Should airlines waive their change fees for military families?

Joyce Marrero /
Joyce Marrero /
Pam Brys’ son, Thomas, is an Aviation Maintenance
Administrationman 2nd Class, stationed on the USS Nimitz. After being deployed to Syria for more than a year, Thomas’ ship received orders to return to the States on a different date than expected.

When the ship stops in San Diego, the families of the sailors will get to join their loved ones until it docks in Everett, Washington. Come January, Petty Officer Brys will be heading to Japan to serve three years of land duty.

Pam Brys and her family had already purchased their airline tickets to San Diego, but now they needed to change the dates. No problem, right? After all, Brys is serving his country, and airlines are pretty lenient about waiving their rules for military.

Just to be sure, Thomas’ Commanding Officer, Captain J.E. Green of the USS Nimitz, composed a letter on United States Navy letterhead asking for a fee waiver and explaining the change in travel arrangements.

Greetings from the mighty warship Nimitz.

Due to recent international events and national level tasking, the Nimitz Strike Group has been extended on its current deployment.

I am requesting you consider providing a full refund or allow the service member [to] modify their previous travel arrangements to meet our new scheduled timeline.

Brys wasn’t asking for a refund. She just wanted to change the ticket dates without penalty. After all, Frontier, United, and Alaska Airlines had all waived fees for their customers who faced the exact same problem.

Except for one thing. Brys had booked her tickets on Spirit Airlines.

Her efforts to persuade the airline to bend its rules were met with a form rejection:

We sincerely appreciate the service that your son, as with the entire military, provides to our country. However, regretfully, we are unable to waive our modification fees.

Please understand, this decision is not based on lack of compassion, but rather that consistency in the enforcement of our policies is the only way to be fair to all of our customers.

That means some of the Brys family, possibly even Pam, will be unable to make the trip to see Thomas between his deployments. With a change fee plus the difference in ticket, the ticket change will be impractical.

This is hardly the first time Spirit Airlines has failed to help members of the military. But somehow, the rejections don’t get any easier to take.

Should Spirit Airlines waive these modification fees? Or are they within their right to pursue every penny they can get?

Would you consider it unfair if these charges were waived in this situation?

Should airlines waive their change fees for military families?

View Results

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Joshua Floyd is the managing editor for advocacy for this site. You can reach him at

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The question of whether its fair to give a courtesy to a passenger is a nonstarter for me. A business is perfectly free to take less of a customer’s money. I don’t see how other customers have any moral or ethical grounds to complain.

    As far as waiving fees for the military, I am happy to pay a little extra in my ticket to make up for any lost revenue resulting from military travel.

  • BillCCC

    In this case yes. When a deployment changes due to circumstances beyond the family’s control.

  • sirwired

    Normally, I answer a resounding “no” to these questions. But I’ll make an exception for needed changes to reunite a military family.

    That said… Yeah, not surprised this is Spirit we are talking about. The only way to get any kind of waiver out of them is to die.

  • Jim

    And sometimes even dying won’t get a waiver from Spirit!

  • Jim

    Why was I not surprised when I heard the name of the airline? I live 10 mins from an airport where Spirit flys non-stop to many cities, but I will drive over an hour in major city traffic to fly ANY other airline.

    If Spirit was a hotel chain, they would be one of those run down little motels that advertise they have rooms by the hour.

    Any airline that advertises the price of fuel as part of the price of the ticket on their website should be avoided at all costs.

    And normally, as someone else posted, I don’t agree with waiving change fees, but it’s a military family so have a little compassion. But I am sure those scumbags at Spirit will do nothing and love the free publicity if this was made into a major story.

  • Alan Gore

    The only advice we can give the OP in particular on this one is, “You should have booked Southwest.” They wouldn’t have even had to beg for an exception.

    But in general, it’s a policy issue. Start a social media blitz on the theme of “Spirit hates our troops.” These have a history of effecting change fast.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Spirit is the bottom feeding of bottom feeding airlines. Unfortunately, the only thing it responds to is heaps of bad press. Remember when it refused to refund a ticket for a veteran who was gravely ill? Only when it hit the mainstream media did Spirit back down and donate a measly $5K to a veteran’s charity as its own brand of self-penance.

    So, to get this lousy company to do the right thing, start a social media storm and then they might listen.

    Normally I say, “non-refundable means non-refundable.” However, in the instance of military servicemen and women, I believe flexibility and common sense should prevail.

  • Tommy Fallows

    Screw Ben and all of Spirit’s employees. My Uncle was an Admiral in the Canadian Navy, my Cousin commanded a Canadian destroyer in the First Persian Gulf War. Love, admiration, and respect to all of the heroic servicemen and women of our 2 great nations. Anyone who thinks otherwise, I will be happy not to patronize your bottom-feeder companies.

