Spirit Airlines Stealing Your Money Is "Nonrefundable"

Our network of spies and informants have penetrated every major American corporation. The following is dialog from a recent Spirit Airlines board meeting, as imagined by reader David, whom they screwed over. The first sentence of this post is therefore a non sequitor, but that’s ok. What’s not ok is Spirit’s policy making its various fees and upgrades non-refundable. So if they screw up your ticket and then have to issue you a new one, you don’t get to keep the upgrades you bought. They just take your money, because of their ironclad policy against refunds. Now let’s join that imagined Spirit Airlines board meeting, already in progress…

(pictured: Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza laughing because he just took your monies and is going to go buy some cakes)

Scenario of a typical Board Meeting of Spirit Air to encourage new passengers with profitable increase:

“Let’s coerce them to buy tickets (with a price reduction), with us online, for flights that the customer customizes, to their benefit.”

“Then we can go in and change everything so the customer squirms a bit and has to go by our guidelines to fixing the problem we made for them. Then, to top it off, any arrangements or pre-payment of “luxury” items (ie. Pre-checked baggage and seating arrangements) will not be able to be transferred to the new arrangements and we don’t have to give them their money back, but rather keep that money and re-charge them for new arrangements on the new flight, made to our guidelines because of a problem we inflicted upon them.”

“This is great, because we are the Spirit of the airlines, and we have the right to do it. Also, let’s go one step farther… Let’s make the flights un-refundable, so they HAVE to stay with our policies and guidelines. In the end, they will become so frustrated with our customer service that they will either succumb to our rules and live with the delay in destination plans, having to reschedule everything they had planned, or they will go to another airline, where we get to keep their money and they have to come up with new money to pay for that flight. It’s a win/win solution to the economy, and
our longevity within the airline business.”

“To make the customer even more frustrated, we don’t have to contact them with the changes in their flight until 2-4 weeks prior to their flight. We will write this into our policy with a special note for them to be responsible for keeping “tabs” on their own flight, making our job that much easier.”

Now David tells us what actually happened to him. David had sent both sections to Spriti Airlines mutliple times, and hasn’t gotten a single reply.

We pre-arranged everything for our trip to Florida, and now everything has to be changed because our flight was cancelled, and we were placed on a flight with a 5-hour layover in Fort Lauderdale, putting us in our destination 5 hours late and all reservations made that evening will have to be cancelled.

It’s not a matter of how could you do this to your customers, but rather how long you will remain in business once everyone has had an unresolved complaint with your airline, and tell their friends and families not to fly
on Spirit.

We were encouraged by the low airfares as the economy becomes unstable and gas prices soar out of control. We adjust our living to accommodate this, and one of the ways of doing this is by the companies that understand the problem and offer solutions. I assumed your offer to be sincere, in an effort to help people find cost-saving routes to be able to still get out of the house from time to time.

This hassle has caused more headaches than it’s price in gasoline. I thought about cancelling the flight because of the way we have been jerked around, only to learn it is unrefundable. We are stuck. So, we changed our flight from the one YOU reassigned us on, to a non-stop to Orlando again. The time works better for us, as we arrive earlier than originally scheduled, and we get to keep our reservations, but now the pre-checked baggage and pre-paid seating arrangements are void and non-refundable. In order to get the seats we want, we have to pay you AGAIN to remake a new seating arrangement. This flight will have cost us the same amount, in money, as it would have to drive there, minus the time. None of this non-refundable problems would have happened if you hadn’t changed our plans, and as a result, decided not to honor the US dollars we paid already for the necessary arrangements.

I would rather fly with Spirit Air, since my last flight with you was quite enjoyable. This time around, however, has me thinking the first time was a fluke.

How can we find a solution rather than inflicting headaches, lost money, and rescheduling issues? This policy you guys have is wrong and unjust. How many times will we be switched from jet to jet, having been left with having to pay for new seats? I understand it is affordable, but affordable becomes expensive after doing it three or four times.

Think about it, and please help us out, as returning customers. If something isn’t done, we won’t return. Another airline will not only become our new method of travel, but yours will not be recommended to anyone we come in contact with, should they be thinking about flying.

