them.

  • $16635417

    I looked at the fees and could not come up with a $38 figure for carry on fees. Could it be the fees have changed?

  • Charles Owen

    We bash Spirit because it deserves to be bashed. A simple rule of “you must post what you actually will charge” almost completely destroyed their advertising paradigm. Only they and Allegiant charge for carry-on bags. Like others, my experience has been mixed: sometimes it’s fine, other times long, long delays and screw-ups. Their customer service reputation is probably lower than any other airline (and most other companies in general). 

    And you want to bring the other airlines down to their level?

  • Charles Owen

    Amazing how the argument is entirely about price until it isn’t. I was refuting your argument that Spirit is hundreds of dollars cheaper. If it was, I would be flying it a lot more. It’s not.

    Okay, I’ll give you this: If you are flying the BOS-FLL route with a lap child and don’t mind the massive inconvenience, Spirit Airlines is a great deal! For everyone else, not so much…

  • ExplorationTravMag

    While the OP was treated shabbily (really?  They cancelled the flight and left the travelers stranded and on their own?) I think what bugs me more than anything is:

    Anyone who travels knows Spirit sucks at what they do.  Not only do they suck, they couldn’t care less they suck.  People won’t come to sites such as this one to LEARN Spirit sucks, but they sure come running when they don’t get what they feel they paid for.

    After all the horror stories on here about Spirit (and a couple other companies online) I have a list of places I won’t give my business to…

    I think you nailed it, Chris, when you said, “Spirit turned her down after reviewing her case, and my involvement isn’t likely to overturn its decision.”

    For so long as people continue to buy tickets on this substandard airline, Spirit will continue to not give two figs for problems like this.

  • TonyA_says

    @google-0a2eba20314e13b364fe1e7b7108e13f:disqus  Here is another example, let’s say someone from Chicago wants to go to Vegas tomorrow and come back Sunday.

    Please note I am displaying actual GDS ticket-able prices and flights.
    This is not from a bogus cached internet site.

    Spirit $498.57
    UA $1051.60

    YOU might not like Spirit but their airplanes ARE FULL.
    It’s just a matter of taste. Cheers :-)

     1 NK 357Y 06APR FR ORDLAS SS1  1135A  135P/O P
     2 NK 246K 08APR SU LASORD SS1   920A  250P/O P

    * NONREF/NONTRANS/VALID NK                               
    TICKET     BASE USD                TX/FEE USD       TKT TTL USD
     ADT01       443.69                     54.88            498.57
    *TTL         443.69                     54.88            498.57

    ADT CHI NK LAS Q57.67Q22.32Q18.60Q9.30 146.05NK CHI Q57.67Q
        22.32Q18.60Q9.30 81.86USD443.69END NK ZPORDLAS XT5.00AY
        9.00XF ORD4.5LAS4.5
     TX 33.28US 7.60ZP 5.00AY 9.00XF


     1 UA 517U 06APR FR ORDLAS SS1   846A 1045A/O $ E
     2 UA 684U 08APR SU LASORD SS1   749A  129P/O $ E

    * /-REFUNDABLE-/                                         
    TICKET     BASE USD                TX/FEE USD       TKT TTL USD
     ADT01       958.15                     93.45           1051.60
    *TTL         958.15                     93.45           1051.60

    ADT CHI UA LAS Q9.30 460.47UA CHI Q27.91 460.47USD958.15END UA
        ZPORDLAS XT5.00AY9.00XF ORD4.5LAS4.5
     TX 71.85US 7.60ZP 5.00AY 9.00XF


  • TonyA_says

    Go ahead and price the FLL-BOS yourself. Why are you using DTW? Good Luck.

    Consider this – do you actually believe they can fool ALL Americans ALL OF THE TIME. Nah.

    They must have Fare Managers checking to see that their total prices are very competitive or they will cease to exist.