  • GNRMatt

    …and with this, I still don’t understand why anyone flies Spirit. Once you add in all their fees, it is rarely or only slightly cheaper than other airlines.

  • Pam Brys

    One thing to clarify, My son was not in Syria for a year, this is where they were released from to finally come home. This being said. I am absolutely sick about where this has come. I finally gave in and changed the dates and paid their charges because they have no “waver” in place, for my husband and other son who will join the ship in San Diego, and continue on the ship with my son for what is called “Tiger Cruise”, to WA. What was going to be such an exciting time for our family has now turned into something that just makes me so sad, and feeling utterly defeated. I now know, that
    Spirit airlines, really has no “Spirit” at all, and has crushed mine!

  • Raven_Altosk

    Start a social media campaign. Take your story to facebook, twitter, etc. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing this horrid company listens to–public shaming.

  • EvilEmpryss

    I’m a disabled vet, so I understand firsthand what changes to orders can do to disrupt family plans. That said, I think people need to remember that being in the military is a job like any other. This is no different from a businessman having his company change his travel arrangements.

    It is always nice when a business gives us special consideration in the form of discounts or special allowances, but it isn’t something people should expect just because they chose the military for a career. That is just another kind of elitist attitude that doesn’t need to be encouraged. I’ve actually seen servicemembers publicly berate managers for not offering military discounts. So military members risk their lives for our country–so do police and firefighters, but you don’t hear people raising uproars over the lack of discounts for them. I see a lot of people comment on this site about “whiners” who buy nonrefundable/nonchangeable tickets and then demand special accommodation because of their personal issues. Make the person a military family member and suddenly everyone thinks the business is heartless for not making accommodations.

    Now this doesn’t stop people from choosing to patronize other businesses, but that is what capitalism is all about. Just don’t try to make it a moral issue.

  • Pam Brys

    One thing to clarify, My son was not in Syria for a year, this is where they were released from to finally come home. This being said. I am absolutely sick about where this has come. I finally gave in and changed the dates and paid their charges because they have no “waver” in place, for my husband and other son who will join the ship in San Diego, and continue on the ship with my son for what is called “Tiger Cruise”, to WA. What was going to be such an exciting time for our family has now turned into something that just makes me so sad, and feeling utterly defeated. I now know, that
    Spirit airlines, really has no “Spirit” at all, and has crushed mine!

    Pam Brys

  • Grant Ritchie

    This is about much more than Spirit gouging the Brys family in order for them to be able to see Thomas between his deployments. It’s a matter of Spirit going out of their way to screw the family out of a rare opportunity to take a “Tiger” cruise with Thomas. A Tiger cruise is when the Navy allows a sailor’s family to actually come aboard and sail with him on his ship (In this case, from San Diego to Everett). It’s a rare opportunity that I only had once in my eight years in the Navy, and a very special thing. My Navy son and I had had a falling out when his Tiger cruise came around, so this Navy dad didn’t get an invite. I’ll regret that for the rest of my life. Spirit… you stink.

  • Fishplate

    How did Spirit “go out of their way”? This sounds like business as usual for them.

    My only advice is to make this as publicly widespread as possible. You might keep someone else from making the mistake of buying a ticket on Spirit.

  • Grant Ritchie

    I’ll do my part. Bastards.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I would hope that if a fireman or policeman had to miss a trip because he/she were suddenly called to duty because of unexpected public emergency that the travel companies would have some compassion.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Not quite the same thing. As a rule, cops and firefighters get to spend their careers in the same place. Not so our military. They go when and where they’re told. Salute smartly and charge up the hill. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for Americans and American businesses to make some sort of allowances for people like that.

  • EvilEmpryss

    Ask? Sure. Get all bent out of shape if they say no? No, that’s wrong. It’s an all-volunteer force. Every person in the military chose that lifestyle. To demand special privileges because of it is just wrong.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    To demand special privileges because of it is just wrong

    You realize that’s a moral judgment as well. We make all the time. I think its “just wrong” to enforce the change fee on military families. Accordingly, if I were thinking about flying Spirit, I would have to reconsider.

  • SoBeSparky

    Of course they should. Many military families are subsisting on food stamps.

    When people write in to Christopher about airline service problems, they could get a form response, “You could have been flying on Spirit.” That comparison should quell some common complaints.

  • bodega3

    I sell airline tickets. I am not wanting to sound harsh, but my first question to you is, Why did you pick Spirit? Cost? They are very well known for their policies and are firm in standing behind them. Not a good carrier to even consider IMHO. This type of delay with the military happens a lot and the first thing to consider in purchasing an airline ticket is to have flexibility in changes. Southwest would be the first carrier to consider but not knowing your departure city, I understand that WN might not be an option. I haven’t seen Spirit bend rules due to being shamed, yet. On one hand, I admire that, on the other, I don’t!

