Spirit Airlines Complaint - Don't even consider Spirit Airlines
I was advised to write to Spirit Air about my groups troubles with travel for our trip to Guatemala. The agent I spoke to at the corporate office told me to put it in writing. I don't really expect SpiritAir to be interested in my satisfaction, but here's the story.
I am so bitter at this moment that if something is not done I will require my students to post on blog sites and write letters to the editor of the south florida sun sentinel about their experience.
We had a group of 25 people depart Washington DC on May 19 for a Guatemala biomedical trip from our University 4 hours away. The dates of travel were scheduled to be May 19-June 19. I made the reservations for all the people in our group on about 7 separate reservations. The prices ranged from 350-400 dollars a ticket.
Flights from DCA to Guatemala City May 19:
In Washington DC we were required to pay the 10$extra for each check-in. No problem, it was a problem that we they wouldn't check the bags through to Guatemala City. They said FLL would "mess up" if they checked them all the way, so they said it would be easier if we picked them up in FLL and rechecked them.
Little did I know what a problem this would be. We pick them from baggage claim and go to the crowded Spiritair counter in the hot section of the FLL airport. We have a horrendous 8 hour layover, but we planned ahead. We had students that live in the area ready to take our gang to the beach to kill some time during the layover. Spirit air killed this plan for much of our group. In FLL they blame DCA for not checking our bags all the way. Then they say we have to keep our bags until 2 hrs from flight departure. That means 6 hours of sitting with the bags while TSA agents fuss at us for clogging up the airport. What a treat.
After having to make our group wait in the airport and roast for the long layover, I thought Spirit would be accomodating to us. Instead they try to get 10$/bag for the second leg of the flight. I was amazed. Finally after fussing they relented and let us have our bags for the second half of the trip to Guatemala checked "free". Terrible to have to negotiate for this.
That's about 1/5 of our terrrible spiritair experience.
June19 flight back from Guate-FLL-DCA
We arrive in Guatemala City and sleep in the airport June 18 to make sure we have plenty of time to board our flight to FLL in time. The only problem is that our flight was to board at 6:45 and SpiritAir didn't even open their counter until 6:00 am. People had been in line since 4:30 am. They had plenty of agents working, but they were terribly untrained and inept. Their were no computer troubles, just slow agents. It took them over 1.5 hrs past departure time just to tag bags and get people to the gate. It was stunning for the first flight of the day to be so far behind for no good reason.
As a result of this late flight, it looks almost for sure that we'll miss our connecting flight in FLL. The only thing is that this the FLL-DCA flight is so late, they are still their. We bumped into a good agent at baggage claim that tried her best to help us make our 1:30pm flight that was delayed to about 3pm or later. As the last of our people cleared customs she radiod and said we would all be there in 5 minutes. Someone on the other end of the radio said they couldn't wait and were leaving. So their goes the flight for 21 of our people (4 people had other arrangements).
Our flight we missed was supposed to get in to DC at 4pm. I had a U-Haul, rental, driver, and parents with vehicles all expecting their kids on this flight. Since we didn't make it they told me to rebook. I wait in the long line again and try to get rebooked. The agent knows almost nothing about rebooking. I ask if we are all going to get on the last flight of the day...the 7:30 flight. She first says there's a few seats...I pressure her, because I need to tell any parents that live close enough whether they can go home or what to do. She finally says that we'll all make the 7:30 flight. I call home and tell everyone to stay at the airport and that we should be in around 10pm.
I had also asked to speak to a supervisor. Alejandro told me for over 2 hours that one was coming and I never got to speak with Orlando until that much time had passed. In the meanwhile Alejandro starts booking our tickets. When she gets to 10 she realizes a problem. The plane is now full. So, somehow our 21 people that she told me could all get on the plane...now only 10 can fly. This means huge adjustments and ruined days for parents in DC. I tell the students which 10 are booked and that I guess we'll be spending the night in Ft. Lauderdale.