  • TonyA_says

    Charles, aren’t you a member of their $9 club or have their credit card? There must be a reason that SOMETIMES you use them; and you know what to expect. Spirit never really tells us that they are like the classic carriers. In fact, they make it a point to come out as a smart-ass carrier IMO. That’s their niche.

  • Charles Owen

    You sure are a fan of unusual situations. First, BOS-FLL and only non-stop will do. Now, ORD-LAS last minute. Yep, Spirit manages to be much cheaper if you cherry pick specific circumstances. 

    Okay, there are clearly some routes they appear to be much cheaper on. But, the general idea that they are always (or even usually) cheaper is nonsense. And, if they are already flying full, how come you can buy a cheap ticket with one day notice on a Friday in April for Vegas? I’ve flown Spirit before because they were the cheapest even factoring in the fee nonsense. I just point out that it’s rare that they actually are cheaper for routes I fly and I live near their hub.

    I’ve never had a problem buying any ticket I have found on at the price quoted, though I have sometimes found them cheaper. It’s not “bogus”. It’s just a search engine that searches other sites. It will then send me to or where I can buy the ticket at that price. If more people used sites like I’ll bet more would realize that Spirit is not always the great deal their marketing claims.

    I’m dropping out of this discussion now. I’m sure Elliott is getting tired of hearing this and it’s getting off topic a bit.

  • Emanuel Levy

    As much as I dislike Spirit’s policy of charging for everything they are the first airline I look at. I live in Ocean County NJ and prefer to fly out of ACY. It’s easier to get to than EWR but my only option out of ACY is Spirit

  • SoBeSparky

    So you want the cheap.  In the race to the bottom, you get the bottom.  

    Never surprises someone wants full service, including accurate domestic telephone support, at a price too-good-to-be-true.  Well, that is exactly what it was.

  • TonyA_says

    Mike, the only $38 in their chart is:
    Airport Counter/Kiosk purchase – First Checked Bag.

    Here’s what I think happened. Note the CARRYON FEE is $40. So to save $2 they checked the bag instead.

    That’s how PRICE SENSITIVE this customer is.

  • emanon256

    If an airline has 1 flight a day on the route I am going to fly, I try to avoid it at all costs.  Often it’s unavoidable for international flights, but I rarely if ever go international any more.  I also typically try to avoid LCCs, but in the OPs case I would have taken B9 because of the volume of flights.  I know too many people who were stranded for days due to LCC cancellations and them not re-accommodating on alternate carriers.
    My experience with DL, US, and UA was that in the event of a cancelation they would always re-route me on an alternate carrier.  Not sure how UA will do that now with SHARES, but I know they will try.  They have always done this, even when I didn’t have status.  UA even put Mrs. Emanon on a DL/FL connection through ATL once and she has no status.  DL has put me on AA.  UA has put me on F9.  US has put me on UA, I have no status there.  DL put me on UA back when I had no status with DL.  I really think the legacies are the best for re-accommodations. NW once put me in CO in F when they canceled a regional jet flight. I had no status then either.  I am really trying to stick it out with UA, but it has been hard.

  • Lindabator

    Only the legacy carriers did (and can still do) that.  The low-cost carriers have no such ticketing agreements.

  • emanon256

    How can anyone take them seriously with ads like this?

  • Lindabator

    ARGH!  What a nightmare THAT is going to be – the 1st 4 FL destinations are being booked from DTW – so now I have to re-educate all my clients about NOT BOOKIBNG CHEAP!!!

  • Lindabator

    Yes, they’ve gone up again.

  • Lindabator

    And their fees have changed again, and are now higher than they used to be.  I think I do remember them still only being $38 for carryons if booked last year.  But sheesh!  Fees are fees – look online!

  • Lindabator

    I’m shocked they paid another airline to transfer her ticket over – they do NOT have ticketing agreements, and have NEVEr seen this happen before – instead of complaining, she should be grateful they could accommodate her so well.