  • bodega3

    Has public shaming ever worked with Spirit? They are pretty firm on their policies. If you book based on price with a company like this that has strict policies, then why should they bend? Do I think they should, of course, but my sense is they won’t. They have enough suckers, er, passengers who will line up to fly them.

  • Justin

    Fair and legal aren’t one in the same. Life isn’t fair. The airline is within it’s legal right to “discriminate within the confines of the law and corporate policies”.

    Are the actions of Spirit likely to generate bad press? – Too Late.
    Does Spirit’s hardline approach win accolades? – Very Unlikely.
    Does Spirit’s refusal to help Military Members come with a potential backlash? – Probably

    Can anyone FORCE Spirit to bend over backwards – Nope.

    Caveat Emptor. There’s more to picking a product than selecting the cheapest price. I sympathize, but I doubt the families have recourse.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    I think there’s a difference between military dependents and the rest of the family. If Spirit wants to charge their change fee to the parents in this situation, that’s their business. And to respond to a comment in a previous post, I do not want to pay more for my ticket to subsidize mom and dad going to meet the ship.

  • John Baker

    I’m a vet and I’m sorry the the Brys are going to miss this event but I really don’t see this as any different than any other I want a refund for a non-refundable ticket case.

    During my time in the Army, I went through multiple non-combat deployments. On everyone of them, we told our soldiers that their return date was based on the needs of the Army and could move drastically at any point. Having talked with other vets, this is a fairly standard spiel across every service. Furthermore, based on the write up, it doesn’t sound like this was a last second weather change.

    Given all of that, why would you choose Spirit, the “we don’t care about our customers airline”, to make your flight arrangements? Just based on the fact that the deployment could change drastically at any point, why wouldn’t you wait until the last minute to purchase your ticket or purchase a ticket from an airline like Southwest that is much more flexible with changes.

    It would have been nice for Spirit to grant a waiver but this in no way is their fault. She can be upset at herself for making a poor airline choice or the Navy for changing the deployment but this is one of the few cases where I’m actually ok with Spirit’s actions

  • bodega3

    But this is a request for servicemen and women, but for their family. Many carriers do offer military rates for those with proper ID’s.

  • Alan Gore

    One thing to keep in mind is that when you head for San Diego tou have Amtrak as an option, from the east AND from the north. Those tickets are changeable.

  • Annie M

    I agree. We will be posting this story on our Facebook travel agency page. All if us should forward this story to their local news staru

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why are we talking about what’s legal? I don’t see where that’s part of the conversation. I don’t thinbk anyone is suggesting that Spirit has violated any laws or contract provisions.

  • LFH0

    Indeed, it may well be legal for a carrier to take this position. The real question is whether or not this business, Spirit Airlines, supports those individuals who provide service to our country. As I read it, Spirit Airlines does not support this country. Its actions suggest that it would provide aid and comfort for our enemies if it made a dollar for them.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I think the next time one of Spirit’s planes needs to make an emergency landing, the US military should say, “We’re sorry. Regulations state that civilian aircraft are prohibited from landing on military runways. However, for a fee of $100,000, in advance, we will allow your plane to land here.”

  • Justin

    Being that you’re a lawyer Carver, the differences between a “Legal” and “Moral” obligation are substantial.

    Spirit has no Legal obligation to provide “Good Customer Service”. While “Feel Good” stories generate positive press, Spirit opts for the alternative.

    A hardline approach. Kind? No. Legal. Yes.

    Why “Legal”? Well Spirit’s actions are centered upon legal versus moral. Apparently, they care less, but are within their legal right to care less.

  • frostysnowman

    I didn’t vote, because I don’t think airlines should charge anyone change fees for anyone.

  • Justin

    No. Spirit does not care. Bank elsewhere if “Support Your Troops Mantra” dictates spending habits.

  • Miami510

    If I were an active duty military family, I’d spread the word about such disregard of common, patriotic decency and use terms like, “Remember to Fly Bad Spirit,” or “Sprit Airlines, may the evil force be with you.”

    I also think the Military Air Transport offices, when making travel arrangments for military personnel on domestic carriers, should make free changes for military families under such circumstances a requisite to get government business.

  • bodega3

    They didn’t until past passengers took advantage of that benefit.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Spirit Airlines. “We’re not satisfied, until you’re not satisfied”.

  • $16635417

    Two words: It’s Spirit.

