Hurricane Dorian brought many flight cancellations, Florida-based carriers like Spirit were particularly hard hit. But when flights started to cancel, Spirit flight refunds were hard to come by. They pushed credit not refunds for passengers.
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Hurricane Dorian Uniquely Difficult Storm
While all hurricanes can move around unpredictably, Dorian was particularly difficult to predict. The storm changed direction, moved slowly nearly stalling over the Bahamas and wreaking havoc over the islands. Landfall was expected anywhere from Fort Lauderdale to Cape Canaveral all the way up to Jacksonville.
The timeline also pushed as the storm slowed but intensified over the Bahamian archipelago. Landfall wasn’t just a concern of where but also when. In the above image, Dorian appears on pace to strike Cape Canaveral with a wind zone that encompassed the entire state of Florida. That schedule shifted to a landfall potentially in Georgia and several days later.
There’s no doubt that any airline with substantial operations in Florida, especially South Florida, would struggle in that environment. JetBlue and Southwest have significant operations at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood, Spirit has the most departures, and American operates more than 90% of all flights from Miami.
I’m a Big Fan of Spirit
While it may seem counterintuitive for a traditional elite loyalty traveller to hold anything but disdain for Spirit and what the carrier represents – I love them. Why? Because their flights are cheap, direct, and they have an affordable big front seat that I can upgrade to for $40-50 one-way and Southwest adds cost to their tickets to pay for bags that I don’t check.
The carrier has also been dedicated to making improvements, like adding wifi to their fleet and running the “fittest” (youngest) fleet in the country.
Flight Cancellations Allow Refunds Not Just Airline Credit
I had a flight booked from Fort Lauderdale to Pittsburgh just outside of the approved date range. In a Facebook travel group, another traveler was lamenting that when they called Spirit customer service, they were told they could only have airline credit for their flight despite the waiver and cancellation of the flight. The flight credit could have been used by February 28, 2021.
While I had recourse by using my credit card if needed, I didn’t really want to go the route of filing a claim if I could avoid it. As a precaution, FLL closed the airport prior to my flight and didn’t state when it would reopen. I called in to get my refund.
The agent, who was very polite, answered after a shorter hold than I would have imagined given the number of rebookings the carrier had to handle during the event. At first, they offered me credit with the airline, as they pitched on their website. I declined and the agent put me on hold while they checked with their manager to see if a refund was a possibility.
But the agent and his manager didn’t really have a choice. I’m not concerned with Spirit trying to offer passengers accommodation on the airline first. However, the staff wasn’t informed or empowered enough to just push the refund button and according to at least one other traveller, they didn’t allow it even despite asking.
“If, for any reason, your flight is canceled, substantially delayed, or rescheduled, you have the right to reroute at no extra cost or to receive a full refund, even on a nonrefundable ticket.” –Airfare Watchdog
The Department of Transportation offers a ton of practical recommendations for how to continue onto your destination. Oddly, the DoT doesn’t offer much direct guidance on an outright cancellation when you don’t want to try to find a flight on another carrier.
Spirit refunded my entire party’s tickets, the return portion of a roundtrip.
I understand why the carrier would want to rebook passengers or keep the cash inside the airline’s coffers, but that doesn’t mean they can. When less informed passengers are only presented one option and don’t know that they can insist on a refund,
What do you think? Was this a case of an airline simply trying to protect themselves or was it a case of bad behavior? Do airlines have a duty to explain options to affected customers?
That’s dirty. They should have refunded the flights when they cancelled them. No calls required.
Spirit is the Worse Carrier, we travel twice a year and if I bring my purse they won’t let me bring anything else or I will have to pay. Vegas airport staff is the Worse I had.
As this comment doesn’t pertain to the article…I thought someone should probably let you know that MANY airlines charge ala cart now. It is almost 2020 this is not the 90’s. Hawaiian is the only US carrier to provide free meal. Southwest is the only one to provide a free snack and bag. Everyone else charges ala cart. So despite which airline you choose your reasoning is a bit flawed. Also, as far as “Vegas Airport Staff” that was quite vague, however if it’s referring to gate agents, ramp agents, TSA, wheelchair personal then again you may need to rethink your complaints. TSA are Federal employees they are completely separated from others I mentioned above. Gate agents, ticket agents and even ramp agents and more are outsourced sat nearly every single airport now starting roughly 2-2.5 years ago. So just because the personal you are referring too has a logo doesn’t mean they work for that airline. Lastly if it’s the wheel chair personal that makes you so angry then FYI that’s an entire different company not associated with any specific airline either.
Mistakes: “didn’t want to fo the route.” You mean go, not fo.
You never wanna try and find a flight. You always wanna try _to_ find a flight.
Why does it matter? Because you are writing professionally.
Mistakes corrected. However, they are simply, mistakes. Everyone makes them, even professional writers.
Watch out the grammar police are on patrol. Thank you Ak we wouldn’t be able to understand what Kyle wrote if not for you. Oh geez.
They are dirty to cancel make excuses and give credit when your not sure your best rate will be with that airline, they should always give u your money back, we are experiencing the same thing with frontier airline and it is a rip-off.
Not to harp on another minor mistake in a very informative post, but this common mistake can get rookies in trouble. Among the reasons you say you love Spirit is that they offer “direct” flights. I’m guessing you mean nonstop flights.
A direct flight has a stop. A direct flight can even have what the airlines call “a change in equipment” during a stop – what everyone else would call changing planes during a connection. All “direct” means is that the flight number doesn’t change.
Direct flights do appear on computer reservation systems ahead of other connections but, for a traveler, can be worse than a connection. You often don’t get the same mileage credit with a direct flight that you get with a connection.
Appalling. Despite all the improvements I’ve seen at Spirit, I often still see the lies/incompetence/rudeness of the “old Spirit” — for example, dishonest information when I had a delayed flight due to “weather” out of FLL. This is definitely “old Spirit” behavior.
I think the DoT should issue Spirit a huge fine for this illegal behavior. How many Spirit passengers — perhaps low-income folks who don’t travel often and won’t need credit for a future Spirit flight — just took the voucher and went on their way? Now they’re stuck with Spirit credit they’ll probably never use, and Spirit credit is really crummy, only providing a few months to book travel.
Spirit should be ashamed and the government should fine them. This kind of nonsense behavior is why Europe has EU261 — a European airline would be in deep sugar if they did what Spirit did before Dorian.
Shame on you, Spirit.
Anthony, we Completely agree with you on that Disrespect, not Honest and is the only airlines that the Staff at the airports is checking on you at time of boarding like if you are doing Trafficing.
Huge thank you for this post. I was trying to get a refund in light of the coronavirus pandemic AND a change in my flight time of more than 2 hours. I mentioned the section 10.2.3 of the contract of carriage– and magically all my money was totally refunded. I didn’t have to take a credit. The agent I talked to was super kind too. I wish that Spirit had an option for me to get a refund on the website instead of hanging on the phone for 30 minutes waiting for an agent, but a $450 refund was worth the wait!
Thank you again for the article. Had I not seen that it was possible, I would have just taken the credit and probably not been able to use it.