Seriously, how careful do consumers have to be?

/Ollyy/Shutterstock
Ollyy/Shutterstock
Bryan Perilman shoulda known better.

He and his wife were flying from Fort Lauderdale to New York this summer on Spirit Airlines, but the their flight was canceled because of mechanical problems. When a representative offered to fly the couple on Delta Air Lines if they accepted a voucher, he should have known to ask: Is there a catch?

“A Spirit representative offered us two free round trips each,” says Perilman. “More than fair, we thought.”

But they thought wrong.

“She did paperwork, handed us a voucher for two free round trips each, and hustled us out, telling us to hurry over to Delta, which was a hike away. She told us to run, since the bus that goes round the airport would be too slow. We ran,” he says.

When he had time to review the vouchers for their “free” flights, he discovered the restrictions, and there were a planeload of them. The vouchers were applicable to the base fare only, didn’t cover fuel costs, taxes, baggage, and, of course, their Spirit $9 Club membership fee.

No problem, he thought. He could work with that. So he called Spirit to redeem his “free” flight for a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving. Spirit told him he couldn’t, even though there were plenty of open seats on the flight.

“The telephone agent said that vouchers were treated like mileage tickets and were very limited, especially on holiday periods,” he says.

Needless to say, Perilman felt betrayed, and Spirit didn’t seem to care. His complaints about the restriction of the “free” vouchers were initially ignored, which is when he turned to me for help.

My first reaction – other than the fact that Spirit is really stretching the definition of “free” with these vouchers – is that Perilman shouldn’t have fallen for this, and no doubt wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been rushed. He’s a lawyer, and if anyone should know that the devil’s in the details, it’s him.

And that begs the question: How careful do you have to avoid getting scammed?

A few weeks ago on my consumer advocacy site, a reader complained about a credit card that offered “free” checked bags. Some commenters pounced on him for daring to gripe about the terms and conditions of the card, branding him a dummy for not paying attention.

Let’s just say it was a lively debate.

But as I started reading the conditions of other consumer products, even those beyond travel, I noticed they’re filled with traps and “gotchas” that we often don’t see coming. Indeed, that the companies must know we won’t see coming, and fall for them.

Who is responsible when we get stuck with a worthless voucher? The company – or the customer?

I’m not fond of the term “the customer is always right,” but in this particular case, it’s a fitting phrase. My well-meaning critics seem to believe it’s on us when we fall for an offer like the Spirit voucher, but I beg to differ.

How careful do we have to be? Is it really reasonable to expect Perilman to stop the ticket agent and review the terms of the scrip, line by line, possibly missing his flight? To what extent should he have relied on the verbal assurances of the Spirit employee?

If you think it’s Perilman’s own fault for falling for Spirit’s empty promise, that’s OK. It seems many of my readers, corporate America, and the court system agree with you.

But I don’t feel in the least bit guilty about tilting at this windmill. Call me naïve, but I think the verbal assurances of an employee should match the fine print. You shouldn’t be able to call it a “free” voucher and then say, “Psych!”

It’s just not right.

Based on Perilman’s story, I felt this was a case the Transportation Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division should consider. He contacted the DOT, described what had happened to him, and eventually heard back from someone at Spirit at a higher level.

“In order to volunteer a seat on a flight, a customer must sign the Volunteer Acknowledgement Form, which is included in the Future Travel Voucher Pamphlet,” the representative noted. “A signature indicates that a customer understands the conditions under which he/she agrees to volunteer.”

DOT declined to get involved because it doesn’t regulate vouchers.

I’m disappointed with the government’s decision. While it may not have the specific authority to regulate a voucher, it does indeed have the ability to stop an airline from making false or misleading claims.

I side with the victims like Perilman. We shouldn’t have to hire a contract lawyer to decipher an offer.

Not on Spirit. Not on any airline.

Who is responsible when we get stuck with a worthless voucher?

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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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • polexia_rogue

    but they got on a new flight.

    the “free” ticket was extra. I’m sorry but i have no sympathy for the OP. i was once stuck with out a flight when my flight to Germany (trying to get back on base) was canceled, leaving over a hundred people with NOTHING.

    we were put on the next “available” fight- key word being “available”. I WAITED 3 DAYS. and i was grateful to get home.

    I’m pissed off that you would even take on this case- — but i don’t want to curse, —
    so i will end with this; lets say you go to a restaurant and it’s our birthday- they give you a free cake after your meal. the cake is horrible. you can’t even take a bite.- do they owe you more cake? do they owe you a cake that you can “use”?

    no they don’t. it was a gift- take it or leave it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    As usual, you and I see things very differently.

    I don’t think your analogy is on point. This is clearly not a gift. Spirit did not give him the voucher out of the goodness of its corporate heart, but rather to make up for a failure of service on its part.

    A closer restaurant analogy would be that your meal was unsatisfactory. The restaurant gives offers you a free meal voucher to make up for it but you learn afterwards that you have to spend $100 to redeem the voucher.

    Had the couple known of the numerous restrictions they may have elected to remain with Spirit and not run all over creation to make the Delta flight.

  • The problem is lack of disclosure. I remember a sold-out Thanksgiving flight where American volunteered to fly me on a later flight for a $300 voucher (this was 20 years ago, so it was a lot). I left the plane and received my voucher. When I looked at it I found that it wasn’t valid during holidays – even though I had just given up a holiday seat!!! American didn’t disclose that part of the deal then told me too bad, so sad.
    I can’t see how they can hold the consumer to a “contract” if the full terms and conditions weren’t disclosed ahead of time.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree with Chris on this one. Given that a voucher is often given under circumstances where the recipient does not have a reasonable opportunity to review it to make an informed choice, a higher standard of fairness should be applied.