  • bodega3

    Spirit has never said they were anything but what they offer. Some, but not all carriers do have very lenient military fares. There are military travel agencies that active duty can work with, but they do have options. These parents, unless a special arrangement was make through a military agency for this event, had to book with regular scheduled carriers.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Yes, I know the difference. My point is only that the conversation had not gone in that direction prior. No one has suggested that Spirit was under any legal obligation in this matter. Thus, your original post seems odd.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    You know, I agree that Spirit was a poor choice. It was probably the cheapest option for this family. I have no idea whether the Brys family is on food stamps or on Wall Street, so I can’t say that they *should* have done this or *should* have done that. I don’t manage the family’s finances. I do know that airfares get to be pretty darn expensive if you wait to the last minute – and Southwest’s fares are among the highest when you wait that long. My personal experience is that Southwest’s fares are more than a legacy carrier’s, including change fees, when you wait that long.

    I also agree that it would have been nice for Spirit to have granted a waiver, but I’m *not* okay with their actions. If the captain of the Nimitz writes to the airline, this isn’t the standard “I bought a nonrefundable ticket but I changed my mind” kind of lame excuse.

    BTW, thank you for your service. Sounds kind of trite and formulaic, but I do want you to know that I appreciate it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If you’re not a frequent traveler, Spirit is just one of many airlines. Their policies are known to some. I did personally had never heard of Spirit until a read about them on a travel board.

  • polexia_rogue

    how about this: DO NOT USE SPRINT AIRLINES

    as i said in former posts i am a veteran- so i understand how hard it is to get a cheap flight. but i also have seen “you get what you pay for.” (when cheapoair sent me on 4 different airlines).

    as the article says “After all, Frontier, United, and Alaska Airlines had all waived fees for their customers who faced the exact same problem.”- next time pull together a little more money and go with a more legitimate airline.

    I am posting this as a reply to your post because i LOVE the quote

    “If Spirit was a hotel chain, they would be one of those run down little motels that advertise they have rooms by the hour.”

    and yet some bargain hunter would still complain- “I paid a whole 30 dollars for this room! I expect it to look beautiful, with amazing customer service!” lol

  • bodega3

    The issues passengers have had with Spirit are easily found online. If you aren’t a seasoned flyer, then use a travel agent who can advise you of the options and pitfalls of the carriers. Just as the saying goes, ignorance is no excuse….especially now with the internet!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I agree that it’s tacky for people to demand special discounts when they’re not established. I do have to mention that the police chief and his deputies in my town always eat free, not just on Veteran’s Day, though. :)

    I don’t have your perspective as a vet, disabled or not. But maybe I feel it’s a moral issue because I didn’t choose a career path as you did that directly served my country, and it’s my way of compensating? Don’t know, but I think it’s reprehensible to screw over those who serve and those who serve those who serve, back at home.

    As I said to John Baker, thank you for your service. Such phrases always seem rather trivial, but I do mean it.

  • Justin

    The reason I broached the subject is Chris, You, I, and the blogosphere can chastise Spirit Airlines to death. Unfortunately, history has shown Spirit’s actions are unlikely to change necessitating a “legal outlook”.

    Spirit Airlines might be Wrong (Morally Bankrupt), but right (Legally). So, finger waggling means nothing to an Airline with a history of hardline approaches.

    Spirit will brush this coverage off the same as past coverage.
    Therefore, I say Caveat Emptor. I sympathize for the family, but a little homework, saves a lot of headaches. Cheap tickets come at a high price. The inability to make modifications, because the chosen carrier doesn’t bend rules.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Still seems irrelevant to this conversation as no one, not the OP, Chris, or anyone else has suggested that Spirit is wrong legally.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s where we’ll have to agree to disagree. I don’t think that a simple domestic A to B transaction requires a travel agent. I don’t think that it is reasonable to expect someone to research every organization that they make simple transactions with. Sure its easy to say in hindsight or we are in that industry, but I think that expectation is unreasonable.

  • y_p_w

    I haven’t heard of a case where a civilian aircraft made an emergency landing on a military base, with the exception of shared runways like HNL/Hickam Field. Perhaps emergency landings without clearance.

  • Justin

    Everyone is thankful of your son’s scarifies and the efforts put forth by your family to remain close.

    However, shopping on price is often ill advised. Some of the best deals morph into the largest headaches. Might I suggest doing a little homework in the future?

  • Justin

    ” I don’t think that it is reasonable to expect someone to research every organization that they make simple transactions with.”

    Depends upon how much money is being spent. If I’m making a purchase of any substantial nature (few hundred dollars or more), I spend a few minutes researching.

    Let’s say you are buying a treadmill, computer, or household item. Do you not “Google” reviews to find out which items are the better bang for the buck? Which item has a reliable track record and Customer Service?

    So if the Op is dropping a few thousands (family) on airline tickets, why not spend a few moments researching?