  • Lindabator

    ONLY with the legacy carriers – the low cost carriers do NOT have ticketing agreements, and are not required to.  When a flight is cancelled, they are only required to get you out on the next available flight on THEM, or to refund you.  Legacy carriers are not required to do more either, but choose to as their business model.

  • Raven_Altosk

    They are trying to appeal to the Wal-Mart demographic.
    (For some awesome mullets)

  • Lindabator

    And SHE may be the cause of the misunderstanding – they DO allow carryons free of charge, PROVIDED they fit under the seat in front of you (so even a small backpack works).  She obviously heard what she wanted and moved on – I know, it happens to me every day!  :)

  • Raven_Altosk

    I can’t wait to read the sob-story letters sent to Chris about how Delta was soooooo mean to a single parent/elderly couple on a fixed income/family on a dream vacation/parent with special needs child/etc.


  • Christina Conte

    Easy solution to all future Spirit Airline problems:  boycott the airline so they go under. Facebook already has a page. This is THE worst airline in the history of mankind-I have experienced it firsthand. Horrible airline run by horrible management.

  • Lindabator

    Good point – if you don’t like no frills, DON’T BOOK no frills.  (HHmm – seems like the legacy carriers are jumping on that bandwagon though, too!)

  • TonyA_says

    That is the advantage of the larger classic carriers – they have INTERLINE agreements and they will ENDORSE you to another carrier (since you have elite status or pity you).

    What I learned from the top guy (founder) of FedEx when I worked there is every airline has a SYSTEM FORM. The classic carriers almost always will use some kind of hub and spoke. We, as travelers, are pretty much bound to that reality (points or nodes served by your airline). You can build up some reliability by increasing flight frequencies (note the multiple flights airlines have into/from their hubs) so you can always try to catch the next flight (but beware of the last flight problem). Some airlines also are quite good in where they strategically position their spares and crews (if you know this, you can play it to your advantage).

    People think they have a LOT of choices, when in reality (if they sit down and think) they don’t have much unless they live near hub airports that have multiple players. People really need to start getting serious about BACKUP plans since so many flights have been cut (due to the bad economy). With load factors in the high 80s, unless you have ELITE status in an airline, the chances of getting reaccommodated is getting slimmer and slimmer.

    Even for International this is applicable. This is the reason why I fly Cathay Pacific. They have 4x daily from JFK-HKG (3 nonstop, 1 via YVR). From HKG they have many inter-Asia flights. Also HKG is an excellent place to get stranded. Food is superb and foreigners (expats) are accepted most everywhere.

    For most folks, using the Star Alliance makes a lot of sense since they have many airline partners to re-reroute with. You just have to pick the city where you prefer to get stranded. It’s usually AMS/CDG for Skyteam, LHR/MAD for OneWorld or FRA/MUC for StarAlliance.

    For Asia, NRT/ICN for Skyteam, HKG for OneWorld and SIN/NRT for Star. Note that EVA will join Star soon so add TPE for them.

    Have a great Easter everyone.

  • Lindabator

    But even if they HAD a rule 240 in their contract of carriage (and they do NOT), it only states that the airlines will move you to the next available flight out, either on the same airline, or another if need be, at no additional cost to the passenger.  Since the low-cost carriers DO NOT have a ticketing agreement with other airlines, they offer no such rule in their CoC.  SO – the fact that Spirit DID re-accommodate her on another airline, means they actually went above and beyond.  So the princess needs to suck it up! 

  • Lindabator

    I think he is referring to the $9 club fares in this case as bogus.  He is only showing you an example WHY people flock to NK in droves – you don’t have to like it, just accept the fact.

  • TonyA_says

    Bro, that dog will hunt! Like x 1000.

  • TonyA_says

    Spirit Airlines Reports February 2012 Traffic
    Miramar, Florida (March 12, 2012) – Spirit Airlines (NASDAQ: SAVE) today reported its preliminary traffic results for February 2012 and year-to-date 2012.