    I think that’s the difference between the voucher case and the credit card case. As far as I know, no one has to make a snap decision whether to apply for a credit card. You have the opportunity to engage in careful reflection regarding the terms and conditions

  • And in this case they were being rushed by the gate agent to make the Delta flight.

  • Cybrsk8r

    If the airlines are gonna pull this kind of snakey stuff, then I would sit there, on the plane, reading thru the terms and conditions of the voucher, before I decided to accept it or not. All the while, the plane is sitting at the gate, not making a dime for the airline, eating into their on-time percentage, pissing off their FA’s (who don’t get paid unitl the plane leaves), and maybe causing other passengers to miss connections, which may lead to the airline having to hand out even more vouchers. Oh what a tangled web we weave ….

  • Cybrsk8r

    And, considering it’s Spirit Airlines, I’d leave it.

  • $16635417

    The most amazing thing to me in this case is that Spirit protected them on another airline!

  • backprop

    If the voucher were some sort of compensation for not getting to their destination, then I’d be on board with the OP.

    But they made it to their destination. And judging by the way they had to hustle to the Delta gate, it was a fairly timely swap. (I’d count my lucky stars that Spirit actually accommodated me on Delta!)

    I don’t understand why the OP contacted DOT. Spirit wasn’t required to give him anything else, but it gave him what on any other airline would have amounted to a pile of frequent flier miles. And he didn’t like their token gesture, so he contacted the government about it? And a consumer advocate?

    In short, if Spirit had told him all the conditions on the vouchers upfront, what would his alternative had been? To say, thanks but no thanks, we’ll decline the Delta flight AND the vouchers??

    Sorry, this is another one for the trash heap.

  • backprop

    How much later was your later flight? Did you still get there on a holiday?

  • backprop

    No, in your restaurant analogy, it would be like walking you to an equivalent restaurant next door and providing your meal there, PLUS giving a restrictive voucher for a later date. No different than if this was AA and they flew you on Delta and gave you a huge pile of FF miles on top of it.

    They got to where they were going. The vouchers were not compensation for not getting there.

    I doubt in any shape or form that the OP felt that “running all over creation” to get the alternative flight would have been worse than waiting for another Spirit flight.

  • sirwired

    Huh… what’s actually pretty odd here isn’t the customer-hostile voucher; that’s par for the course with Spirit. What’s odd is that Spirit put them on a Delta flight instead of making them wait for the next available Spirit flight; that’s actually pretty good these days, ESPECIALLY for Spirit. Southwest would not have done that, the “majors” may or may not, depending on mood.

    If Spirit hadn’t offered the vouchers, is there any chance in the world the OP would have turned down the Delta flight? I think not. But now that Spirit has issued vouchers, (those are certainly an added bonus), the vouchers should be more usable. But since this is Spirit, I’m not at all surprised they are nearly worthless; they have customer hostility down to an art form.

  • John Baker

    I’m with a number of people here… First, I’m shocked that Spirit actually wrote their ticket over to DL. Flabbergasted really. Secondly, I look at what was the purpose of the voucher? It wasn’t to avoid a DOT mandated cash payment (They got to their destination and it appears at about the same time). It appears to be a pure customer service “we’re sorry.” (Second time I’m shocked in a single article since it came from Spirit). In that case, the airline can set the terms on its gift how it wants … It’s like the trinkets that some stores use a promo items. If you don’t like it, don’t take it.

    I’m with DOT and I really hate to say this, Spirit, on this one.

  • BillCCC

    I would have to say that the answer is the customer. Customers have to do their due diligence when accepting a voucher. I am not defending any company, if a company issues a worthless voucher they know exactly what they are doing.

  • John Baker

    Your analogy really doesn’t hold water here… There’s no complaint in the OP letter about anything other than have to run to DL… They basically got to NY around the same time.

    For a restaurant, it would be closer to the manager giving you a gift certificate because the service was slow that night (food was good but slowww) but it can only be redeemed Mon to Thurs which are their slow nights.

    Ultimately, its a service recovery tool. There’s no contractual or regulatory reason for them to issue the voucher so it is out of the goodness of their heart. They’re saying sorry (I have to read that like 6 times every time I write it about Spirit)

  • JustWannaBeFriends

    On the restaurant analogy, I think it’s more like you showing up for your anniversary dinner reservation, finding that the restaurant’s been temporarily closed due to health code violations, but that they’ve rebooked a dinner reservation at a different restaurant that’s across town and exactly 28 minutes away, but they’ll be giving away your table in 30 minutes so you best hurry, but here’s a few vouchers for a free meal at the original restaurant before you go. So you rush off, barely get to your dinner, have a satisfactory yet stressful evening, then a few weeks later when the original restaurant has re-opened, you find that your “free meal” voucher entitles you only to some complimentary water and three small slices of day-old french bread, but only between 3:47 and 4:08 in the afternoon and only if the “free” goods are eaten while standing. Seats, menus, cutlery, table service and more nutritious food and drinks are all subject to fees and surcharges.

  • In this case, how can you do “due diligence” when your standing in an airport waiting for a flight, then told to run through the airport to get to that flight? “Please hold the plane while I do my due diligence!” Probably not.

    In the case with the credit card mentioned in the article, there was plenty of time for checking on the terms. I was one of the ones that thought the OP in that case was wrong, though I never called him a dummy. ;)

    Here, Spirit basically handed someone worthless paper to shut them up and leave them alone. The OP was told it was free (with virtually no way to verify) and then found out later it wasn’t hardly worth the paper it was printed on. I would be upset, and glad Chris took the case.