  • Justin

    Ok. So we’re in concurrence Legalities are an afterthought.

    So we’re left with waggling our finger at Spirit Airlines, a corporation without a heart, and a history for failing to bend rules.

    How are these actions the least bit fulfilling. Talk is cheap, especially for an airline that has weathered similar reports before

  • y_p_w

    Spirit? They’ve got a track record. Their low fares and onerous policies go hand in hand. That’s what you get when you choose them or other transportation companies like MegaBus.

    It may not be nice, but I have no issue with their policies as long as they’re fair. And they’ve at the least thought of this enough to have well thought out form letter.

  • bodega3

    We will have to disagree. Simple transactions often get screwed up when the purchaser doesn’t know what they are doing or makes assumptions. That is the danger of the internet if the purchaser doesn’t do their homework. Who is to blame? The carrier?

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yes, they finally relented on not refunding that very ill veteran’s ticket when social media picked it up.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    When was the last time you researched an airline?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    What other options are there?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The purchaser didn’t screw up. Circumstances changed.

  • bodega3

    Again, I disagree. I have handled travel for service personnel and their families and orders get changed, ships get detained. When you are traveling, you need to think ahead of what could happen and how you would handle those changes. I would never have sold her a ticket on Spirit.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m curious. To whom would you sell a ticket on Spirit?

  • Justin

    Pick another airline and vote with the wallet? If people are truly disgusted, the option to shop elsewhere exists.

    Talk is cheap and given the choice, consumers overlook bad behavior for the right price. Profess outrage, but cheap tickets sell.

  • Justin

    No clue. Given the option of flying or driving, I take driving. Though in the past 4-5 years, I’ve flown more than at any time in my life.

    Worst airline in my books – AirTran. Nothing like being stranded 8 hours in Atlanta. Plane arrived 10 minutes before connecting flight left. AirTran sent connecting flight out the gate early (sold off seats). 8 Hours later and several crews (kept getting turned down on crews wanting to take flight), we departed.

    U.S. Airways doesn’t win a prize either, but I’ll travel with them again.

    Best Airline? – Delta seeing Continental is dead.

  • mythsayer

    First of all – and this is totally picky – but the Nimitz hasn’t been gone for “over a year”, and it wasn’t in Syria all that long either. It’s true that they are late getting home, but it hasn’t been a year. My friend’s husband is on the Nimitz.

    That being said: what kind of military family books on Spirit to begin with? We (i.e. we the military families) know to book on Alaska Airlines, as it is VERY military friendly, and Southwest.

    Although, since these are his parents, then I guess I understand why they don’t know about the unspoken rule about booking Alaska or Southwest and maybe Alaska isn’t available to them.

    Which brings me to….. since it’s his parents. I don’t see a reason Spirit should change the ticket for free. It would be nice if it happened, but most companies simply doesn’t consider parents part of the military member’s “family”. Sad, but true, unfortunately.

    Nevertheless, it would be nice if Spirit would have a little compassion as these people may not see their son while he’s in Japan (I know plenty of people who didn’t see their families for years when I was there).

    HOWEVER, you simply CANNOT make reservations for anything until you have solid word about something. And if you MUST make them, you do it knowing you’re taking a risk or you do it on Southwest. That’s it.

    I sort of feel like they should have known better. So I’m torn. On the one hand, I think, having lived this life for awhile, these people planned TOO far ahead. On the other hand, I think the change fees are ridiculous in general.

    Edit: I edited because I saw Pam Brys’ comments below that clarified they were meeting for the tiger cruise. So that part makes sense, but I still think the tickets were probably purchased too early. You just can’t trust the military to do anything on time. Ever.

    As another edit: Pam, if you read this, PLEASE do go visit your son in Japan. It’s amazing and totally worth it.

  • bodega3

    Nobody. I actually lost a group booking because I refused to deal with Spirit. Not worth it.

  • Carchar

    I just went to Spirit Airlines’ Facebook page for the first time and all I see are negative comments from fliers. Now I can’t believe that a site has so many trolls…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    You misunderstand my question. I’m probably never flying Spirit, so voting with my wallet isn’t an option. Talk is the only weapon that I have. Letting other’s know what kind of airline Spirit is.

    Not all consumers overlook bad behavior. There are some companies that I refuse to deal with regardless. Companies which morally offend me. I doubt I’m the only one.

  • y_p_w

    Well – I’ll be taking Spirit for the first time ever this Thanksgiving. They had the absolute lowest price but I warned my wife about what I knew about them. However, I’m actually happy that they don’t make exceptions. This is world where the cost of making exceptions gets spread around.

    Still – I somewhat like their policy of charging for carry-on. Fighting about carry-on space brings the worst in many people. We’ll just check in one large bag.

