Even If You Have Colon Cancer, Spirit Air Doesn't Give Refunds

David writes:

I had purchased a ticket on Spirit Airlines for a friend of mine in Brooklyn, New York to come and visit me in Orlando. I had purchased the ticket about three months prior to the departure date so I could get the lowest fare. To make a long story short, my friend had been diagnosed with colon cancer and had to start treatment immediately….

This meant that he would not be able to make the trip down to Orlando and when I explained this situation to Spirit Airlines they couldn’t care less. I even offered to give them medical documentation on my friends condition and they said, “sorry but Spirit policy is no refunds”.

This airline is a complete joke and as heartless a company as you will ever find. Just thought I’d share my hellish experience with you guys to go along with the thousands of other complaints against this joke of an airline.

-David M.

We wonder what CEO Ben Baldanza would say if he received this complaint letter? Probably something like, “Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”

Maybe your credit card company will let you do a chargeback?


Edit Your Comment

  1. danic101 says:

    Why should he get a refund?

  2. Wormfather says:

    I wonder if the trolls will be comming out for this one?

  3. Curiosity says:

    I wonder what the terms and conditions of the ticket are?

    The Contract of Carriage [www.spiritair.com] stipulates that a voluntary refund is subject to the provision:

    Refunds will be made in accordance with applicable fare rules. No refunds will be made for non-refundable tickets.


    But obviously this is not the law and is only a partial picture of the consumer’s rights. Moreover I wonder about the enforceability.

  4. Pylon83 says:

    What’s the point of this? He bought an airline ticket cheap, knowing it was non-refundable. Why should Spirit refund it? I’m sorry, I feel bad the guy got cancer, but that makes no difference. I dislike it when people try to play the “have a heart card” with businesses. Shit happens. That doesn’t mean you are entitled to anything. I sincerely hope he is unsuccessful in getting a chargeback, as things like this simply drive up prices for the rest of us.

  5. burgundyyears says:

    I am sorry for your friend, but no refunds means just that.

  6. JustAGuy2 says:

    Wormfather will call me a troll, but here goes:

    This is very sad, and I wish the OP’s friend all the best, but I can’t hold this against Spirit. They’re following the rules they laid down when the OP bought the ticket, and living up to their obligations, so I won’t blame them for this.

    Are they being “nice” to the OP? Not really. Are they obliged to be? No, just as, if Spirit called up the OP and said “sorry, but we’re having a really tough time financially, so we’re increasing the price of your ticket $100,” the OP wouldn’t be obliged to be “nice” and say OK.

  7. jeffsui says:

    Isn’t that why they sell travel insurance?

  8. Juliekins says:

    Wow, I know I want to live in a world where everything is black and white and the phrases “extenuating circumstances” and “kindness to others” don’t exist. Yes, the policy states “no refunds.” But come on, the guy has cancer. Way to kick a dude when he’s down. They could at least offer credit towards a future flight or something.

    Sorry, this is a dick move all around. You “blame the victim” trolls (Pylon83, I see you do this frequently) are really stretching it with this one.

  9. nbacca says:

    2 years ago I purchased round-trip tickets for my parents on Spirit. My dad was dying, but he had been given the okay to go on one last trip to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple weeks before the trip but Spirit gave me a full refund for his and my mothers ticket. At first they were going to issue a credit for my mom’s ticket and a refund for my dad’s, but the customer service rep put both through as a refund because she felt bad. So there is at least one person with a heart who works for Spirit.

  10. Curiosity says:

    Actually I am not sure if they are living up to their obligations.

    What are the airlines obligations? to provide a seat? to provide transport (different than a seat – like a bus ticket which is valid between destinations if not for a certain time)?

    I assume that they have to provide something within the contract.

    Assuming that there are no refunds and no renegotiation of the contract in order for the consumer to be bound to pay the money, the airline would have to leave the seat empty if you are “renting” the seat. Otherwise an argument could be made that the airline did not fulfill its own contract.

    So what are the obligations of the parties? The consumer seems to have fulfilled theirs by paying the money.

  11. djhopscotch says:

    So no refunds unless you have a really really good excuse? Does the sickness have to be terminal or just painful to get a refund? Just curious as to where the new line is being drawn.

  12. waxigloo says:

    I’ve got to agree. And it would be a dick move for YOU not to PERSONALLY give this guy money out of your own pocket to cover the cost.

    What you don’t want to give him money? What about “kindness to others”?! Come ON…the guy has cancer! Just give him money.

