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How much aggravation must travelers put up with to save a few bucks?

spirit airlines

Last week, dedicated Spirit Airlines customer Richard Rosichan (known as RichardNika on our message boards), who has flown with the airline roughly 50 times in the past few years, made up his mind to never fly Spirit again — and is in the process of filing suit against the company.

For years, Rosichan was a faithful customer, logging more than 80,000 miles with the airline. As a member of Spirit’s $9 Fare Club, Rosichan estimates he’s saved as much as $4,000 flying with Spirit over the years (in comparison to standard fare prices on major carriers).

All the while, Rosichan remained undeterred by Spirit’s history of controversial practices and policies. A nickel-and-diming pioneer, Spirit was one of the first carriers to levy fees for beverages and checked bags in 2007. And Spirit’s gotten plenty of negative exposure from the offensive ad campaigns it has launched over the years (a recent Spirit ad poked fun at the Gulf oil spill). This week, Spirit made headlines after the airline started charging passengers for carry-on bags on August 1.

But it wasn’t the baggage fees that swayed Rosichan.

Rosichan’s positive relationship with Spirit Airlines changed drastically on July 26, after a canceled Spirit flight left him stranded. According to Rosichan, Spirit canceled its 6:50 flight from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale due to weather and offered only to rebook ticketed passengers on a flight leaving two days later. Rosichan posted about his experience on the IndependentTraveler.com message boards: “[Spirit was] dismissive and totally uninterested in cases involving connection problems, lodging, meals, parents with toddlers (at least two that I saw) and medical issues. … There were no supervisory personnel present. We were told no arrangements would be made with other carriers.”

Unfortunately, the airlines are not required by U.S. law to compensate passengers for delayed or canceled flights. But most major airlines have interline agreements with other carries, which means they can book stranded passengers on a different airline if need be. Since Spirit Airlines has no interline agreements with other carriers, a stranded Spirit passenger is in a particularly precarious position.

Rosichan eventually purchased a flight on Delta and made his way home. He is currently in the process of filing a grievance against Spirit Airlines in small claims court.

Rosichan’s change of heart raises the question at the heart of the matter. Notwithstanding Spirit’s flood of petty fees, Rosichan saved a significant amount of money flying Spirit, which sometimes offers tickets as cheap as $2 before taxes and fees — but was it worth it? Tell us what you think.

19 Responses to “Are Cheap Fares Worth the Hassle? Fed-Up Flier Stands Up to Spirit”

  1. Melissa says:

    Definitely not worth it! I booked with Spirit once and that was the last time. They trick you into signing up for their $9 Fare Club and their customer service just plain stinks. I hope you’ll keep people posted on Rosichan’s case. He may not win a thing, but at least he’s standing up to Spirit.

  2. SeaMarmot says:

    Price is always my bottom line (pardon the terrible prose), but as soon as the serious customer service condescension comes in play, I’m done. Really only takes the one bad experience … incredibly rude Charles De Gaulle security screener with beady eyes … for me to try to avoid the product from there on out.

  3. Kim says:

    He was lucky that was his first experience with a flight cancellation. My first, worst and ONLY experience was similar. On a flight from Fort Lauderdale to New York, the flight scheduled for a Thursday was cancelled. The airline left a note at the desk to call the customer service number…NO PERSON from the airline was present and on the phone they told us they could get us home on SUNDAY!! After calling Delta and paying a premium for the airfare, we were home that night. I vowed to never fly Spirit again and have kept to that. Even though I like to fly with the most inexpensive airfare…I will NEVER fly Spirit. It only takes one really bad experience.

  4. BCOT says:

    No, it’s not worth it. There seems to be this old time thought that there’s always a deal to be had, but in America it’s about the dollars and cents. That is what a capitalist society is about. It doesn’t care about you, as a person, or what’s right. It cares about your dollars, and trying to extract as much from you as possible. What this means is that you get what you pay for when you purchase a $2.00 or $9.00 ticket. Under no circumstances would I would ever fly Spirit Airlines or any of it’s cheap equivalents. Airline travel is bad enough with the deep body cavity searches, the long security lines, the cramped seating (if you’re not lucky enough to get upgraded) etc. Then these bastards want to charge to carry on a bag, which is pretty much a necessity. Airline travel is not the city bus. People are typically traveling to a destination to stay a few days, that requires some type of luggage.

    I’m so glad this guy is suing. I hope he wins and that it becomes a wake up call to the airlines. At the very least, maybe it could spell the beginning of the end of the sneaky fees and outrageous fee gouging.

  5. Bob Blaha says:

    I stopped flying Spirit. I found the Spirit fare is that much less after paying their various fees. And they add the fees on after you book your flight. The fee that convinced me to stop flying with them is when I wanted to select our seats so my wife and I could sit near our grandsons.