  • mbods

    Sounds like a nice scam for the airlines. It’s wrong, as usual.

  • NoraG

    I disagree about Southwest. They proactively moved me to Delta before I even knew that there was a problem with the flight I’d booked.

  • Michael Minor

    Never, never, never fly Spirit. There are so many non-monetary costs involved.

  • Helio

    It seems that if Spirit had only endorsed their tickets with Delta, the OP will be writing to praise the service.

    But the gate agent gave them more!!! The problem is, this “more” isn’t easy to use, then… the OP complained.

  • MarkKelling

    What failure of service? The OP got put on a plane that got them to their destination at about the same time the Spirit flight would have. And probably was a better experience than the Spirit flight would have been. Failure of service would have been the flight was cancelled and they were put on another flight days later or simply offered a refund with no reaccomodation along with the nearly useless vouchers.

    Faced with a similar situation, I would not hesitate to take the offer (provided I could run fast enough to get to the other gate) regardless of the usefulness of the extras offered. The other option would probably be getting stuck at the airport until the next day or even longer.

  • Hanope

    This is why we need a Consumer Protection Agency. An ordinary consumer shouldn’t have to read so much fine print, and be able to understand it all, while in the middle of a transaction and being rushed to sign and go. Lawyers draft these documents, so its understandable that non-lawyers don’t understand them, especially when under pressure.

  • John Baker

    I like the analogy up to the end … If you had said that the voucher was only good Tues to Thurs (historically slowest days in the restaurant biz) and didn’t cover the tip or sales tax, I would agree with you.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Oh, I definitely vote “The company” (as being responsible when we get stuck with a worthless voucher). But sometimes it really doesn’t matter. The voucher in this case was a lagniappe, a frill, an extra. Kind of like when you order from a catalog and you get a free gift (“free gift with your $50 order!). So long as I get the merchandise I ordered, I really could care less about the “free gift”. The gift wasn’t really my incentive to place the order in the first place.

    I’m confused as to exactly how Mr. Perilman was a victim here, though. He got to his destination without much delay. And yes, I get that running through an airport is an ordeal. But a victim?

    Edited for clarity and grammar.

  • Stereoknob

    It’s a smoke screen. These companies are soulless and if they cared, wouldn’t have created a scam such as this one. They’re scum. I’ve vowed never to fly Spirit and don’t even consider them when thinking about flight options. Maybe we can force them out of business so one of the mega-airlines can pick up their gates.

  • EdB

    What difference does it make if they got there on the holiday or not? The fact is they gave up a holiday seat so the compensation should cover what they gave up, a holiday seat. Compensation is, or should be, based on what was lost. Not when the compensation was utilized.

  • EdB

    I missed the part in the story where it says they got to the destination about the same time they normally would. The story says the flight wad canceled. Doesn’t say it was canceled before or after the scheduled departure time. It could have been like one flight I had where the flight was canceled four hours after the scheduled departure time. No way anyone got to their destination any where close to the original time.

  • backprop

    It makes a huge difference. If I gave up an 8:00am “holiday” flight and got on the 10:00am “holiday” flight, then a “holiday” flight was not lost. The compensation would be some sort of gesture for the lost time, not for missing the holiday.

  • backprop

    No, that’s a terrible analogy. A flight on Spirit airlines is akin to an anniversary dinner? You jest. People need to get over themselves. Hustling to another gate is not a travel-ruining experience except for the entitled.

  • backprop

    ??

  • backprop

    How is this a scam? If Spirit had mechanical delays and rebooked OP on the same-day Delta flight, it would have been case closed.

    But since Spirit did all that PLUS gave OP an extra token voucher that is restrictive, it’s a SCAM? Really?

  • EdB

    The fact still remains you gave up the original holiday seat and agreed to be inconvenienced in return for compensation. That fact does not change just because they got you onto another flight 2 hours later. You gave up a holiday seat so compensation should cover a holiday seat.

  • Fishplate

    As I see it, you gave up a holiday seat for another holiday seat and a non-holiday seat.

  • backprop

    My definition of “give up” is different than yours. But no matter.

    The OP did not “agree to be inconvenienced.” The customer really had no choice. It was not an oversold flight that Spirit asked for volunteers for. It was a flight that got canceled. If Spirit had simply re-accommodated the OP on the Delta flight, it would have been more than expected. The voucher was additional.

  • Michael__K

    For a restaurant, it would be closer to the manager giving you a gift
    certificate because the service was slow that night (food was good but
    slowww) but it can only be redeemed Mon to Thurs which are their slow
    nights

    That analogy doesn’t work either, because Spirit is purposely vague about the peak travel restrictions on their vouchers

    Restrictions may apply during peak travel periods and to certain destinations.

    customersupport(dot)spirit(dot)com/entries/21381958-How-do-I-use-a-Future-Travel-Voucher-or-Reservation-Credit-

    The OP was actually okay with the restrictions that were detailed with any specificity:

    When he had time to review the vouchers for their “free” flights, he discovered the restrictions, and there were a planeload of them. The vouchers were applicable to the base fare only, didn’t cover fuel costs, taxes, baggage, and, of course, their Spirit $9 Club membership fee. No problem, he thought. He could work with that.

  • Nancy Marine Dickinson

    Polexia – really??? THIS is what pisses you off? And you don’t want to curse, yet you curse?

    Airlines are required to provide a service. When they don’t provide said service, they are required to compensate you, and not with Monopoly money, either.