    Traffic (revenue passenger miles) in February 2012 increased 25.4 percent versus February 2011 on a capacity (available seat miles) increase of 21.5 percent. Load factor for February 2012 was 85.1 percent, an increase of 2.7 points as compared to February 2011.

    Year-to-Date total flight segment 1,462,529. 27.1% up from last year.

    Christina, there really can’t be that many suckers in the USA, can there? These numbers don’t lie.

  • Lindabator

    You know it!  Counting down the days!

  • judyserienagy

    I’ve always wondered how on earth a passenger is supposed to “get it in writing” during a snafu.  It would seem impossible unless you had 3 hours to track down someone with the airline at the airport with authority.  I can’t imagine a gate agent putting anything in writing!  I think we all should be tutored on how to accomplish this seemingly-impossible task.

  • Christina Conte

    In response to your question:  YES!

  • TonyA_says

    Thank you Charles. I was beginning to lose my hate for Spirit Air. I have never flown them and hope I never have to. Since I live (near) HPN/LGA/JFK/EWR then maybe hell will freeze over before I need these buffoons.

  • Tygar

    Simple remedy….QUIT FLYING SPIRIT!  They will soon change their tune.

    Money talks & they want yours.  Don’t fly & they will either get with it or fold.

    Payback people it’s the only way; don’t get mad, get even!

  • bodega3

    Chris, not sure if you are joking or not, but this is what agents see and what you don’t see online.  We have it all in one place.  There isn’t a better tool for booking air! And an added benefit for clients is that it is regulated where the internet isn’t. We see everything, online shoppers don’t.

  • TonyA_says

    I am waiting for the day when your reservation and fare is “Off the Record” :-)
    No really, the desk/gate agent can’t put anything in writing. The COCs say no one is authorized say, do, write anything not in the COC. That said, you are correct questioning this advise. Either you get re-routed (or ticket reissued) and/or get CASH and disappear. That’s my advise.

  • MikeInCtown

    Tony, I have to agree with the above. I tried to price Spirit out of the closest airports to me and they weren’t that much cheaper, if at all over the Continental/AA prices or even AirTran. Also, their cheapest published rates apparently are only for a select flight on that day. if you want to travel at a different time you pay the outrageous fuel charge. Perhaps I am not as well versed on the art of pricing, as I just took one set of dates that I might travel. (a month and a half out)

  • bodega3

    Spirit doesn’t give two figs, as you worded it, because of the way their business is set up and it is all stated on their website.  Sadly, DIY’ers don’t delve into all this, as all they see is the price, then state, who reads all those rules?  Just yesterday a British man stated that here on Chris’ site.  The internet is a a great tool for researching but these type of people don’t feel it is their responsiblity to know their rights should something happen so they don’t read the important stuff and come to Chris for help instead. 

  • MikeInCtown

    So many good airlines… LMAO, I guess when you compare them to Spirit maybe. When you compare them to most other businesses.. Not so good.

  • bodega3

    And that is an important point.  There was a choice, but they picked the lowest priced ticket on a carrier that has a different business model.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Totally kidding. I spent two long years as an editor at Travel Weekly. I had better know what that display is!

  • MikeInCtown

    Camera phone. they all record video and audio now. if people can sit there and take video and photos of TSA patdowns, then they can take a video of an airline employee promising vouchers.

  • y_p_w

    Not sure about that.  There’s always “plausible deniability”.

    I remember listening to some program about a police officer who was accused of some brutal beating of someone.  A photographer supposedly had a picture of the officer, and he was surrounded by many of his fellow officers. When there were inquiries made, the police department would only stonewall.  Apparently none of the fellow officers would identify their compatriot (or give up his name) as the guy who performed the beating even though it was pretty obvious it was him.

  • TonyA_says

    Mike, to be honest with you, I was SHOCKED myself.

    I don’t sell NK but one day a close friend called me asking for advise on the CHEAPEST ticket from ORD to LAS. So I went to my GDS and started the search. I could not believe what I saw. Spirit won no matter how much I tried to make them lose.

