Spirit Airlines in Hot Water with Regulators Over Mass-Cancellation Disaster

August 11, 2021

Spirit Airlines DOT Investigation Cancellations

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is reportedly 'investigating' Spirit Airlines' week-long operational meltdown that saw the carrier cancel as much as 60% of its flights and stranding flyers in multiple cities.

The Points Guy reported that the DOT confirmed to them they have contacted Spirit and 'reminded' the carrier of their obligations to their customers under federal law:

Spirit canceled more than 2,000 flights last week — some days canceling nearly two-thirds of its flights for the day — stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers and crewmembers around the U.S. and Caribbean. The cancelations began last Sunday and continued through the week. Spirit’s operations had improved considerably by Tuesday, with FlightAware showing less than 20 cancellations as of noon ET.
Under federal law, which is enforced by the DOT, airlines that cancel flights or “significantly” alter a scheduled flight must provide passengers with a reasonable alternative and, if the passenger chooses not to take the alternative flight, promptly provide a refund.

It is not clear if Spirit abided by either of those stipulations.

The DOT is also continuing to watch Spirit’s response to ensure that it complies with those laws and responds appropriately, a DOT spokesperson confirmed.

It is not known if the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would launch a formal investigation.

“Right now, all I can say is we’re very sorry for what happened,” CEO Ted Christie said in an interview with CNBC.

“We’ve worked hard really over the last five years at both building Spirit and building its reputation,” he added to USA Today. “I think we’ve made tremendous strides. This is not our proudest moment and we know that.”

Adding to the difficulties in getting operations running regularly: pilots and flight attendants were left out of position scattered around the country and Central America, and with so many flights being canceled, it was logistically difficult to get them — and aircraft — back to the right places.

“The puzzle ended up getting very complex,” Christie said to USA Today.

Christie realizes that their customers are livid with them and the airline is determined to earn back their trust.

“Our primary objective right now is taking care of our Guests and Team Members and getting our operation back to where we want it to be,” Christie said. “To our Guests, I am truly sorry. We’ve spent years investing in the reliable, on-time experience you’ve come to expect with Spirit, and this week we fell short. We’re going to do everything we can to earn back your loyalty.”

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