    Yes, Spirit Airlines DID get them to where they needed to go, but they had to use another airline to do it.

    Yes, technically, the voucher was a “gift”, but it was a “gift” given in order to compensate the passenger(s) for losing their seats on their scheduled flight, having to run across an airport, at break-neck speed, to catch another flight so they could get home.

    IMHO, this “gift” was no gift at all. To me, this is tantamount to giving someone a sweater shorn from rare sheep (only five in existence, and they don’t have the ability to propagate) from the highest peak of the Himalayas, carded and spun into wool by elves who appeared only to do this for you, having it knit by the hands of an elderly, arthritic grandmother of 37 who passed away the moment it was completed, giving it to the recipient, then telling them they can only wear it on days where the temperature is above 100 degrees while the sun is rising in the West. How’s that “gift” feel now?

  • TonyA_says

    Ha, what? Where is the problem, here? He got a voucher he can’t use in any flight he wants (especially Thanksgiving season)? Really? I thought I read about a miracle already – Spirit endorsing their ticket to Delta so the passenger can get home. You expect a second miracle?

  • EdB

    Don’t mix up situations here. My response was about LadyLightTravel’s comment, not the stories OP. My reading of the story was the OP was not try to travel on a holiday but use the voucher on one.

  • EdB

    You were inconvenienced on a holiday so why shouldn’t the comp cover a holiday? The fact they got you back out on a holiday does not negate the original inconvenience.

  • JH

    No matter which side one takes in this discussion, I would think the appropriate response is to pledge never to do business with Spirit Airlines. If they train employees to tell half truths or out and out lie, then I think they need to go out of business. We’ve all heard enough about Spirit and its management style to avoid the company.

  • JustWannaBeFriends

    Fine, it’s just a regular dinner. I picked anniversary because it, like a flight, generally requires advance planning and adherence to a schedule. If that offends your Spirit sensibilities, change it to a boring work meeting over dinner or some other dreaded dinner.

    You appear to believe that because the couple got to their destination, they deserve nothing for their inconvenience along the way. And yes, whether small or great, they were inconvenienced. Still, perhaps they don’t deserve anything–but that’s not the point. For whatever reason, Spirit *did* offer the couple something to compensate for their failure to provide the expected service. However, that something is almost completely useless and has almost no actual value. It’s Christopher Elliot’s job to reveal these sorts of shady practices as a warning to future travelers. Spirit here just demonstrated that they are willing to placate rushed travelers with a fistful of nothing much, relying on the fact that the person will be preoccupied with schedule stress and time constraints to realize they’re being screwed.

  • Justin

    I hate to disagree with you Carver, but our disagreements are lively!
    Counterpoint here:

    Op is served an unsatisfactory meal. Restaurant remakes the meal and hands him a voucher for $10 dollars off his next purchase. Sounds great. Operative word being “Purchase”.

    Op received another flight, so while inconvenienced, was not left stranded. Spirit fulfilled it’s legal obligation. We’re not Europe with traveler protections
    .
    Op accepted a worthless voucher. Ouch being an attorney, but I sympathize here. Rushed, stressed, frazzled, we’ve all been there and these decisions make us think unclearly. So now the OP is stuck with a “Next Purchase” that is difficult to redeem.

    Do I feel Spirit duped the OP? Yes. Does Spirit have some legal obligation to make the Funny Money Voucher redeemable? Nope.

    Problem here. He flew Spirit Airlines.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I got a CC offer in the mail for my wife and I from United and we’re thinking about taking it. The “free first checked bag” language is pretty clear on the information they sent us. It’s not just hidden in the 6 point font on white onion paper either. On the main insert, it spells out that the ticket needs to be bought with the credit card. In addition, since my wallet is already George Castanza thick, I research the hell out of a card before signing up.

    I’ve been able to avoid Spirit, fortunately. We fly domestic either Jetblue or Southwest. The time we flew United, we scored a good deal on a checked bag ($2!!!) and packed it to the brim (40 pounds.)

  • Christina Conte

    As soon as I read, “Spirit” I knew it had to go downhill from there. I wouldn’t fly Spirit if they paid me. Worst airline, run by the worst people. EVER.

  • backprop

    You’re right; they were not entitled to anything.

    But this happens to thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of people a day when flights are canceled. Most airlines will get the customer to where they were going, and then offer a small amount of frequent flier miles, say 5,000 or 10,000, for this extremely minor inconvenience. Two restricted round trip tickets is not “almost no value” and is in fact surprisingly a LOT of value, not just for Spirit Airlines (and it’s a miracle that Spirit did this) but for the industry as a whole.

    I still can’t help but think that if Spirit only re-accommodated the OP on the Delta flight – itself shocking – and absolutely nothing else, that this entire column wouldn’t have even existed.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    We’re actually not disagreeing. I can’t speak to the legal issue as there is a statutory scheme that I am not well versed in. My point is that Spirits actions are slimey and I think you agree as you stated that the OP was duped.

  • Christina Conte

    Exactly, Justin. Spirit Airlines, end of discussion. Truly cannot believe they are still in business.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Exactly, you had time to make an informed decision about the CC offer. The OP didn’t. That’s the difference in my mind.

  • emanon256

    I didn’t vote today. I think its a little bit of each. I want to lean more towards the consumer who should read the details, but when rushed, there is no way to know all the details. In the OPs case, if I personally were re-booked and still got to my destination within a few hours, say within 4 to 6 hours of my original arrival, I would never expect a voucher or anything, I still got there. I think a voucher with heavy restrictions is more than fair in this type of situation as the airline also paid Delta to transport the OP. However, if the delay was substantially longer, over night, and caused the OP to loose out on a non-refundable hotel night, etc. I believe a non-restricted voucher would be fare.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I was chuckling about that observation. Indeed, Delta is a better flight experience (at least from what I have heard about Spirit.) The Delta crews have been friendly and helpful and the planes have been nice too.