  13. ManicPanic says:

    @FitJulie: I’m with you on this one–at least offer a credit so that he may make the trip when he recovers and is in need of some Florida sun. It isn’t like this guy could see that he would be diagnosed with cancer in the forseeable future. Sorry Spirit, I object.

  14. burgundyyears says:

    @FitJulie: Kindness to others? This is a discount airline, not a charity. If you want to ensure the refundability of your travel expenses, buy travel insurance or refundable tickets. My parents purchased it once for a $$$ cruise and it paid off when in the intervening time period 9/11 occurred and my mother became ill. In retrospect, I suppose they were suckers, should have skipped the travel insurance, and should have just called up the cruise line and begged for their money back, then wrote in to Consumerist when the big stinkers wouldn’t cave.

  15. ManicPanic says:

    Even SouthWORST offers some sort of refund–up until and AFTER the plane leaves-even if you have a nonrefundable ticket. So using the whole “discount airline” excuse doesn’t really hold up. There’s nothing wrong with crediting the origional ticket-penalty fee to the original passenger for future travel on Spirit.

  16. comopuedeser says:

    Rules are rules. Yes. But people are people. Is it a good business decision to be “black and white” in this situation? I think not.

  17. Adam Hyland says:

    It isn’t a charity, but a guarantee you that just being a discount airline is a loosing battle in the end. Period. Unless you can make your marginal cost lower than EVERYONE else in the industry, you can’t protect your earnings from even the most price sensitive consumers.

    This is why companies make it a point to have customer service, because people make connections in their brain and establish price preferences based on those connections. I buy pay more to buy macs because they generally make a superior product. My wife used to shop at walmart because it is cheap until they fucked up her prescription and told her that they couldn’t do anything about it. Now we pay more at a local pharmacy that goes the extra mile for us.

    If an airline wants to fuck over all their customers then their reputation will and should precede them. If they want to treat people like human beings, then they earn a customer for life. If they want to make a cheap buck on a 200 dollar ticket and lose thousands of dollars in potential sales because they screwed over the bereaved, that’s their problem.

  18. AD8BC says:

    I agree with most here. I buy a lot of non-refundable tickets and I understand the risk, but they are cheap tickets.

    I’m not familiar with Spirit, but perhaps the tickets can be used for future travel with a small change penalty.

  19. JustAGuy2 says:


    The airline agreed to provide transport from A to B on a given date, subject to some restrictions and limitations.

    If the airline cancels the flight, then the OP’s friend will get his money back. If the flight goes ahead, and the OP’s friend isn’t able to be on it, the airline has met its obligation.

  20. JustAGuy2 says:


    The thing is, for recreational travelers, airlines are a true commodity product. For $10, people will switch. Not true for service-oriented business travelers, but definitely true for recreational travelers.

  21. burgundyyears says:

    @comopuedeser: I agree, the more shades-of-gray solution is to credit the squeaky wheel and pass on the cost to someone else. Rules are for chumps anyway, right?

  22. coan_net says:

    If a company sells you something cheaper that comes with a no refund policy – then that is probable one of the reasons it was cheaper.

    If you wanted something with a refund policy, then you probable should have paid more at a different company.

    Not meaning to sound cold hearted or anything, but that is one of the reasons the ticket was probable cheaper in the first place.

  23. Falconfire says:

    Can someone please explain to me why airlines are allowed to have a no refunds policy?

  24. Bos'un's Mate says:

    @ManicPanic: David may convert the ticket to a voucher, minus a service fee, for use within one year. [tinyurl.com] Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

  25. huadpe says:

    @Falconfire: Because generally you’re allowed to do things unless there’s a law saying otherwise. You can get a refundable ticket, for more money. If you value flexibility, you can pay more and get it. If you value getting from A to B as cheaply as possible, the airline will make it non-refundable, so that they can re-invest their money more quickly because they don’t have to worry about you coming for a refund.

  26. enm4r says:

    @Falconfire: I love no refund tickets. They get me, as justaguy2 says, from point A to point B for cheaper. The same reason I typically fly red eye. It doesn’t bother me, I can sit in a cabin for 2 hours, so I’ll save some cash. I’m glad they offer them for myself, and others like me. But the difference is, I understand what the term “non-refundable” means.

  27. Crymson_77 says:

    @Falconfire: Because there is no law stating that they have to have one.

  28. burgundyyears says:

    @Falconfire: Because they get to run their businesses as they see fit? Lots of future-event tickets are non-refundable barring acts on their part such as cancellation.