Thank you for your time,

David B

We would say to email Baldanza, but he might just make snide comments about you to his coworkers. Maybe try sending him a message via his LinkedIn profile.


Edit Your Comment

  1. AaronZ says:

    What is the limitation on Chargebacks?

    Presuming a second set of charges represents the adjusted flight, could you just chargeback the first set of charges that include the non-refundable fees?

    I can see how Spirit can say anything they want in a contract (IE; we get to keep the fees!), but just because they put it in writing doesn’t automatically make it legal.

  2. erikw says:

    I once flew Spirit from Atlantic City to Florida around Christmas time when there were literally no flights left going out of Philly. I paid for it, about $200 nonstop one way but that was great compared to the $300-something 1-stop flights out of Philly.

    Customer service was absolutely horrible, and back at the time paying for the first checked bag sucked, but once I got on the plane it was actually pleasant. The plane was an Airbus, clean and new. I got there safely, with minimal hassle. It worked out.

  3. cybercjh says:

    Anybody who willingly buys tickets on Spirit Airlines needs to have their head examined. 7 to 10 years ago, they were a great airline. Truly, one of the best small airlines ever. Today, they are outsourced glorified ghetto greyhound hustlers who have to rape their customers in order to go in search of their next crack fix.

  4. AbnerNangified says:

    I made the huge mistake of trying Spirit last year. We were broadsided by
    the airline’s hidden fees when we took our annual journey to Walt Disney
    World. I thought I was buying an airline ticket. But, these days, you need a
    lawyer and magnifying glass for everything. Pretty soon, Apple will need to
    come up with a Pocket Lawyer version of their iPhone. Enter the product name
    and get the interpretation on how badly you’re getting stuck. I’ll never fly
    Spirit again.

  5. Landru says:

    What? People still fly places?

  6. benh57 says:

    CC companies will do partial chargebacks.

  7. MyPetFly says:

    Why do you think they call it Spirit Airlines? Because they’re just about dead, is my guess.

  8. jamar0303 says:

    I wonder how much more hassling people will take before they give up on planes altogether…

  9. angelman says:

    I was just about to take spirit to small claims court for losing my car seat and doing nothing about it. after 6 months of me sending them emails and letters (and required forms and evidence) and never getting a single reply. Finally I sent an email to them threatening small claims. Two weeks later I got a cheque. They had the nerve to deduct 10% for depreciation. The car seat was brand new! It was in perfect condition and was bought just two weeks before we travelled!
    I don’t know if it’s worth me sending a letter ranting at them for their terrible customer service for my own amusement or not. Cant do any harm I guess, I will never ever fly with them again. Shame becuase the flight itself worked out just fine.

  10. gliscameria says:

    Nice. The board meeting reminds me of that blackand white saturday night live clip about the bank with Keifer Sutherland in it.

    Damnit, what was the name of it?

  11. balthisar says:

    @angelman: You would have lost depreciation in small claims court, too. Probably more. Craigslist price. Just like a car; once it’s used, it’s used.

  12. angelman says:

    @balthisar: That maybe but it took them 6 months to get the cheque to us! In that time they didnt communicate at all. Its impossible to speak to anyone there. I left messages on the answer machine many many times. I managed to get the email address from the luggage guy at LAX that was helping me. I pleaded with the woman to reply to me but she never did. It really was beyond frustrating. They dumped my wife and baby at LAX at midnight with no car seat, no way of getting the baby legally home. All Spirit airlines staff had left. Eventually the lost luggage guy bought us a ticket on a shuttle bus no thanks to the airline.

  13. theczardictates says:

    Arguing with airlines about their policies is about as fruitful as arguing with a fundamentalist about the Bible. They seem to have lost sight of the fact that its not God’s word handed down from the mountain, it’s just a bunch of stuff that people made up and wrote down, and the world won’t come to an end if they make up some different stuff and write that down instead.

    I mean the airlines, of course. Not the fundamentalists.