  • Justin

    Understood. One Mr. Carver Farrow will not patronize Spirit Airlines. Spirit Airlines has overcome your one man boycott by remaining in business. Giving credence that value still trumps customer service and morals.

    Enough people fly with Spirit Airlines to allow for a successful business model. Spirit is far from unique, as the budget industry often lacks an effective service model.

    So what we have are four subsets of people:

    1) Value shoppers who care only about price.
    2) More discerning shoppers wanting service, but still enamored by price.
    3) Customers who rather spend more and are put off by budget companies
    4) A Demographic that never intends to patronize budget organizations

    You fall into #3 and #4. You might spend with Spirit if the service were better, but probably have the economic means to pick and choose. Lucky you. Enough 1’s and 2’s exist to make Spirit succeed.

    P.S. I’ve never used nor intend to use Spirit.

  • omgstfualready

    I think the insult on top of injury is saying they are unable to make the change. at least be honest and say you are unwilling to do it. I’m typically a poster who says you bought your ticket you knew your fare restrictions deal with it, but this is different and this is very disappointing.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Lets’ avoid class warfare and stick on topic. Let’s also not make random and unsupported assumptions. You glean much from my one comment about not patronizing Spirit.

    You see, I actually try to answer the questions posed, rather than go off into the aether. Yes, I really do hate useless sarcasm in posts but am restraining myself so that the conversation can be advanced.

    Onto the topic at hand.

    So we’re left with waggling our finger at Spirit Airlines, a corporation without a heart, and a history for failing to bend rules.

    How are these actions the least bit fulfilling. Talk is cheap,

    My point is that talk is not cheap. When a company, industry, country gets enough bad press, it can have an economic impact. Think about smoking, apartheid, asbestos, etc. All have been radically changed by people talking.

  • andrelot

    It is difficult to asses this issue without antagonizing the several groups, all well-deserving on their own, that usually chime in, but I’ll try.

    Are military service more straining and stressing on families than average, without being some extremely well-paid gig? Absolutely. Do particularities of military service make it harder for families to plan in advance so that they can book in advance and avoid expensive last-minute tickets? Yes.

    However, so are other professions, like wilderness firefighters, a large chunk of foreign diplomatic service, many workers of organizations involved in disaster assistance (from FEMA to Red Cross) etc.

    If we look at the larger picture, we could come with dozens of reasonable common situations that would ring the bells of airline corporate compassion or “just common sense”, like stories that often are portrayed here: sudden disease of a next-of-kind, sudden change of job schedules through no fault or control of your own, unforeseen last-minute delays that make you miss flights etc.

    While I do not sanction absolutely ruthless policies, I can also understand, from a managerial point, why airlines (and many other businesses) have become more stringent on the travel and leisure industry: competition is fierce, most people are only looking for the absolute lowest fare on their screen, exceptions and latitude on policies quickly get spread around on FlyertTalk so that any leeway is immediately leveraged by those who need and and those who want just an edge etc.

    Yet, I think there is a simple way airlines, hotels, cruises could earn a lot of goodwill: allow costumers to re-sell their tickets and reservations they cannot use on the airline/hotel/cruise line website, at a price set by the airline, thus they can get back money if they their seat can be resold to someone else – while avoiding scalping that would emerge from a “transferable ticketing” policy.

  • Bill___A

    I think the point is that one should not deal with Spirit Airlines as we know they are not good to deal with. I am quite sure I shall never fly them. Even now, if my preferred airline is a few dollars more, I fly it.

  • Justin

    Apples to Oranges comparisons Carver.

    Smoking and asbestos are issues of health and public safety.
    Apartheid is a social matter.

    Spirit Airlines actions are neither a topic of health and public safety nor a social concern. I’ve yet to read Spirit Airlines’ track record endangering passengers. Their viewpoints might be unpopular, but they’re far from a social matter.

    So a few public dissenters are unlikely to have an economic impact on the airline. Issues raised are ones that affected millions. Comparative to Spirit, plenty of bargain hunters exist whom care less about anything more than price and arriving safely.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It doesn’t sounds like Spirit is a good fit for me, but I have friends who have used Spirit regularly without incident and are happy with the savings.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Distinctions without differences. Citing differences without explaining why those differences matter is unpersuasive.

    The point is that as people talk, corporate policies and culture can change. The underlying issue doesn’t matter. The point that I was making, perhaps too subtly, is that talking affects policy in many diverse places such as public health issues, social issues, etc.

    It was people talking that caused companies to change corporate culture on everything from divestment in South Africa, to sending money to Ethiopia, to making smoke free workplaces,(even before the law required it).