When the students hear what 10 fly, I realize that 2 have major problems if they don't get to DC by that night...missed connections, job problems etc... I ask Ruby if we can switch things around a bit and get these 2 with emergencies exchanged with 2 of the 10 that had tickets. She says ok, and they'd work on it.
The 10 ticketed passsengers had gone to the gate, while the other 11 were up waiting in the terminal. Ruby took the 2 down to the gate to get them exchanged. I wanted to make sure the right people left and tried to go down, but the TSA blocked me. I go to the counter for a gate pass and then they let me down. On the way, I thought...why don't we try to get more down their and fly standby. At the gate they begin boarding and send the right 10 on the flight. The other 2 wait to see if they can go standby. In the meanwhile we learn that a flight from Montego Bay is delayed 3 hrs and that 8 of those passengers were to be on the DC flight. I ask Ruby if our 2 standby's can go as well as the 6 more. She thought it sounded good, but then when she asked a supervisor at the gate if she could get more on the supervisor said "no", they can't wait. I was shocked, I pleaded that they left early earlier and our whole group had headaches because of it. She didn't care. So I ran up to the counter where our students were. (It's a small airport and our students were ready to go). I got gate passes for 3 and sent them down to try to get on the plane. I then got gate passes for 3 more and sent them down.
As it turns out, Spiritair was so slow boarding that all 8 extra people made that flight. If it were up to spiritair we would have all been spending the night and experiencing the June 20 torture...instead it was just 3 of us. No thanks from Spiritair for me running around and no "sorry" either for not planning to get more of our group down to the gate to fly standby.
Now it's about 8:30 pm the 19th (this flight was late as well). I ask for a supervisor. I see Orlando a couple of times in between his hiding for an hour or two at a time. I ask if someone else can get us to DC that night...they apparently check, but can't find anything. I then request that we be sent to Lynchburg the following day. At first he says they don't have agreements with anyone. Then I start telling him about our fiasco and that I'd like some passes for our people if he can't do any better and he says he'll check USAir. He comes out a second and says he can't negotiate with them. Next he says he'll try Delta to Lyn the next day for us. He then goes in to hiding. In the meanwhile 52 people come in from Montego Bay. They are all furious. SpiritAir processes and rebooks this whole group while I wait and see nobody. It's now at least 11pm. An agent gives us a hotel voucher, but we still see no Orlando. He says he's in the back hiding. Next he sends someone out with something that looks like a reservation of sorts for Delta. The problem is the Delta flight is to DCA...not LYN. We had never talked about DC for a flight. We were missing our rides from DC because of Spirit botching our flight. Our rentals and rides would have to drive 4 hrs to pick us up 2x because we were not with the 19th group (we are going to have to wait till the 20th). We wait to talk to Orlando. The printout about Delta doesn't make a lot of sense and I thought he just messed up anyway. As agents leave from 11pm to midnight and finally to 1am. They all said he was still there, but he just wouldn't come out.
Finally we decide to get the shuttle to the Springhill Suites. We go down below for the shuttle only to find that it stopped. I have to pay 25 dollars for a cab because Orlando wouldn't come out to explain what he was doing for us. We finally get in to our Suites at about 2am. I go ahead and call delta to see what's up with our reservation. I'm on hold a whole hour before finally getting an agent. They said that it was not paid for and our names were not on the flight. The flight on Delta to DC was to be at 6am. I figured I'm not going to get up in 2 hrs for a flight that Spirit is not guaranteeing so we catch the shuttle at 10am, still hoping to get a flight to Lynchburg.
I think that Spirit is going to do it for sure for us on the 20th since they ruined the days of 22 passengers along with parents etc for one day already...and because I saved Spirit air the price of 8 more students lodging and meal vouchers for 1-2 meals. The rack rate at the hotel was 399/night. That was the best part about our crappy Spirit experience...the nice hotel.