    I had a similar experience with Jetblue but it didn’t leave me upset. Our IFE was out of order and the captain announced we could get 500 FF miles as compensation. I wrote to customer service at jetblue but never got the miles. Since we don’t fly that often, the FF miles were worthless to us but I wanted to get them anyway just in case. If I was a FF, I might have been more annoyed about it but the gesture was one of goodwill and I think they meant well. We got to our destination on time and the snacks were great and I read a book so no harm done.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    No. It depends on the specifics of that person. I fell and hurt my back and walked with a cane for a month.

    On my first International trip, I packed like a newbie. I had 2 49lb suitcases, a laptop bag, and a personal bag. It was embarrassing how much crap I lugged across Heathrow.

  • emanon256

    I agree with you 100% and wound add that they were sent to a much nicer restaurant, and the closed restaurant paid the difference between what they would have paid there, and what they paid for the new restaurant. This is because even DL worst seats have more leg room that Spirit, and DL typically costs more on the same routes.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Be that as it may, the point about whether Delta or Spirit is better is a red herring. Consider the specifics of the story

    … a representative offered to fly the couple on Delta Air Lines if they accepted a voucher….

    The story makes it clear that the voucher was part of the consideration for changing airlines. That consideration was deceptive. That’s the part that’s problematic.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    CCF, I wasn’t disagreeing with you but actually stating my experience (which is congruent with your argument.) Pardon if I implied otherwise.

    So do you think they have a case to demand Spirit open up the voucher
    beyond the stated terms? Perhaps a small claims court case?

  • emanon256

    I know! I am shocked at this!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Alas, I cannot give an informed legal opinion. Air travel, like banking or insurance, is a highly regulated industry. Ordinary legal precepts do not apply. I would need to be an aviation attorney to really know.

    All I can say is that I seriously doubt that they have a legal claim.

  • Annie M

    The voucher isn’t worthless – it just had limitations that prevented the OP from using it at a peak period. I don’t fault Bryan for accepting the voucher – obviously he was rushed by the gate agent so he didn’t miss the flight, but anything he got besides the new flight on Delta was a plus. So use the vouchers when you are flying on a flight that they are accepted. The onus is really on what Spirit considers “free” – which isn’t free at all. Shame on Spirit.

    But you would think as an attorney he would know better than to fly Spirit in the first place with all the fees they tack on to their tickets. Would you expect any better?

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Sometimes the Pilot will say at the end of a flight: “We know you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for flying X”. That means a lot to me because it usually is true. Sometimes, it’s less of a choice. For example, flying to Odessa, Ukraine from DC used to mean that our only choice was Austrian (which we love) but the pricing could be bad. So we would fly to Kiev instead with British Airways. So I guess that’s still a choice. Sometimes, if you need to go somewhere and you’re booking the only decent fare might be spirit then you’re stuck. But usually, I have found ways to get a decent airline to somewhere nearby at a decent price.

  • emanon256

    So, if the customer had been told it was not valid on all flights and they also had to pay taxes, fuel surcharges, and baggage fees, would they have refused the Delta flight and waited several more hours or even days?

  • Michael__K

    You can read the terms and conditions slowly 100 times and it still won’t tell you what those “[other] restrictions [which] may apply” are.

    Which is what the OP found out:

    Restrictions may apply during peak travel periods and to certain destinations.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    There’s nothing about being an attorney that makes you a knowledgeable flyer. Like anything else, if you do it frequently you gain knowledge and experience.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Let’s not make up stuff. We have no idea what the delay would have been, but the airline rep felt that a little sweetening of the pot was necessary to get the OP to switch to Delta

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    He’s a victim because he was duped.

  • emanon256

    That gift is not free, you are paying for it when you pay for it when you buy base item. :) Sorry, Chris converted me and I now am on the anti-free kick. Its annoying my wife like crazy. And I do agree with you 100%, even on the free gift bit :) I have actually turned down the free gift when ordering certain things because it had no value to me. I also got free face cream once and absolutely loved it, and only order from that company when the offer the free face cream.

  • emanon256

    That’s why I said hours to days, I have no idea how long it would have been, but feel with confidence it would fall somewhere in that range. What baffles me here is why having your ticket endorsed over to another airline leaving very soon v. waiting would require any sweetening, I see it as a no brainier. I do think Spirit duped him by saying it was a free-flight voucher when it turned out not to be, but I don’t think the restrictions would have made the OP turn down the alternate flight.

  • JustWannaBeFriends

    Well, the base price on a Spirit flight can be as low as $25 (with $50 in fees), so I consider that almost no value. Remember, he was fine with paying the fuel, taxes, baggage and whatever other charges Spirit was going to impose. So, there is *some* value to the voucher (apparently less than $100), but it’s really not that much considering Spirit’s fee structure.

    I do agree with you, though about how surprising it is that Spirit even offered the vouchers.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    We just don’t know that. That’s sheer speculation on our part. The only thing we know is that the Spirit rep used a worthless voucher to entice the OP. That’s my problem

  • bodega3

    I am going to question the ‘if’ part of the OP’s comment. It just doesn’t make sense based on all the time I have been at the airport and listened to offers being made by various carriers when they need to move passengers off a flight. But even if the ‘if’ was used, did they have to use the vouchers? No they wanted to use them and found out that holiday travel period is a valid time for these vouchers. Spirit operates in a different manner than other carriers, so not sure why the OP might expect something different with their vouchers.