    I think I understand their strategy – how they pick their fights.

    They are a SURVIVOR. They know exactly what crowd they are going for. They cherry pick the routes and the opportune flight schedules.

    I give them an “A” for their cunningness, an “F” for wickedness.

    There is a niche market for their wares.

    Everyone’s perception of quality and value is different.

    Remember, they don’t have to win ALL the time, they just have to win SOME of the time.

  • TonyA_says

    Now that’s the SPIRIT :-)

  • TonyA_says

    Joe said “Remember they are SMALL airline”.
    Exactly. All Spirit has to do is fill up whatever small number of flights they have to make money. There will be a section of American society that will buy them. The numbers tell me that section is growing about 25% per year. I would not be the least surprised if the OP buys from them again in the future. Perhaps that’s the reason they were so keen on getting a bigger voucher.

  • ndally

    I voted “No” because these people booked through Sprit in the first place, they should have know better, they obviously do now.   This is by far the worst airline flying in the US.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t start charging for using the Jetway, or the toilets, or a wear and tear charge on the seats!

    Personally…I’d rather walk than take Spirit!

  • $16635417

    So…speculating…that one of the “personal items” was probably too big to fit under the seat and therefore subject to the “carry on” fee. 

  • bodega3

    I think you are confusing lowest published fare in a market vs lowest fare AVAILABLE when you are checking for your travel dates.  Two very different things.

  • DavidYoung2

    If you book on Spirit, you’re making a deal with the devil.  That’s why I never, ever, under any circumstances, fly Spirit.  Enough said.

  • TonyA_says

    mike, yes that’s what the OP basically said happened.
    I just don’t know WHEN they discovered this – on the plane or while checking in. (I don’t fly Spirit.)
    But I noticed it wasn’t an issue on the way back. Did they UPS the bag?

  • bodega3

    Are you quoting published fares or pricing something from availability.  Spirit is the lowest in a market but depending on when you are looking for a ticket will depend on what is available and that affects the price.  The lowest fare on Spirit may be sold out so the next highest, or the next, etc, is what will price.  You have to know what you are seeing to know what you are saying!

  • bodega3

    Again, what are you saying?  Were the publishe fares different or were you just shopping for the lowest price for certain days?  It does make a difference in the discussion.

  • davidglass

    I believe Ms. Ismail is owed 2 round-trip tickets on Spirit Airlines. That is what the consumer was offered by an agent representing Spirit to compensate the family for the delay and eventual cancellation of the Spirit flight. As Spirit refuses to live up to its end of the oral agreement, the best way for Ms. Ismail to proceed at this point is to file a lawsuit in small claims and let a judge determine who is owed what. Should Spirit fail to show up for the court date, Ms. Ismail would take a default judgment and proceed to enforce the judgment by having the local Sheriff accompany her to the airport and impound any and all Spirit assets for sale to satisfy the judgment. Spirit will quickly change its tune and pay Ms. Ismail what she is owed.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    question is, who’s lying or who’s lying the most.

    I wouldn’t have given her the $50 vouchers.

    You choose to travel on one of the busiest days of the year.

    Everyone knows that the US airport system can’t handle busy days like this & you whinge about a few hours delay.

    Infant is irrelevant.

  • flutiefan

    and if they truly waited “hours and hours”, there would be no JetBlue flight to reaccom them on….

  • Joe Farrell

    You have not flown PeoplExpress, Ryanair or Air China . . . or pretty much ANY airline in Africa . . . 

  • Cyn2

     NRT for oneworld as well, with JL/AA/BA/CX and more all flying in/through there.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Just saw something in my Inbox yesterday – AirAsia (a low-cost carrier based in Malaysia) is offering insurance for monetary compensation if your flight is delayed more than 2 hours…

  • TonyA_says

    yeah i forgot about AA/JL in Narita and Haneda. But I haven’t been able to get cheap seats from them for a long time, that’s why.