  14. Cynicor says:

    I had a flight from Charlotte to JFK last night on JetBlue. I got email about noon that it had been cancelled. I called them up, and they didn’t have anything from Charlotte until tonight, but they rebooked for me out of Raleigh-Durham instead at no charge. They also refunded the $10 seat upgrade I had paid for the first flight because they fly regional jets out of RDU.

  15. Cynicor says:

    Contrast that with United several years ago during a blizzard in NY. Afraid that planes wouldn’t get out, we got my friend an LGA-SEA ticket on United on Friday night. The blizzard hit, and we drove to LGA in the storm. They took baggage, issued boarding passes, and announced the gate. After waiting at the gate for 30 minutes, they announced that the flight was cancelled and the airport was closed.

    We asked for a full refund, and they said no, sorry, no refund. We said “but we paid for this service and you did not provide it,” and they said “Oh, it was a special class of ticket that we started selling on Friday because of the storms.”

    So we did a chargeback on Amex, and United reissued the charge.

    And that’s how United got onto my list of basically every airline except JetBlue that I will never deal with again.

  16. JohnMc says:

    “…and we were placed on a flight with a 5-hour layover in Fort Lauderdale, putting us in our destination 5 hours late and all reservations made that evening will have to be cancelled.”

    I feel their pain but they forgot the first rule of travel these days. Don’t plan anything that ‘must happen’ on day of arrival. As a passenger you have no control over the weather, the airplane or the airline. Provision that your travel that day will be a foul up.

    It was the fundamental flaw in this case.

  17. citybuddha says:

    Mmmmm Cakes…that’s funny

  18. AgentTuttle says:

    If the service paid for is not provided, I don’t see how it is anything but theft. It’d be hard to not start breaking shit.

    Or steal the equivalent value of life-vests and call them anonymously to let them know the score has been settled. I wonder how much it will cost them to inspect all of their planes to find out where they are missing from? Street justice.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Ben Baldanza
    Spirit Airlines
    2800 Executive Way,
    Miramar, FL 33025

    Dear Mr. Baldanza:

    Like many others, I am an avid traveler, both for business and pleasure. Having this lifestyle has taught me a lot about flexibility and patience along with the value of customer service. My background is in business and I have learned that those companies that place high importance on customer service are the ones left standing when others fail.

    I recently chose to experience Spirit Airlines for the first time. I was impressed by your ultra low cost carrier model and the flight routes. However, I am now convinced that the hassle, tears and utter disrespect caused by your company were not worth the cheap fare.

    My younger sister and I chose to travel to Puerto Rico via Spirit Airlines. I flew from Boston with two layovers while she flew from Detroit with one layover. The trouble for her began when she forgot her phone in the car. Our mother ran it in to Spirit over 90 minutes prior to takeoff and spoke with a representative who said she would take it straight to my sister at her gate. The woman never appeared, nor was my sister paged. When I tried to contact Spirit customer service, I spoke with Paul, a manager in Bangalore about connecting me with Spirit baggage claim in Detroit. He was completely powerless to give out a phone number accessible to anyone with online access or a phonebook! His recommendation was to look it up online myself – which I would have been happy to do if Spirit had not put me on a five hour layover! My mother tried calling from her end. It took over two hours and eight frustrating calls to find someone competent enough to find the phone.

    The trouble on my end started when I boarded my first flight. There was insufficient space provided for carry-on luggage, even though the airline encourages only having carry-on. A flight attendant took my bag from me and asked my seat number, saying that she would take my bag and bring me a ticket. I assumed that she was placing my bag at the front of the plane. However, when she did not give me a ticket after takeoff, I became worried and asked what she had done with it. She had checked it, but she was not sure where it would turn up, nor did she have a tracking ticket for me. Her solution: Just de-board the plane during our layover, exit the terminal, find my bag at the luggage pickup, go through security again, and get back on the next flight, hopefully in time and having more space to store my bag. When I exited the plane, I spoke with seven staff members and was appalled by the lack of customer service and of empowerment to help resolve the issue. I did end up going to baggage claim and speaking with ONE kind and helpful person in the Fort Lauderdale Spirit Baggage Claim. Unfortunately, he could not find my bag. Thus, I rushed back through security and boarded my plane, now worried that Spirit had managed to lose my carry-on bag. When we landed in Puerto Rico, we waited for an hour and thankfully, magically, my bag did appear – without a tag and with my outer clip stolen. As I am on the road for nine months and the bag was 50% of my belongings, I was grateful.