    It’s one of the reasons some believe why companies “reconsider” their position when Chris gets involved. Its because he has a following, and they don’t want people talking. You never know when a few public dissenters turns into not so few public dissenters.

    Does it always work. No, of course not. But if 100% success were the standard, then we’d all be immobilized.

  • Bill___A

    Well, I’m glad they are happy with the savings and it works for them. I guess that’s what will keep Spirit in business. I have been treated quite acceptably well by the airlines I fly, so I expect to continue with the choices I’ve made.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    me too

  • Justin


    Your stance was crystal clear, but distinctions were lacking. Ultimately, while Chris and other journalist command a following, the likelihood of sparking a revolt against Spirit or similar budget companies is nil.

    Overlooked are the issues raised were global concerns, directly or indirectly. Unsatisfactory human rights records (China’s sweatshops, South Africa apartheid, India’s caste system, etc) spark international outrage. Companies involving themselves in the most deplorable conditions face backlash.

    Abestos and smoking have negative health affects, Public health is at risk and people don’t like getting sick.

    The theme here Carver is a central rallying cry. Chris can raise awareness, but there’s always a market for CHEAP. People are less likely to act for fear of changing the status quo and harming their own bottom line.

    Regulating these bargain basement companies beyond the minimum has the potential for creating higher costs. Negating their business model and passing the costs onto consumers. Disagree as you will, but consumers overlook bad behavior for price.

    Spirit’s behavior has faced public scrutiny before, and Spirit et al. still come out on top. Talk is cheap without action.

  • BMG4ME

    Yes, as they should for all people that give service for their country and communities.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The issues raised were global concerns, merely because they were the low hanging fruit, creating a baseline for discussion. So I think we agree that talking works in some cases.

    So lets look at cases not of global or moral concerns. Cell phone cancellation fees. People got fed up with the fact that the cancellation fee remained constant whether the customer cancelled in month 1 or month 23. Now cell phone cancellation fees are prorated. I don’t know if its law or corporate policy. But either way, it was people talking

    Cable service. People got fed up with cable companies giving 4-8 hour windows. Who has time to stay home all day. (Comcast discussion boards were vicious back then). As a result, the window has been reduced to 2-4 hours ( I don’t remember which) Simple talking – hardly a global or even national concern.

    I agree that there is a market for cheap. That’s indisputable. It’s also irrelevant. The question for the corporate bean counter is maximizing revenue. Which policy or policies will maximize revenue. Sometimes a corporate will determine that a rehabilitation of its reputation will maximize revenue.

    I give you Motel 6. In my area at least, they have the reputation of being a haven for drugs, prostitution, and booty calls. They are decided to work with local law enforcement to rehabilitate that image. Enough people talked badly about Motel 6 that they felt that it impacted the bottom line, though there’s always a market for ultracheap.

  • Justin

    Ok so now we’re focused upon Corporate Image and corporate image is a mixed bag.

    The cable and cell phone industries have barely reformed their actions. Early termination fees are rampant and cable companies are notorious for late arrivals. Regulation is comparative to airline oversight. Nonexistent and determined by droves of lobbyists.

    Customer complaints are alive and well Carver.

    Moving on to Motel 6 and their notorious sleazebag, roach motel, reputation. I assure you the reputation is alive and well. The words HELL NO come into play, if offered a free night.

    There’s more to reputation than word of mouth. Spirit Airline has tarnished image for being apathetic and unwavering. Media coverage, upset travelers, and even Mr. Elliott have failed to persuade an image makeover.
    Even the most astute bean counters (accountants) worrying about bottom line will shy from changes until necessary. I think you generously overlook customer tolerance for bargains.

    We now live in the exemplification of a throw away society. I.E. Tv Repairmen (Long gone). Americans rather buy new, throw away old, under the guise of bargain hunting.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The discusion has always been about corporate image. That’s why talking works. It can have a direct impact on corporate image, a valuable commodity. Its why Google and Apple can pull the same crap as Microsoft and not get lamblasted. Their corporate image is far superior.

    True, there is nothing that Motel 6 and its ilk can do to remediate the image to me. However, I may not be the target demographics. There are plenty of folks who just want a clean place to sleep. I suspect Motel 6 is trying for that clientele.

    I’m not convinced that Spirit’s image is tarnished to its target demographics. I suspect that few on this site fly Spririt regularly. (Or will admit to it). People who fly regularly, enjoy travel, etc, such as the participants here are probably not Sprit’s major clientele. Certainly not if they use Bodega’s travel agent services.

    I get the impression that their demographics are infrequent fliers who want to get from “A” to “B” and are very price sensitive. Thus Spirit can trick them with its “gotcha” fees.