  6. Anita Lynch says:

    As a travel agent who respects and encourages clients to grab every money saving opportunity, my recommendation would be to continue to fly Spirit, but obtain an annual travel insurance policy from a specialist company like Travel Guard. The cost would be nominal and would cover situations like cancelled flights, putting the responsibiity on the insurance company to locate and book the passenger on another airline.

  7. Lori W says:

    I do think that it’s outrageous to cancel a flight and leave passengers stranded for two days. However, when using a bargain service provider, I think one must anticipate such things, and realize that there are such risks involved. In this case I do think Spirit should have made arrangements to assist these passengers. But then again, I don’t know what their stated policies are. If they disclosed this policy in advance, then those who purchased tickets accepted the risk. I for one am fed up with people who buy the cut-rate item and then demand five-star service.

  8. Marilyn says:

    I’ve quit flying SPirit sicne they charge that outrageous amount for their carry on that other airlines let you bring for free.

  9. steviem says:

    I refuse to fly on Spirit! I don’t care how much a ticket cost. When an airline gets so full of itself that it doesn’t even care to provide the service that it is suppose to–it needs to be boycotted. How did these airlines get to the point where the passenger is made to grovel and beg for them just to do the job they are being paid to do! Enough already!

  10. Bert says:

    I decieded never to fly Sprit 6 months ago. They canceled flights and never notified us. At check in they said “Oh yes we sent you a email”. There were at least 30 other pasangers at check in with same complaint. Delayed flights, canceled flights, extra charges all left me angery.
    They are the only carrier to go direct Ft Lauderdale to Atlantic City. I still would not go with thwm. I fly either into Phila or into Newark.

  11. Denny says:

    Continental Airlines left me stranded twice when they canceled the second leg of a flight. Continental does not provide vouchers for lodging or meals either. Both times the weather was clear, and the passengers were booked on standby for flghts the following two days. Let’s face it, unless the airlines receive stiff fines, they will continue to treat consumers like cattle.

  12. Hugh Smith says:

    I started flying on Spirit a number of years ago. This was back when their employees were polite, the aircraft had roomier seats, and no extra fees or hassles. No more! Crappy smaller aircraft, unpleasant employees, and ridiculous fees. The seats are very narrow, very little leg room, and the experience became totally unsatisfactory. Too bad – it seemed that Spirit once had a good thing going.

  13. George says:

    Spirit got me once, and never again. On April 29, 2009, I departed Ft Lauderdale for Lima, Peru. The flight left at about 5:30 or so. Arrival would have been after midnight on April 30. The Lima airport turned out to be fogged in and the plane diverted to Pisco, where we were not allowed to disembark because of no immigration personnel at the military airfield.
    At least 6 other planes were there as well. For more than 6 hours we sat on that plane, forced to pay for water if we wanted any, and the supply ran out in a few hours. No food, no snacks, nothing. In spite of the fact that 95% of the passengers were Spanish speaking Peruvians, neither of the cabin crew spoke Spanish, something that I would suspect is in violation of FAA rules. All announcements regarding the situation were made by the pilot in English, causing much confusion for the Peruvian passengers, most of whom were elderly. Imagine the chaos if there had been an emergency situation.
    We were not permitted to leave our seats, even to use the bathroom, for those 6 hours. The chaos and stress on passengers was extreme. A disruption broke out between a young Peruvian woman who spoke no English and a stewardess who spoke no Spanish. The woman wanted to take her baby to the lavatory to change it’s diaper. It became almost physical with the young woman crying hysterically and kicking the bulkhead. Finally the co-pilot came into the cabin and, lo and behold, spoke Spanish and resolved the situation.

    The flight left Pisco with Lima still fogged in and landed in Chiclayo. There we were allowed to disembark and, thank you Spirit, all passengers were left at the airport to fend for themselves. Small airport, elderly people sitting on the concrete floor in the baggage claim or the walk in front of the small airport. Food? You’re on your own. Hotel? Sorry, can’t help you. This was at about 10 or 10:30 in the morning as I recall. I and a few others managed to catch a shuttle to a hotel where the crew were being put up, showered, ate and slept a bit. The majority of the others were stuck at the airport until after 10pm when we finally departed for Lima.
    Meanwhile flights from LAN and American Airlines were also diverted to Chiclayo and their passengers were shuttled to hotels, fed and kept fully informed. Spirit did nothing except, finally, at around 8pm, shuttle people from the airport to the hotel for dinner. More than 24 hours after departing Ft Lauderdale. We finally arrived in Lima at about 1 a.m. on May 1.
    Spirit sent an email with vague apologies for the delayed flight and offering a $100 voucher for your next flight. They received an email from me that mocked their ridiculous attempt at appeasement, declining their offer and detailing the idiocy of the manner in which passengers were treated as well as the likely FAA violation of no Spanish speaking attendants among the cabin crew. I received a call from them the next day and I repeated my opinion. At the end of the conversation I was given a free round trip flight to anywhere Spirit flies….that offer expired three months ago as I refused to fly them again, even for free.