  29. ManicPanic says:

    @Landor: Okay then I am okay with Spirit Air. Thanks for pointing that out! I think that is fair. And it is better than nothing.

  30. keainansen says:

    pylon83 makes a GREAT point!

  31. crnk says:

    @Landor: WOW! So he isn’t just screwed out of all of his money as he claims. In fact, the service fee is a lot less than most other airlines, too.

  32. bonzombiekitty says:

    @Falconfire: For the same reason anyone else can have a no refunds policy. As long as they fulfill their part of the bargain, they are not responsible for you not being able to hold up your end. Unless a product or service was defective or not what was advertised, in most places there is absolutely no requirement for a business to allow returns.

  33. Buran says:

    @ManicPanic: Not really — you don’t get the money BACK, but it goes back into your account so that you can use it any time within, I think, the next year; I have $50 in my account from re-booking a ticket at a lower price than my original booking. I can use it within that amount of time toward future travel. And I think I could even allow someone else to use it; they could book a ticket and give me that much in cash, if I wanted to do that.

    I don’t like the blame-the-victim game, but this is yet another case of someone not wanting to abide by the rules they agreed to abide by when they bought the ticket. I really am sorry to hear about the cancer (that DOES suck), but I’m sorry, there is not an exception for medical problems in the contract that was your ticket purchase. It’s a risk you run if you get a nonrefundable ticket. If in the future you want to be able to cancel due to whatever problems might arise, you need to buy a refundable ticket.

    Or use Southwest in the future — they’re a LOT more reasonable about allowing you to change your plans; maybe not outright cancellation, but you can be much less worried that you will outright lose the money.

  34. Buran says:

    @Wormfather: So, we’re trolls if we point out that the poster wants to change the terms of his contract, which requires all signatories to agree, when the airline will not agree? It’s trolling to say that personal responsibility needs to be learned?

  35. SOhp101 says:

    @Hyland: Funny you say that, because last time I checked, Wal-Mart was one of the biggest retailers in the country.

    It would be really nice if Spirit Air did give him a credit so he could purchase another ticket, but that’s completely up to them since he agreed that there would be no refunds. Travel insurance would have been nice to have.

    But really, were they expecting an AIRLINE to have a heart? That, in my mind, is the most amusing part of this story. Customer service is one of the industry’s weakest links.

  36. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    @FitJulie: I agree with the “future credit” idea, and yes – as a gesture of goodwill and whatnot, it’d probably be in the best interest of the company to refund this man’s money, but the truth of the matter is that businesses don’t make money by giving it away. Not “blaming the victim” here, but it is what it is…

  37. Raanne says:

    spirt offers refundable and non-refundable. you specify it when you buy the ticket. you can’t miss it. While i have sympathy for the customer because it sucks that he is out of his money, I dont think that spirit should in any way refund his money.

    The i-didn’t-think-i-would-need-to-refund-it defense doesn’t work. No one is going to buy a ticket that they dont think they are going to use. If you dont want to be out the money if for any reason you can’t go, you buy refundable. If you would rather save the money, you buy non-refundable, but realize that you aren’t getting your money back.

  38. SVreader says:

    Very sad story, and I hate airlines, but isn’t almost anyone who has to cancel a flight going to have a sob story? Whether it’s having to cancel the family trip to Disneyland because Great Uncle Henry died, or because Dad lost his job and can’t afford to take the family on vacation anymore, or because you were flying out for a friend’s wedding and her fiance cheated on her the week before…generally, a cancellation means something went wrong. Yes, it would be nice if they gave him a refund, but I’m sure a lot of people, even when they knowingly buy a cheap ticket with no refunds, want one when something goes wrong.

  39. Bos'un's Mate says:

    If a person does any amount of traveling, they are best off buying no-refund tickets in advance. Even with the occasional $50-$75 change fee or the occasional burned ticket, the savings are substantial over the long haul compared to unrestricted tickets.

    For the occasional traveler, just fork over the extra $15 in travel insurance.

    Just remember that when you buy cheap tickets online, customer service is not included. If you need to call the airline to make a change, you’re going to pay for the privilege. I personally think this is entirely fair, and this is what helps keep ticket prices low.

  40. jld says:

    While I agree Spirit has no obligation to refund this guys money, there’s something to be said for not pissing off your customers. Maybe they should have offered him a credit towards a future flight in the interests of keeping a customer?

  41. meneye says:

    stop crying about it. It’s a no-refund ticket and you knew that when you bought it. Policy is policy.