  • bodega3

    How is it worthless? Lots of vouchers, coupons come with restrictions, so this isn’t new…one reason most travel agencies won’t accept them as if we make one error we are fined.

  • MarkKelling

    You make a good point. Just because they had to “run” to the other gate, I originally thought this meant the Delta flight was leaving at a bout the same time as the original spirit flight. You are correct that the exact time was not mentioned and it could have been several hours after the original departure time.

    I should know better than to try to think before coffee. ;-)

  • Raven_Altosk

    Reminds me of a story I read on CNN this weekend. A woman bought her husband a $20 thingamabob from some online retailer called KlearGear. The item never arrived and the woman posted a review on RipoffReport.

    KlearGear claims in it’s “fine print” that it can “fine” people who leave bad reviews. They hit the couple up for $3500 and when the couple didn’t pay, they reported a debt to the three major credit reporting agencies, damaging these people’s credit.

    Fortunately, a lawyer has stepped in and agreed to represent the couple pro-bono against this despicable company. I usually don’t cheer for litigants, but I really hope they take this “company” to the cleaners.

  • MarkKelling

    Spirit is still in business because of the people who want to believe they are getting the best/cheapest deal on flights regardless of what they actually end up paying for their flights.

  • Justin

    We need to start a “Down Vote” fan club Carver. I saw the topic broached between you and another poster. What are we folks, in the fifth grade? Down voting because you disagree? How about verbalize the rationale instead. Sheesh.

    Now I am off the soap box tangent. Spirit isn’t known for their customer friendly decisions. I’ve never flown the airline, but stories here paint a picture where smooth travels appears an exception versus the norm. Of course, Mr. Elliott highlights the horror stories from the millions traveling, but Spirit does have a lot of stories.

    The silver lining is the OP probably should take comfort in flying Delta home. Advice is a dime a dozen, but maybe avoiding Spirit Airlines is the one time I can offer my 2 cents and we all agree?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    :-)

  • Justin

    Assuming the events are factual and true: Here’s the million dollar legal question.
    Is it better the OP outright refuse a voucher, sign nothing, and flew Delta home. Only to take up his plight later on? Let’s face it, depending upon when the next flight left, time to argue for better compensation may or may not have existed. Take the worst case scenario, time to barter was short, so haggling for a monetary compensation was out of the question.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The devil is in the details. These vouchers cover only the base fare, leaving everything else to the OP to pay for. Plus, being capacity controlled means that redeeming them may be difficult if at all possible for a leisure traveler.
    Vouchers, like coupons, have no inherent value. Its the value you, the consumer

    I was given vouchers for 2 fee nights at the Hilton in Brussels for a service failure. I had to haggle back and forth for 2 weeks before the GM agreed to lift the restrictions that would have made the vouchers worthless, (i.e. capacity controlled, and 3 month expiration date)

  • bodega3

    I am not defending Spirit, but with all their restrictions with flying with them, that cost you money if you don’t follow them, how is their voucher restrictions any surprise?

  • Stereoknob

    Really.

    If someone stole your car and in return the insurance company gave you a functional, replacement car… and also a voucher for 4 free tires… but it was impossible to redeem the voucher, is that not a scam? You got your car back, that you paid for, and earned, and deserve to begin with.. but the voucher is non-redeemable. That seems pretty scammy to me.

    Don’t give out a voucher if it can’t be used.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    There’s an episode of South Park “Cent-Ipad” about how a character didn’t read the terms when enabling his i-pad and Steve Jobs then took the boy and forced him to become a centipede. This is something Carver can weigh in on, but there are certain rights that people can’t just waive away from a service disclosure. Could a parking garage, as an example recently in Elliott, get the title and deed to a person’s home if they park their car there and don’t read the parking stub if it says that you forfeit your home for parking there? (That would be a pretty good gig if it could work!)

  • bodega3

    It isn’t a scam. The voucher can be used but the OP has to be flexible due to the restriction. Remember, this is Spirit, which makes flying them more of a challenge that other carriers for even their basic fares.

  • emanon256

    I read it as Spirit endorsing them over to an alternate carrier and give them a voucher. I am not sure why someone would need additional enticement to take an alternate flight home when theirs was canceled.

  • Not sure what they would have done, not sure that it matters. If they had been told what was being given to them from the start, at least they would have known what to expect. If I were told “vouchers for a free flight” I would, crazy as it sounds, expect a free flight.

    It’s not the fact that they were or weren’t given “something” it was the apparent misleading description of what they were given. If they actually knew what they were getting (with all the restrictions) and accepted the deal. Fine. But I personally think they were not told all the details… on purpose.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Another option. Wait for the next spirit flight with availability. That option was foreclosed by enticing the OP with the voucher

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    There is a concept in law called unconscionability. It’s not easy, but you can void a contract if the terms are sufficiently egregious under the circumstances.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Depends on the person. In July, me and my cane were staying put.

  • Chris Johnson

    Surprise, surprise, Spirit Airlines at it again! I’ve never flown Spirit and I can’t stand them because of stories like this, so I don’t expect I ever will.
    I didn’t vote in the poll though, because it’s too broad of a question. Airline vouchers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

  • John Baker

    Ummm … if someone stole my basic transportation hooptie (aka Spirit Airlines) and the government replaced it with a one year old chevy with satellite radio / wifi / nicer seats (Delta) at no cost to me, I’d be thrilled even if I couldn’t use the gas voucher they gave me… I just upgraded big time…

  • Justin

    Agreed. Everyone wants home and the carrot on the stick is tempting. The million dollar questions:
    1) How long until the next flight? Are we talking a few hours max or the next day?