    Not that the throw away rant is particular relevant to the discussion, but throwaway makes sense if the cost to repair the old item is greater than the cost of purchasing new, why repair. That’s just dollars and cents. I purchased my first stereo my freshman year in college. It was expensive. It was cheaper to fix it than get a new one. Fast forward 20+ years, many items, especially in electronics are expensive to fix old technology. My DVD player broke. The cost to repair was greater than purchasing a new Blue-Ray Player. The rational choice was to ditch the old DVD player.

  • jpp42

    It does happen occassionally – but the premise is ludicrous. If it’s a true emergency, no one would stop any flight from landing right away on a military airfield, regardless of how much you may hate the company. The passengers (and even crew) on that plane don’t need to be subjected to increased risk in such a scenario; they didn’t make the company’s anti-change policies. The US military, or anyone in an official/government capacity, must have the character to rise above such pettiness.

  • Bill___A

    Although I sympathize and respect those in the military, there are a lot of other unsung heroes in our society as well. Maybe there should be certain reasons by which change fees are waived. Changed orders or military leave could be one of them. I’m sure there should be more on the list too.

  • Justin

    Which begs to differ on why some companies can get away with murder while others are scathed by the slightest scandal.
    Life isn’t fair and I guess numerous factors come into play: Timing, perception, customer expectations, image, and a damn good legal team (nudge nudge).
    So we come full circle to my original thesis – four levels of shoppers. Demographic. You and I are unlikely Motel 6’s demographic or Sprit’s.
    Then again, I did fly Ryanair in Europe (Cattle Call Airline). Though oddly enough, Ryanair’s level of service surpasses some of our best.

    Clear aircraft, friendly staff, etc. Just everything is A La Carte. Drinks, Food, etc. Almost like you’re on the home shopping network. They even try to hawk junk from their Sky magazines!
    Price factors into tolerance. I tolerated it, because the price was right and service was acceptable.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    My suspicion, and that’s all it is, is that it all comes down to expectations. Spirit has successful potrayed itself as greyhound with wings. We expect nothing so we aren’t disappointed when that’s what we receive.
    Perhaps Ryanair has potrayed itself as the nickel and dime you to death, but Ok otherwise?

  • Justin

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. “Expectations”.

    Motel 6 = Low Expectations for 30-40 a night. – Hope for a clean room and decent night sleep. Lack of Hookers and bedbugs leaves a satisfied customer.

    Sheraton 200 / night – Friendly customer service, comfortable rooms, high class atmosphere with a certain ambiance,

    I guarantee a customer staying at the Sheraton wouldn’t appreciate drug dealers, hookers, and bed bugs. At Motel 6, might not be all that surprising.

    Get what you pay for and customers understand that for the most part.

    Love your analogy of Greyhound with Wings.

    Ryanair is cheap, crew reminds one of a staff of used cars salesmen (hawking all but kitchen sink, but maybe a sink is sold somewhere), but with the right level of expectations youre left happy.

    Airplanes are kept clean. Just A la Carte

  • Cybrsk8r

    Best airline? Southwest. On a Southwest flight, you suddenly realize that not all airline employees hate their jobs.

    One Southwest flight in particular I remember. Now we’ve all sat thru the safety song and dance. Where the exits are, how to put the mask on, etc. But on this Southwest flight, the head FA could’ve held his own at any comedy club. It was incredibly entertaining. You could just tell the guy liked his job.

  • Cybrsk8r

    It doesn’t get any pettier than Spirit.

  • Justin

    I love the rapping southwest Steward. I’ve never flown Southwest but their employees do seem to possess a positive attitude.

  • Anonymous

    Make sure you send all of this information to the Officer that sent you the letter. They may be able to notify families before flights are booked that this airline has a history of being inflexible with Military changes. They probably cannot blacklist Spirit, but they can issue an advisory about it.

  • Stanley Hunter

    In my experience trying to make changes, the airline reps don’t understand the lifestyles of military members even though they claim to. booked my last couple trips home and when I had to change a date they adjusted my schedule the same day I called in.

  • dave3029

    Get Dave Carroll involved (“United Breaks Guitars”). Something tells me he could come up with a successful social media campaign complete with a theme song….

  • dave3029

    Let’s not forget that many of those that chose that lifestyle have no choice but to continue it – – it’s called “involuntary extension”. Just because you volunteered for a specific amount of time does NOT mean you get to leave when that time is up.

    I happen to have a cousin who had this done to her multiple times during Desert Storm – – her hitch was up and the military would not let her leave. They kept involuntarily extending her over and over. So yeah, they volunteered, but no, they don’t always have the choice to leave when they should.

  • pauletteb

    As if I needed yet another reason to avoid Spirit Airlines!

  • Mark Cuban

    “Brys had booked her tickets on Spirit Airlines.”

    That’s where I stopped reading….