A couple of things I learned the night before in the slow times between 10pm and 1am from the agents is that: 1) this is a regular thing with them and 2) one agent said you have to have "no heart" to do what they do to people and 3) supervisor have no authority and because of this they hide
At 10:30am we get to the airport to be greeted by 3 whole sets of lines all the way out the door and down the sidewalk at FLL...all SpiritAir and most of these being people that were screwed up the day before. When I finally get to see an agent about getting the 1:35 flight for today (the 20th), she tells me I need a supervisor. Esther points me to a big guy that tried to help, but said he wasn't normally doing that. He didn't want to help at first, but when I told him I'd be really happy if he heard my story he finally gave me his email and said he'd try to help.
He points me to a lower supervisor (blond haired mid-age lady). She goes to rebook us on the 1:35 flight and then tells me that it's full. I was about to go ballistic. I suggested that maybe she would like to get us on a flight to LYH and what Orlando had done the night before. She goes to talk to a big, big guy in a suit with greased back hair...no tag, but apparently he was in charge of the mess of the day. He shakes his head no, which I guess means that we don't fly to LYH. She comes to tell me the same. I suggest that maybe we fly standby since Spirit doesn't really know how many will be on their flight after all the missed connections. She says good idea and sends us to the gate with 7:30pm tickets, but hopes of a 1:30 pm. I told this agent that if they don't get us on the 1:30 flight that I'm going to be a walking billboard for 4 hours telling people not fly SpiritAir.
I'm so aggravated that 1)spiritair won't send us on a different flight and that 2)they won't offer to "bump" someone on the 1:30 flight so that people that have been in the aiport for nearly 24hrs straight can go home.
On the way to the gate I see a couple of people that look important and have a logo that looks like spiritair. I say in their direction "Don't fly spiritair, don't fly spiritair". The bald guy comes over and says...now why would you say that. I tell him of our experience and how we get no satisfaction and don't even get to speak to supervisors. Rather than investigating to see if I'm telling the truth or apologizing for the worst service in the world...he makes excuses. Maybe Guatemala had computer problems, the FAA doesn't allow them to hold planes, blah, blah, blah. Also, he says that things almost always go smoothly even though the agents at FLL say otherwise. He also blamed me for not taking the Delta flight before he heard the whole story about it not being a real reservation and for being "unreasonable".
I then go down to the gate with our 2 girls that were stuck. We grabbed lunch as the spiritair flight is again delayed. While we're eating the bald spiritair guy that told me I was unreasonable walks by with someone else that looks official. I do a pretend announcement for them to hear "surprise, spiritair has a delay, we're sorry...spiritair's flight to washington DC is delayed for today". The guy with the bald man says what's the surprise. I told him I was so surprised there was a delay because the bald guy says everything runs so smooth...and that as our luck would have it 5 flights in a row had been delayed (Gua, the 19th, the DC 1:30 and 7:30 the 19th, the Gua 20th flight and now the 1:30 flight the 20th). They just looked at me like I was ridiculous and walked down to the other gates. After a bit, I'm eating my fries minding my own business and the bald guy comes over to pick a fight.
He says I'm not allowed to say things like "don't fly spiritair or anything else negative". He then tells me I should fly someone else because they can't please me. I told him I would certainly plan in the future to fly someone else, and that nobody had even tried to please me. He then tells me to lower my voice when I'm not even talking loud and threatens to have me removed from the airport.
He tells me that he can do that like some sort of hotshot. I said go ahead, what'd I do wrong. He said watch me I can. I said go ahead. Well it takes him a while, but he finally rounds up after about 15 minutes the broward county sherriff along with some TSA agents. In the meanwhile this other important looking italian guy stops by to see what's happening. Apparently the bald guy told him some of my story from a very biased slant.
When the sherriff comes down he tells me I need to go. I said no, my ticket says I fly the next available flight if I get bumped. Also, the bald guy told me at first he'd give me a refund for my flight to not have me fly. I said fine...then he said no...just that leg of the flight. He said that would only be 100 bucks. How generous, that would get me nothing the day of travel.