    2) Did Spirit’s Offer of a Delta flight come contingent upon accepting the voucher and signing paperwork?

    3) Op could have asked for a refund, but the chances are a last minute flight probably exceeded the refund value. Not a great option.

    So there are the scenarios, and the OP only knows which of the choices were best.

  • Justin

    Saw the same article. Guessing the clause is unenforceable once a lawyer has a field day. KlearGear will probably have a nice hole in their pocket, too.

  • John Baker

    Even better …. the clause that they used was inserted AFTER the couple placed their order and left the review. Oh … their chief complaint was that the company was impossible to get a hold of by phone … Interestingly, the media has had the same problem with their “business” address being nothing more than a mail forwarding service and their “parent” companies being shell companies (at least as reported by 2 or 3 new agencies)

  • bodega3

    I went to Spirit’s website to read up on the use of their vouchers. The information there is just a vague. From the agent side, it appears that these vouchers are capacity controlled, just like frequent flyer space, which you don’t get to see on any system, even the GDS. I noticed comments on various online sites by other dissatisfied receivers of similar vouchers, that what they are told today changes with the next phone call. WHY does anyone travel on this airline is beyond me but if they do, they need to not be surprised with how things are done as Spirit doesn’t operate like other carriers. You get what you paid for so expect less if you are inconvenienced and don’t count on getting what you think you should from any voucher.

  • backprop

    Hey I learned that on Judge Judy and the infamous eBay scammer case. The eBay seller clearly stated in the fine print that the $400 was for PICTURES of two cell phones, not for the phones themselves. When the plaintiff got the pictures, she wanted out of the contract. Judge Judy saw it her way.

  • The voucher (with restrictions) wasn’t handed to me until AFTER I got off the plane.

  • It was the last flight so I got there very late. Worse, they didn’t give me food vouchers and I was supposed to get lunch on the plane.

  • EdB

    I read that story and one thing stood out. The company said it was a violation of the terms of service, but since the company canceled the order, then it seems the terms of service would not apply; there was no service provided. I really hope the couple gets a huge settlement from this, but seeing it is a shell game of companies, even if they do get a judgment, might be difficult collecting.

  • Daddydo

    I am waiting for another “RALPH NADER” to file a class action suit against the airlines for becoming arrogant, money grabbing, horrible monopolies. Can we sue for being pains in the …? The airlines are getting away with messing over the public in every way shape and form. There needs to be some re-regulation taking place. I have been in this industry for 50 years, and have never been more disappointed. Every airline is out to con the unaware passenger. Don’t get starter on car rentals!
    There is nothing free in life! There is always a catch and free tickets are the catch! I bumped you, here is a free ticket. I can’t redeem my free ticket unless I am traveling to Deluth in February. Cry, cry, cry, to no avail, the airlines do not care! Always take a cash refund or a cash credit at a minimum as they 99% of the time have no black-out dates.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Oh man, if someone had sent me photos of a phone for $400, I would’ve found them, tied them to a post by a fire ant hill and poured honey on their butts.

    Now I need to see this case to see what kind of horrible people would scam someone like that…

    …and submit their names to some troll sites.

    #wearingmyhalotoday

  • Justin

    Asking for a refund or a return of loyalty points is a far better option. I had a failure of service in Italy. Hotel pulled a classic bait and switch, shirked me to another hotel far out, and gave me the ol’ FU. I sucked it up, albeit unhappy, and kept documentation. I took photos, kept receipts, and made a little log.

    Upon returning, I called corporate. Took a few weeks of haggling back and forth, until I reached a sympathetic supervisor. She read the transcript, said dear god I’m sorry, and returned my points plus an extra day.
    My luck in life sucks, but sometimes you do “Win”… sometimes…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The downvote troll strikes again.

  • Justin

    The vouchers were incentive for a paid fare. Sans 10% off your next purchase coupon. What people need to understand is that not every incentive is worth jumping upon.

  • Justin

    Have you ever visited the Tower of London Carver?
    I say “Off with their Heads” as the beafeater enthusiastically proclaimed throughout the tour.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Really depends on the person. Perhaps the OP couldn’t sit next to his wife. Perhaps the distance was difficult. We don’t know, just that the rep felt that it was necessary to use the voucher as enticement

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Its the deception about the vouchers that bothers me. Don’t offer vouchers. Fine, but don’t deceive me if you do.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I got a downvote for smiling. I think that’s got to be a new record

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Nah. An outfit like that had low-rent attorneys on retainer with cheap rates.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    The sun rises in the east on planet Earth (since I can’t say ice is cold in 100% of all situations). :)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Oh, don’t worry, your wife isn’t the only person being annoyed by the anti-free kick.

    :-D

  • omgstfualready

    It can be used, just within the restrictions. Which is why it’s called a voucher and not a credit.

    There is so much emotion about this – it is a business transaction and nothing more. The customer paid to get from point A to point B and Spirit, via Delta, made that happen. Transaction done.

  • omgstfualready

    @ John Baker – I had to go to urban dictionary for hooptie and it was worth it. Awesome stuff.

  • omgstfualready

    Meh, I live in Pittsburgh, they didn’t miss much here anyway. ;-)

  • omgstfualready

    I agree; it isn’t worthless in the broad sense just for that specific instance it was not of value.