    Losing a bag is common among all airlines so I let my anger go. However, I was soon to discover that the incompetent staff, rude attitudes and complete disrespect for clients run deep in the culture of Spirit Airlines.

    On our way home we arrived at the terminal in Puerto Rico almost two hours early to check-in in for my sister’s flight home. She was to depart San Juan at 3:15am and my flight was around 6:58am. When we arrived we soon discovered that her flight to Fort Lauderdale had been cancelled. How did we discover this? By waiting in line for over four hours and hearing rumors. Not once did the Spirit staff find the decency to explain what was going on. When we finally made it to the front of the line, I watched, appalled, while Jose, a Spirit Customer Service Representative, allowed a friend of his to cut in front of us and check in, even though they had just arrived. (They gave each other a high-five while I asked why he was not serving us.) Why the long wait? Why the total lack of communication? Why the rude behavior? It certainly was not because they were short staffed. I counted five people standing around talking about their holidays behind the counter, while we waited.

    When we did finally speak with someone, she was going to put my sister, who graduated high school the week prior, on a tentative flight out of the country after me. I explained that we are family and that she must fly out before me or on the same flight, but not after because 1) she does not speak Spanish and 2) I had seen enough to know not to trust the competence of the Spirit staff. When I called the customer service number, their only response was that they would fly her out within two days without making sure she was safe in a hotel and that all other information was up to the staff in the departing terminal. Wow. Spirit told me to leave my little sister alone in a country where she does not know the language and does not own a credit card. What a brilliant idea.

    After waiting for another two hours, we stood by the gate and prayed that she could get on standby for my flight. The staff did nothing to make sure she was moved to the front of the list as to not separate family. Thankfully, she was one of the last people to make it on.

    Once in Fort Lauderdale, we tried to speak with a customer service representative again to find out what our options were. Strangely, there was no one who would take the time to help! We exited the terminal and went to the ticket counter where one person was kind enough to give us some advice.

    My flight back to Boston was delayed. Her flight to Detroit was delayed by over 45 minutes. My sister sat down on her confirmed seat to Detroit after a seven hour layover (please keep in mind that we cut our trip short in order for her to be back home in time for an event that evening, which she was forced to miss). Moments later, another person appeared with the same seat assignment! My sister was pushed to tears for the third time that day. They escorted her off the plane and told her she was not even in the computer, even though Spirit had given her a ticket and told her she was good to go. Thankfully, a seat opened and she was able to go home. What would have happened if the flight was full? I am terrified to even think about it.

    As a working professional and as a family person, I am utterly disgusted by the behavior and the deplorable treatment of customers exhibited by the vast majority of the Spirit staff. As one who regularly provides travel advice to many people, I am positive of only one thing when it comes to Spirit Airlines: This is the worst company (not just airline) that I have ever come in contact with and whatever a customer might “save” monetarily will be lost through the airline wasting their customer’s time and treating them with less dignity than a piece of expendable furniture.

    It is my hope that you as the CEO will take this letter seriously and begin to change the culture of the organization. Great airlines are needed and you have some of the infrastructure in place. Now act like you care for continued business.



    FOLLOW-UP: Spirit Airlines did respond to our letter with an apology stating that this is not normal behavior for the airline. No concessions were made to rectify how we were treated. Strangely, the letter was never finished…the sentence trailed off and the last two letters of the mail read “fu”. Coincidence? I think not. What a disappointing company.

  20. hectorinox88 says:

    Can someone tell me if they think this is possible?

    Is there a way that I have made a reservation for an specific day and they changed my reservation for another day without me noticing?

    For example I have made a reservation for March 6th but when they send me the confirmation the flight was schedule for March 4th. When I called they said it was probably my mistake and there was nothing they could do but charge me like and extra $200 to change my flight to the date I originally though I made the reservation for.

    So I think to myself did I make a mistake ? or did they change my reservation to try and take my extra money?

    Please advise guys,