So after debating with the sheriff about what happened to the 1st ammendment and the sheriff acting like he was going to help me I agreed to be escorted up to the main section of the terminal to settle with spiritair. I was amazed...the sheriff says he had 3 complaints. I know 2 were from Spiritair workers...the bald guy and the other, but he made up the other. It was my opinion at the time that spiritair should have been shut down. I saw person after person leave the terminal crying or enraged for 3 full days and I think I had it worse than any of them.
As we progress to the counter, the sheriff acts like this is nothing new...escorting unhappy passengers from the gate. He also begins to blame me for choosing spiritair. I thought I had done my homework because I had never heard of you guys before. I went on the web to find reviews and the only negatives I saw were about the extra bag charges. I had no problem with that and figured to fly with you. We spent over 10,000$ for our tickets and got this as our treatment.
After we reached the front of the airport the sheriff left me alone and I waited for a supervisor again. Now the good looking guy that was with the bald guy comes over to me. I told him the rest of my story and I think he realized that you had done wrong, but he never apologized. He finally agreed to get me to lynchburg and that the 2 girls would fly on the 1:30 flight that is now very late departing. I think he may have been a VP or something. He was nice enough and had some reason, but didn't do anything extreme to make us happy. He said that as part of Orlando's punishment he was going to have him get me to Lynchburg, but the girls would go to DC.
The girls are sent back to the gate to fly out with one of our boys that came in a day late. I don't see them and I'm in the main part of the terminal till about 5pm. I ask this important person if my students make the early flight and he says he thinks...but then checks. He goes to a monitor and looks something up and tells me yes. Not until 11pm do I realize that this is wrong.
I end up having to take a taxi to palm beach and then spirit air did USair to chl to lyh. In palm beach I checked my laptop which said spirit's flight left FLL on time and also had arrived in DCA on time. I'm not sure, but this should be illegal...neither of these were true. They were at least 2 hrs late leaving and were quite late arriving as well. This is something I hope to investigate a bit because if Spirit is making it look like their planes are hitting connections when they aren't that's fraud.
Spirit air loses 1 bag on the way to Gua even though we were forced to recheck them. In Gua, nobody can tell us the spiritair policy for delivery/pickup/ or if I can buy our girl some clothes.
We help the girl out from the team supplies and funds, but Spirit does nothing.
On the return...all of our bags went to DC on the early FLL-DCA flight of the 19th. 18 of our people are on the late flight. I tell them to collect all bags and take them to the school. Two of the students: Jordan Bower and Sothea Saing have missing bags out of the early group. The 21st the 2 girls come to my office at the college and Neely Dodgen has a missing bag.
4 missing bags total. We've gotten the one from the way down flight. SOmeone called saturday and told me that they had a bag in New Jersey...I have no idea how it got there. I've been gone since sunday, so I don't know about the others. The baggage person in DC doesn't speak english so I had a terrible time even trying to describe the missing bags. Also, the 2 remaining bags are team bags. My students are scattered for the summer now and I don't have a good way of getting the stickers from them...which I doubt that they saved anyway. I'm expecting to take a pretty good loss for these 2 bags thanks to SpiritAir.
I just watched the news about another airline having sewage escape on the flight. I think that's mild compared with how spiritair handled our group. I'm a biology professor in the university and was escorted out of the Ft. Lauderdale airport for wanting some satisfaction. Ruby even told me early the day of the 20th that I was a great leader getting those extra people on the flight and wondered how I was so "good natured". I normally am, but after all this spirit air frustration I think the Pope could go insane.
I'll be interested to hear from you and if you plan to do anything about the missing bags or give our students any sort of deal for future travel. I don't think I have much interest in using you unless I just plan an extra day going and coming.
Depending on your response I will determine whether I will decide to spend the summer writing letters to the editor and going to every google review of SpiritAir to tell my story. If I had read my story at a review site before deciding to use SpiritAir I certainly would have thought twice.
I apologize I don't know the names of all the brass I bumped into at Spiritair. They don't where the name tags...and I don't blame them after how chaotic FLL was for the days I was in it. I'm sure Ruby, Alejandro, and Orlando would remember me. I could send a picture if you'd like to investigate further so they can recall the story better.
Asst. Prof of Biology
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