  • davidglass

    I would personally never face this situation as I would never consider flying Spirit, period.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    lol

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I paid for a Spirit flight once for a friend. He’d flown it before so he knew all about it. The total price, including baggage fees was less than any other airline for that I could have chosen.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    As an industry insider, you know all of Spirits ways. Not everyone is that knowledgeable. I only learned of Spirit when I got my friend a ticket and he told me that they were the “greyhound of the skies”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    ROTFLMAO

  • EdB

    Are you sure about that? What if you are standing on the North Pole? Any direction from there is South. So if you see the sun rising, it would have to be from the South. :D

    And while you are up there, watch out for the hot ice. ;)

  • Justin

    My down vote suggestion has two down votes! I think the club of dissent is growing in our favor. Maybe your smile tipped off the growing masses. Those pearly whites yield a lot of power.

  • Justin

    Walking into a situation with realistic expectation prepares people for the worst, but surprises when the best occurs. I see Spirit Airlines as a journey of pessimism. Take a flight, know problems will occur, but celebrate the smooth journeys knowing you’ve gotten a low fair.

    Fair assessment?

  • Christina Conte

    Guess what? One of the two airlines which fly non-stop from LAX to DTW where my parents live is Spirit. Do I ever book that flight? Never. I’d rather have 2 layovers than fly non-stop with Spirit. They’re THAT bad.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’ve never been on it, but It seems that its target audience are happy as they keep returning.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Christina, I know this is unsolicited advice but I feel I have to make it: Tell your parents to move out of Detroit and to Florida or Costa Rica and live off their retirement there.

    Hmmm, I searched tripadvisor and didn’t see Spirit listed for non-stop but just Delta at $390. Lots of 1 stop options though for an extra 3 hours. At least you get there in comfort.

  • Lindabator

    Legally, they AREN’T entitled to anything else but to get to their destination, and obviously, there wasn’t any real wait time here. The vouchers were a goodwill gesture (akin to FF miles), but like those miles, there are restrictions – and Holidays are USUALLY blackout dates for freebies with most any industry.

  • Lindabator

    AMEN!

  • Lindabator

    But they first got him on a Delta flight (biggest surprise) and THOSE tickets would be a lot higher than what he paid – and far more comfortable and easy to carry on an item.

  • Lindabator

    Agreed – the IF may be the OPs story, but that really doesn’t work out with all the circumstances I’ve seen over the years.

  • Lindabator

    And LEGALLY, the airline is only required to get you to your destination – they did so by putting them on the Delta flight. The fact that the vouchers could not be used for Holiday travel (REALLY????) and have restrictions to that point make them no different than any other company not wanting to give away what is so tight for them to book in the first place. It was a nice gesture, and the clients just need to be more flexible.

  • Lindabator

    Right – the only thing Spirit is LEGALLY bound to provide – to get you to your destination. The vouchers were a bonus. And MOST airlines would never offer them above and beyond the re-validation of your tickets to another carrier.

  • Lindabator

    And LEGALLY they are not entitled to monetary compensation – once Spirit re-validated the ticket over to Delta, they fulfilled their obligation to this client – the vouchers were just a bonus, and yes, most such things DO restrict travel, most ESPECIALLY at Holiday time.

  • Lindabator

    And that could likely have not been till the next day.

  • Lindabator

    NO airline’s offer to fly you on another airline is contingent upon accepting even MORE freebies. (Which is why I really suspect the IF in the OPs sentence – more like we will move you to Delta, and say sorry with some vouchers). Either way – Spirit went above and beyond here.

  • Lindabator

    AMEN!

  • Lindabator

    Not the norm, though.

  • Lindabator

    HIGHLY doubtful – it was also VERY unusual for Spirit to offer anything other than the next flight on their own airline, so they went above & beyond what they normally offer here.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Maybe. Pure conjecture at this point.

    Edited. Actually, I change my mind. That’s probably why the voucher. It was probably cheaper then putting hotel and meal vouchers. The voucher was the extra (yet fake) incentive to make it happen

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Let’s walk through that. If Spirit doesn’t normally offer anything other than the next flight on their own airline, it’s hard to believe that it suddenly had a bout of generosity. It is more likely that there was a specific reason why, not only did the send him to another airline but also sweetened the pot with a voucher.

    The agent that did this must have had a very defensible reason that she can justify to her superiors. That reason is almost certainly one that benefited Spirit.

    My guess: Since it was mechanical problems Spirit would have been on the hook for room and board if the next availabe Spirit flight wasn’t until the next day or so. It probably decided that sending the couple to Delta was cheaper than hotel and meal vouchers. And this crappy voucher was the incentive to make sure they took the offer.

  • technomage1

    One of the reasons I don’t post in this site nearly as much as I used to is it seems a lot of the comments are always blaming the person with the problem. Sometimes that is warranted, and sometimes the person is asking too much in compensation, but the “They should have knowns” are coming from a travel savvy crowd. That doesn’t mean the general public will know. It’s easy enough to find information after a problem is known to exist, but going into it cold that’s not always the case.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree wholeheartedly. We often forget that almost by definition, the people who frequent travel sites are folks who travel often and have accumulated knowledge that is not common to the person who flies twice a year to visit grandma, which was me until I started consulting in 1998/99.

    I hope I didn’t come off that way. My intent is only to offer a dispassionate legal analysis without casting aspersions one way or the other.

  • technomage1

    I wasn’t referring to our conversation specifically but the general overall tone of the boards. I don’t mean to stifle polite disagreements and that’s the way I took your posts.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Thanks

    I appreciate the kind words.

    :-)

  • Christina Conte

    Are you paying for their relocation? Thanks!

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Please pardon me and Merry Christmas. I hope they’re staying warm!!!