FlyersRights Helps Spirit Traveler

Kate got a Hotline call last Friday from Flyersrights member Melissa, asking for assistance with a problem regarding a Spirit Airlines trip. Melissa and her two children were trying to get to San Jose, Costa Rica, on October 16th, and the trip had become a nightmare.


The problems began when Spirit “downsized” their flight from Ft. Lauderdale to San Jose, replacing the scheduled Airbus 320 with a smaller aircraft—the Airbus 319. The result was denial of boarding to 25 passengers. Since Melissa and her family were among the last to book, they were bumped. Spirit offered accommodation on the next available flight, two days later, or a complete refund.


As usual, the refund option was unacceptable, as rebooking on another carrier at that late date would be exponentially more expensive. Melissa elected to take the next flight. Spirit covered their hotel and some meal expenses for the stay.


When the family checked in for the new flight, however, they learned that the disaster was not over. Costa Rica’s Entry and Exit Requirements demand that travelers provide proof of onward travel at their port of entry. An airline or bus ticket would satisfy that requirement. Unfortunately, Melissa could not provide that proof, so Spirit could not board the family for the flight. Had they done so, they would have been fined by the Costa Rican government and Melissa and her children would have been denied entry into the country.


For the rest of the week, Melissa shuttled between hotel and airport, trying to arrange a Spirit flight to San Jose. With expenses and frustration mounting, she called Kate last Friday to ask for help. Good idea, Melissa!


Kate put Melissa in touch with Spirit’s Senior Manager of Customer Relations, Heather Harvey for resolution of the issue. She also talked to Heather personally, made clear our interest in Melissa’s difficulties, and urged Spirit to take care of three passengers whose lives were badly disrupted.


We are pleased to report that Spirit did the right thing. They are covering the hotel and meal expenses for Melissa and her family until they can get them to San Jose, and have refunded all baggage fees and the assigned seating fees they charged the family. While the initial trip disruption was undeniably caused by their equipment change decision, other delays were not their direct responsibility. Nevertheless, through Kate’s efforts, they stepped up to taking care of these three customers. We applaud their decision.


What lessons can we take from this? First, at least on Spirit Airlines, book your flight as early as possible to lessen your chances of being bumped if they elect to provide fewer seats than they’ve sold. Second, international travel can be tricky, because rules and requirements differ so widely from country to country. Do your homework, so that you’re not surprised at the check-in counter or, worse, at the country’s port of entry.


Finally, be an advocate for yourself. Understand the options and rights available to you when traveling by air, and when you need help, call the FlyersRights Hotline at 866-359-6776!! Join the thousands of passengers we’ve helped over the last 4 ½ years.