Spirit Air Leaves a Family Deflated

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Taking a flight anywhere these days is about as enjoyable as gum surgery. You don't need uncooperative airline employees to add to your misery. But that's exactly what happened to Carol, a property manager from New Jersey.

Offending Party: Spirit Airlines

What's at Stake: $325 in airline change fees and the price of a night in a hotel

The Complaint: Last year, Carol was flying to New York City's Kennedy Airport from Ft. Lauderdale on Spirit Airlines. She was traveling with her daughter and two young grandchildren. The family arrived at the airport an hour before departure and got in line to check in and check their luggage. By the time Carol reached the counter, 20 minutes had passed. At that point, the Spirit employee told her that her flight was closed and that she would not be able to board. Carol pointed out that there were still 40 minutes until departure and that her ticket specifically required passengers to arrive at the airport 30 minutes prior to the flight. The employee told her that the cut-off was actually 45 minutes, and that it was the passenger's responsibility to check the airline's website — regardless of what's printed on the ticket.

Spirit Air then charged Carol and her family $75 each to change their flights. Because the next flight out wasn't until the next morning, the family was forced to book a hotel room for the night at their own expense.

Not bad enough? Try this on for size: While Carol and the Spirit employee argued at the counter, the airline delayed her original flight because of weather and pushed back scheduled boarding. Still, the employee told Carol there was simply nothing she could do, even after Carol explained that she had no food or formula for her grandchildren — the youngest of whom has Down syndrome.

The Outcome: Carol wrote to Spirit Airlines' customer service department at least twice seeking restitution. Both times, the airline pointed her to its check-in policy and signed off with a brusque, "There will be no further correspondence regarding this matter."

This is when the Avenger grabbed his cape, mask and truncheon and got involved. Could we get Spirit at least to acknowledge Carol's plight or, dare we dream, reimburse her for the flight-change fees or the hotel bill? Would justice be served for Carol and all the other nameless fliers who had suffered before her?

The Avenger contacted Spirit Airlines, explained Carol's case again and asked for the company's side of the story. Spokesperson Misty Pinson opted not to elaborate on Spirit's point of view, other than to say, "I have reviewed this inquiry again with our customer-relations department and the company is following its policies as stated in the responses to the passenger."

We were disappointed. While it's true that the airline followed its domestic check-in policy to a T (it states that "Spirit Airlines reserves the right to cancel the reservation or seat assignment of any customer who does not have a boarding pass at least 45 minutes prior to scheduled or posted departure"), let's face it, the airline employee could have given Carol a courtesy pass — particularly since her flight was delayed. (And if you want to split hairs, once the airline reposted the flight's delayed departure time, Carol was well within the 45-minute cut-off rule.) Given the situation, the airline could have at least refunded Carol's change fees. We think this was a missed opportunity by Spirit to please a customer — a foolish move in this market, if you ask us.

So, sorry, Carol. You will have to be avenged in the next life. In this one, however, you may want to stay off Spirit Airlines.

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