  • TonyA_says

    Charles is correct in pointing out that Spirit does have some surcharges most of the time. You can expect about 80 bucks to be added to the base fare as Q surcharges. So I autopriced a “random” itinerary to be able to compare fares. That said they are not gonna fool anyone since people compare total prices.

  • TonyA_says

    I finally read the Spirit COC regarding carryons.

    One (1) carry-on bag is permitted in the aircraft cabin.

    Spirit Airlines customers may bring one (1) carry-on bag plus one (1) personal item (such as a purse, briefcase, laptop computer, backpack, musical instrument, or duty free item) on board.

    The carry-on bag must fit in the overhead bin and the personal item under your seat. Carry-on bag dimensions may not exceed 22 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches (55.9cm x 45.7cm x 25.4cm). Note Spirit currently charges $40 for a carry-on.

    Fees apply for personal items that exceed the dimensions of 16 inches by 14 inches by 12 inches (40.6cm x 35.6cm x 30.5 cm). All baggage fees are nonrefundable and may be paid in advance or at the airport.

    The following items are not counted as carry-on items: … infant bag …  or food for consumption on board the flight. She probably misunderstood this to mean she could take a [larger] bag.

    Spirit may require that a carry-on be checked as baggage if the item cannot be safely stowed or if it doesn’t comply with Spirit’s baggage policies. Excess items will be charged according to checked baggage fees. Maybe each adult already had a carry-on bag and the lap child does not have a paid seat and is not entitled to a carry-on bag. So they had to check in the 3rd bag for $38.

  • TonyA_says

    I would like to add that the only reason why this really does not affect Southwest and JetBlue (despite not being a legacy carrier) is that they have so many (frequent) flights on each point-to-point route that they rarely need any other airline to help out. Their high flight frequency (redundancy) adds to reliability.

  • TonyA_says

    David, I understand those “free” flight vouchers are almost worthless. No point fighting. Either Spirit gets you home or you get CASH when bumped. Don’t bother with anything else with this airline.

  • Carver Clark Farrow II

    One minor data point. I bought a ticket from LAX to LAS for a friend.  The final price was $36.  That’s was the lowest price by almost half that I found.

  • Nikki

    lol – so, Spirit is our Ryanair?

  • bodega3

    There are two points: the fare and the ticket price.  You don’t see what we see.  We can pull up the list of published fares in a market and I have yet to find this anywhere on online.  All you are seeing is the price for a ticket for specific dates you put into the pricing screen.  We know which carriers offer a fare in that market, the class of service needed to book it and the rules.  You only see a price for the specific date you entered.  So an online shopper will say, United has the lowest fare, that may not be correct, as all that person is seeing is what is available based on what that website decides to provide for sale.  Fares and availability are two different data points as you call them. 

  • Crissy

    Spirit was legally correct, but they still treated the passenger badly, and did the wrong thing.  

    I flew them once on a 1 way flight.  It was the only non-stop flight on my route for a short trip (was driving home with family), I didn’t have luggage and bought water in the airport.  It was totally fine, the seats were cramped, even for me who is only 5 feet tall, but the Flight Attendants were very nice, one of the better FA experiences I have had.  Would I fly them again?  Probably only under similar circumstances as the 1 time I did.  You get what you pay for, and that makes me scared with Spirit.

  • paul shields

    Last summer I was on a flight from IAH to SMF and there two friends travailing together and there flight with Frontier was canceled and Frontier put them on a direct flight with Continental (Last flight out of the day). You have to also realize that Southwest has many ways to get you to your destination because of the way they work, but if its the last flight of the day for them and another airline is making the same trip after them then to save them money they would most likely put you on that flight.

  • jim6555

    Spirit is the number ne airline on my personal no-fly list. The only way that I would board one of their aircraft is if someone put a gun to my head and threatened to kill me if I didn’t board.