  42. Juliekins says:

    @Landor: If he can use the current ticket as a credit towards a future one, then I’m with Spirit. No refunds means no refunds, but no refunds doesn’t mean “no changes” or “no credits.” Thank you for linking to that policy.

    It sucks, but I think he needs to eat the $70 and work within the policy.

  43. Bos'un's Mate says:

    @meneye: As in, stop crying over spilt MILF?

  44. RottNDude says:

    That Baldanza guy consistently has a smirk on his face that seems to be an open invitation to punch him in the head – sort of like that picture of the whale Exxon CEO.

  45. damitaimee says:

    i haven’t read all of the comments, but i don’t understand how spirit loses anything in this.

    sure, they have a non-refundable policy, but there is still a very good chance spirit can successfully sell that seat.

    it seems absolutely bizarre to me that they could not offer him credits to fly another time, especially considering the situation.

    unfortunately, when we treat corporations as people and give them the rights as people, they don’t treat their consumers as people in return.

  46. @jld: According to Landor’s link he should be able to change his ticket to a voucher.

  47. doireallyneedausername says:


    I agree…to a certain degree. Businesses can have a heart, but where do you draw the line between a single gesture of goodwill and opening the floodgates for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to air their grievances?

    At a certain point, if the loss is not too big, I’ll just bite the bullet and take the loss. I’m fighting with my health insurance right now over $300. I’m about ready to bite the bullet and let it go.

    So I think this guy just needs to bite the bullet…its prob a $150 ticket. Just pocket the loss. Even if he’s on a fixed-income, or whatnot, just take the loss.

  48. llcooljabe says:

    I know no refund means that, but my wife has gotten a refund from Northwest of all airlines because of a hospital stay.

    I’ve been saying it for years. Spirit sucks. Avoid at all costs.

  49. Stan LS says:

    @FitJulie: “But come on, the guy has cancer.” So if you bought a ticket, and the company refused to honour it because, let’s say’, someone had cancer… That would be fine with you and you’ld just buy another one? I mean, come on! The guy has cancer!

  50. jamesdenver says:

    What do people buy bargain basement airfares and expect gold star service? I agree with the above – eat the loss or work within the change window.

    If you want refunds you need a refundable fare or travel insurance covering medical issues.

    Cheap isn’t best: [www.futuregringo.com]

  51. jamesdenver says:

    Is it just me or do I find a clear black and white policy BETTER than multiple CSRs and supervisors deciding what constitutes a person’s inability to travel or fly…

    Again – that’s why refundable and NON-refundable fares exist.

    I side with Spirit – assholes or not…

  52. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I’m very sorry for your friend, and I sincerely hope he gets better soon.
    Sadly, if that is their policy, it looks like Spirit Air’s customer service doesn’t have to do the morally right thing and are completely within their “right” to keep your money and give you nothing. Poor customer service and an unwillingness to do the right thing are sadly too often completely legal. There is something to be said for going above and beyond the minimum to do the right thing, but apparently, Spirit Air isn’t interested in that.
    I think Spirit Air would be better off refunding your money – they would look like the good guys, they would have lost nothing, you would be happy, and they would have gained at least one loyal customer – really, who knows how many if the story we were reading here was different?
    Maybe you can get some comfort knowing that the next person who searches for Spirit Air’s customer service record on a search engine may see your story here and will choose to fly with a company that is willing to treat their customers like people.

  53. jessma says:

    Same thing happened to me this past summer with another airline (colon cancer — can’t fly due to thrombosis risk of the chemo treatments). However, I would never have dreamed of obtaining the refund from the airline in question and would not fault Spirit Air here. I understood at purchase time my ticket was cheap and non-refundable — that’s life. But don’t most people have travel insurance? It’s exactly for these kinds of occasions and I was able to get a full refund from my insurer (as I also did earlier in the year for another cancelled family trip due to kids getting chicken pox!).

  54. jamesdenver says:

    quote: “may see your story here and will choose to fly with a company that is willing to treat their customers like people.”

    And odds are they won’t. They’ll fly what’s cheapest. That’s been of issue recently: No matter how many “X airlines suck” stories come out, people will still gobble up whatever airfares happens to be $20 bucks cheaper than another.

    Even if an airline posted on their site “Our planes our filthy, our safety record sucks, our FAs are miserable curmudgeons and wenches, we sold our ONE gate to another airlines, but we fly for $50 less — I have a feeling the flights would be packed.

