$350,000 Fine Issued To Spirit For Inaccurate Denied Boarding Claims

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined Spirit Airlines $350,000. The authority states that between January 2017 and June 2018, the low-cost carrier misclassified over 1000 passengers who were involuntarily denied boarding on overbooked flights. The airline classed them as volunteers during this period.

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Spirit faces a hefty bill. Photo: Spirit Airlines

The DOT’s ruling

On June 19th, the DOT shared that the Florida outfit did not tell the overbooked travelers that they could receive cash instead of travel vouchers. The passengers signed a form to acknowledge that they were going through Spirit’s volunteer option. They were then compensated with vouchers and put onto other flights if possible.

However, customers soon complained to the agency’s office of aviation consumer protection. Subsequently, the group found that there was a pattern of non-compliance.

According to Flight Global, the DOT shared the below in its order:

We determined that in oversale situations, Spirit would first solicit volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for a future travel voucher, re-accommodation on Spirit’s next available flight or a flight on another airline, and hotel accommodations, if needed. If there were not enough volunteers, Spirit would then deny boarding to passengers involuntarily based on time of check-in.”

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The DOT ruled that Spirit miscategorized more than 1,000 of its customers. Photo: Getty Images

Spirit’s response

Simple Flying reached out to Spirit for comment. A spokesperson said that the airline had made appropriate amendments to its processes and compensation offers since the period of review from January 2017 to June 2018. He added that passengers’ experience means everything to the operator. Therefore, it will continually invest in every aspect of their journey.

Moreover, according to Bloomberg, the airline said that its voucher program benefited those who otherwise would not be rebooked, and who would have been required to arrange alternative travel without any assistance while they were at the airport.

It also added that it regularly arranged flights for bumped passengers on competing airlines, which charged the company with the full walk-up fare for each accommodated customer. In response, the DOT’s ruling includes a $110,000 credit to Spirit for these fares. Therefore, the effective fine is $240,000.

Spirit Airlines
Spirit is one of several airlines facing financial struggles this year. Photo: Getty Images

The verdict

Only 86 passengers filed complaints with the government or the carrier regarding the voucher between the period in question. Nonetheless, DOT’s review concludes that the policies for overbooked flights revealed several violations of the authority’s rules.

It says that it was inaccurate to class people who were denied boarding and accepted a voucher as volunteers. Furthermore, it states that the firm did not ensure that the value of a future travel voucher was at least the same as the monetary compensation required by law.

Last month, Spirit reported an operating loss of $58 million during the first quarter of this year, with a daily cash burn of $4 million. Altogether, this fine adds on to Spirit’s financial woes in the current climate.

What are your thoughts about Spirit’s hefty fine for these events from over two years ago? Let us know what you think in the comment section.