  14. travelzim says:

    I doubt these complainers have a legitimate claim. After all, they know, or should know, Spirits’ policies and have reaped major benefits over time. If you go cheap, you are going to be treated cheap.

  15. katehanni says:

    Flyers must become familiar with an airlines contract of carriage. Although labor intensive, one must know their rights before purchasing a ticket.

    If an airline makes any guarantees in their contract of carriage they must abide by them, or the flying public may make a claim. Our organization helps folks interpret those COC’s for free, and we guide them through the claims process.

    Kate Hanni
    flyersrights

  16. Jane says:

    Educating other travelers about airlines or companies who don’t care about their customers is the best way to bring them down. Unless there is great press coverage at small claims court, it’s a waste of time. This blog has opened my eyes and I will certainly tell my friends and relatives. It’s like politics. If you like who is in office, send money their way and talk good talk about them. If you don’t like Spirit or any other business who treats you bad, don’t spend your money with them. Stand up for what you believe and tell the world how bad they treat their customers.

  17. LevellandGal says:

    I don’t think Mr. Rosichan will have any success with his legal action. Since his flight was interrupted because of weather, the airline had no choice but to cancel; it’s the only safe option. Second, he flies Spirit often enough that he should be aware of their limited schedules. He admits he saved over $4,000 by taking the cheap-charlie option. So what if he has to buy one ticket on another airline. Even if that ticket was $500, he has STILL saved nearly $4,000. The airline choice was his. He should live with the results and stop wasting our time sniveling about it.

  18. MikeK says:

    I quit flying Spirit about a year ago after getting tired of flying on filthy planes, with terrible service and no sense what so ever of customer service. Planes are in terrible condition on the inside, filthy, ripped seats, broken arm rests, tables, seat back pockets full of garbage etc. which really makes one wonder about what is “under the hood”. Thanks I will pay more and skip the “bus” in the air feel of Spirit…..

  19. TOC says:

    Folks, this is a warning and complaint against Spirit Airlines, asking that you PLEASE reconsider when thinking about flying them.

    I just got off the phone w/ a “Michael Bay” just now at their “customer service” office in India. (How fun he shares that name with a famous movie director).

    This company is EXTREMELY shady. PLEASE, people, beware!!!

    I’ve been over-billed. I tried to cancel my membership (which I never wanted in the first place…I just wanted the cheap fare). I couldn’t log in to their website to do so, so I went to their “password reset” option for a few days running. I NEVER was sent an email w/ my “new” password and information on how to access my account online. However, they do send numerous emails weekly regarding their promotions. Funny how they can do send out those kinds of emails with no problem, but not my numerous requests for password resetting. Please note: Many complaints you’ll find online share common theme…that is, their website “doesn’t work”. I am in the IT field and know my way around websites. This is deliberate on their part. Clearly they disable certain functions on their site so that you are not able to use them. Most common, in my experience: Logging in, requesting a password reset, applying dollars-off coupon code, and checking in on-line to save $5 off baggage fee.

    Well, these thieves also have NO 800-number on their site. It’s virtually impossible to get to their “customer service” unless you go to Google and research to see what their phone number is. For future reference, it’s: 800-772-7117.

    After going back-and-forth for 40 minutes with a customer service gentleman (and in fairness, he WAS a kind gentleman) who I am assuming is in India, based on his heavy accent, I was transferred to his supervisor, a “floor manager” named “Michael Bay” (Seriously, if you’re going to choose a fake name, is it because you want such a popular one that when someone tries to Google you there are a zillion search results?! Next thing you know they’ll have a “John Smith”).

    They don’t refund your money. I explained that I am not in a financial position to afford the $59.95 charge; that I was charged unjustly; that I’d love to travel if I could, but that at this point in life those $60 need to go for rent, food and gasoline. They don’t care. I explained how I’d been trying to cancel for days and couldn’t get thru, next thing you know, they’re billing my card. I wasn’t allowed to cancel, I couldn’t log in. This entire operation is shady!!! I was finally given a $59.95 credit for future travel–which is great, assuming I could afford to travel, which I CANNOT at this time. Oh, and you must book and pay for a flight within 60 days of receiving said credit,or lose it altogether. UNBELIEVABLE, these people.

    I told “Michael Bay” that he should be ashamed, and that I knew HE knew he worked for a shady company with poor business practices, and that I hoped one day he’d leave it and go to a reputable one. Indians are generally such good people, and they truly believe in karma…well, this Michael Bay needs to watch out, because what he has coming back to him is unreal.

    Spirit Airlines is bad folks, please don’t fly them, even if you think it’s your only option. They are rip-off artists and have no Customer Service. They’ll place you on hold forever in the hopes that you’ll get fed up and hang up. It’s very frustrating because they have no empathy or sympathy and will absolutely NOT refund your money, even when they’ve taken it unjustly. Beware, please!!!

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