DETROIT – Here at Ruth to the Rescue, we've received several customer complaints about Spirit Airlines over the past few months.
Then, another situation made national news when a Vietnam veteran, who was told by doctors he was too sick to fly, requested a refund.
He offered proof to the airline, but Jerry Meekins was denied. "They didn't want to look at any of it or hear about it. They just wanted to keep the money," he said.
Local Travelers Share Horror Stories
Ginny Finn-Chartow of West Bloomfield says she went through an awful experience in April. She booked a round trip flight from Detroit to Fort Myers and everything was fine on the way down. On April 12, her return flight was canceled at the last minute. She says about 150 passengers were told there would be no return flight until April 19!
"That was a week later. and everybody had to be home the next day, or at least that very weekend," she told Ruth to the Rescue.
While Finn-Chartow says she was given a refund of $146 dollars, she says she had to spend $558 for a return flight on Delta. So, what was supposed to be a $280 round trip on Spirit ended up costing a total of $692.
Too sick too fly?
Tom and Kathy Reynolds were supposed to go to Las Vegas on April 24th, unfortunately he had a stroke just before Easter. He tried to cancel.Like the Vietnam vet in Florida, Spirit told him he could not get his money back.
"Medical emergency is treated as any other customer than changes their mind," Tom Reynolds said.
We contacted Spirit Airlines on behalf of Tom Reynolds.
Misty Pinson, the Director of Corporate Communications said, "We offer our customers affordable travel insurance to cover a variety of unexpected circumstances that may arise. We do not make exceptions just because someone has a medical issue and goes to the media."
Why fly Spirit?
We spoke travel consultant David Fishman of the Cadillac Travel Group in Southfield. He told Ruth to the Rescue, "The positive thing about Spirit Airlines is that they're inexpensive."
He says Spirit used to have a great reputation, years ago, but something changed along the way.
That brings us back to Ginny Finn-Chartow's experience, why couldn't she get a flight back to Detroit for seven days?
Spirit Airlines says Finn-Chartow's flight was canceled because of maintenance issues, and passenger safety is paramount.
Also, the airline is still looking into her claim that there wasn't another flight for seven days.
We did find passengers at Metro Airport willing to praise Spirit Airlines, if at times cautiously.
"I thought the pricing was attractive. I thought the planes were very beautiful," said one traveler from New York.
Another told us "I've flown Spirit Airlines before, they're great getting your from point A to point B- but if there's a hiccup sometimes there's a problem."
One Family gets help from Spirit
Spirit did help another family that came to Ruth to the Rescue, but it took awhile.
The Tomayko family almost missed a family cruise when spirit airlines starting messing with their flight to Florida. After a lot back and forth, Spirit refunded the price of the tickets, but the family had racked up another thousand dollars in expenses to get where they needed to go.
The Ruth to the Rescue unit advised Karolyn Tomayko to send a complaint to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Only then, did Spirit admit it made a mistake and agree to reimburse the family for the extra money spent. At last check, the family is still waiting to be paid back.
So, does our travel expert think Spirit can survive all this customer turbulence? David Fishman said, "It appears that the inexpensive flights that they provide are such a draw that people are willing to put up with the aggravation."
What you need to know, before you fly
Here's what you need to know about Spirit Airlines. It claims to give passengers ultra-low fares, but those fares come with strict policies attached.
When we spoke to Mindy Pinson, Director of Corporate Communications, she made it clear the airline does sympathize with customers like Jerry Meekins and the Reynolds. However- she says the company cannot and will not start making exceptions, when other passengers follow the rules and buy travel insurance that covers those types of emergencies.
So, please investigate the policies at Spirit Airlines, and realize they're not going to make exceptions. Pinson told Ruth to the Rescue, if the company starts making exceptions, fares would have to increase for everyone in order to cover the cost.
Like the famous Maya Angelou said, "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them."
Spirit Airlines has shown passengers again and again who they are. Believe them. For more from Spirit -- see the bottom of this article.
Finally, if you plan to fly Spirit, here is the best advice the Ruth to the Rescue Unit could devise:
1) Have extremely flexible travel plans, in case your flight is canceled.
2) Try to fly through Spirit hubs, as there could be more flights available.
3) Know all the fees you could be charged, there is a long list.
4) Seriously consider buying travel insurance.
5) If you have a problem, file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Here is an extended version of Spirit Airlines' thoughts on customer service from Misty Pinson, Director of Corporate Communication.
'Spirit Airlines Cares About All of Our Customers Equally'
We care about all of our customers and all are equally important to us. We work hard each and every day to get our customers where they want to go, we save them money with our low fares, and we treat each one with respect. Each customer matters - and no one customer matters more than another.
We are proud to offer our valued customers very low fares and we have given millions the opportunity to travel who wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford to fly before Spirit entered the market. One of the best ways we save customers money is by giving them the power to choose the services that best fit their needs - and they only pay for those they choose. One of these options - that many of our customers choose - is travel insurance, which covers a variety of those unexpected circumstances that may arise.
Unfortunately, unexpected curves are a part of life for everyone. We receive calls every day from our customers faced with a variety of challenging situations. Spirit truly does sympathize with each and every one of these customers. If we provided refunds to customers whose situations change, the cost of the refunds would be shared by every other Spirit customer. The biggest cost increase happens because once that seat is sold, we can't sell it to someone else. If the customer doesn't fly and gets a refund, our costs and fares for every other customer go up. Every other customer would pay higher fares caused by people who received a refund and chose not to buy travel insurance. We don't think that's respectful or fair to all the other customers who would pay for the increased costs due to those refunds and not get anything in return.
At Spirit, we treat all of our customers equally and with respect. That means our non-refundable fares are non-refundable - for everyone. We are proud to save our customers money with the ultra-low fares they love and give them the opportunity to choose the services they want and use. And we're proud to treat all of our customers respectfully and equally as we do so.