  55. swalve says:

    @FitJulie: This has nothing to do with blaming the victim. It is OK to blame the victim if it IS their fault. Not looking before crossing the street, buying drugs from unreputable dealers, etc. Buying a non refundable ticket is a gamble. This guy lost, and I’m sure we all feel bad for it.

    Having a compelling story does not change the rules. I don’t want to be denied a refund for being late for the plane because some guy with cancer has a better story than me.

    This story is antithetical to what we as consumers ask for: fair policy implemented fairly.

  56. D.B. Cooper-Nichol says:

    Nice work by the “trolls” who . . . actually read the policy at issue.

  57. comopuedeser says:

    @swalve: Depends on what your definition of “fair” and “fairly” is. I would think that many people here would disagree with your definition of “fair.”

    Also, I’m not sure “fairness” is the issue at hand here. Your approach to this story seems to focus on the idea of their being strict rules that must be followed by all.

    At the point that rules cause a company to lose customers due to ignorance of the experiences of life, I’m not sure how helpful the rules actually are. The company didn’t do anything “wrong” legally here, but they may have perhaps isolated themselves from the same customers they are trying to woo.

    Great job following protocol. Poor job winning over a customer.

  58. jamesdenver says:

    The idea of “winning over a customer” is absurd also. At least with airlines.

    My local Ace Hardware won me over. My dry cleaner removed a stain and won me over. Nobody gets won over by airlines.

    Also suppose they did “win someone over.” What would the PR benefit be? ONE return customer should the routing and airfare qualify.

    No one is going to set up an “I love Spirit” blog. Or tell all their friends about the great refund they received. They’ll forget about it and move on.

    So yes – GREAT job following protocol. Cool by me.

  59. consumingall says:

    href=”#c3379402″>jamesdenver: I disagree that winning over a customer is absurd. I paid more for a ticket on an upcoming trip to Europe because I’ve been won over by certain airlines with top-notch customer service (unfortunately none of them are domestic carriers)

    I also paid extra for travel insurance which isn’t much and anyone should consider if they’re worried about this type of thing happening.

  60. erratapage says:

    Either the airline can follow the rules and be completely within its rights to do the wrong thing and get bad press in winning its lawsuit; OR

    the airline can bend its rules and do the humanitarian thing and get good press.

    I like cheap airline tickets, too.

  61. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    Stupid Colon Cancer guy! If he had eaten more fiber and exercised regularly, his friend wouldn’t be stuck with his non-refundable ticket! How long will my tax dollars be used to help people dumb enough not to predict unforeseen circumstances such as this?


  62. AT203 says:

    Wow, is that a real quote? That is ridiculous.

  63. mconfoy says:

    maybe they figure any press, including bad press, is good press.

    @ceejeemcbeegee: No relationship between colon cancer and fiber.

    @FitJulie: first thing you learn about pylon83 is that he is the only one that really cares about his opinion. if they had a kill filter on here, i have no doubt he would be on everyone’s list.

  64. xkevin says:

    The policy may have changed but Spirit used to allow you to cancel nonrefundable tickets for a “credit” but charged you a $25 fee when you rebooked.

  65. swalve says:

    @comopuedeser: It’s not your place to dictate Spirit Air’s policy. Who are you to say what attitude they should have toward unprofitable customers? What do you do for a living? What would you say if your employer/customer said to you “I know you just sold me this service and worked all day to do it, but I can’t use it and want my money back.”

  66. jamesdenver says:

    Someone explain to me where this avalanche of “good person” will come from – other than the complaintant stating “Cool I got a refund” directly after hanging up the phone.

  67. burgundyyears says:

    @consumingall: Pfft. Travel insurance is for chumps. If you need to cancel, just call them up and tell them your dearest Aunt Gertie died and threaten full Consumerist retaliation unless they bow down to your demands immediately.

  68. drawp says:

    All it takes is for them to flex on one person’s request and it will open the floodgates for the liars and cheats.

  69. Me. says:

    This article comes at the perfect time:

    My sister had booked a trip to Iceland for her wedding. I got diagnosed with cancer, so she cancelled it to stick with me. Now that I’m no longer going to die (knock on wood), she’s trying to get a refund (or at least a credit). We’ll see how that goes…

  70. famboozled says:

    You have got be kidding, I can see raising such a fuss over an $600 ticket but Cmon, you bought a cheep ticket from a really cheap airline. What re we taling here $180?

    You were rolling the bones just purchasing from Spirit in the first place. Now your feelings are hurt and you want a couple of dimes back? Life is tough, rules is rules and that is what you get when you do not buy quality.