Spirit Airlines faces a proposed class action over a particularly brutal 11-day period during this year’s peak summer travel season in which it canceled thousands of flights and left tens of thousands of travelers stranded amid a labor shortage.
The 22-page breach-of-contract complaint alleges the low-price airline was well aware it was unable to handle the “glut” of tickets sold for travel between July 30 and August 9, 2021, yet nevertheless continued to sell tickets to unwitting consumers, eventually leaving many stranded without compensation or additional information from Spirit.
The plaintiffs, two Pennsylvania residents, say they’re among the thousands of Spirit customers who bought plane tickets based on the airline’s promise that it could handle the traffic of its scheduled flights. The case contends that travelers likely would not have bought tickets to fly with Spirit had they known the true extent of the airline’s summer 2021 labor shortage and its inability to accommodate purchased travel arrangements.
“Instead, Spirit ignored its customers, refusing to compensate passengers for cancelled flights, and failing to make alternative travel arrangements on other airlines or provide hotel accommodations,” the lawsuit filed in Florida’s Southern District Court scathes. “Spirit’s actions directly caused their customers stress and discomfort, incur increased travel fees, and to miss thousands of family and business events.”
Spirit CEO: We “couldn’t get in front of it.”
Cited in the complaint is an August 6, 2021 MSN article in which Spirit CEO Ted Christie admitted the airline, which at the time had canceled more than 2,000 flights due to a combination of staffing issues, bad weather and technology hiccups, “couldn’t get in front of it.” Between July 30 and August 9, the lawsuit says, Spirit canceled approximately 2,826 flights, or more than half of the airline’s scheduled flights on multiple days.
The case contends, however, that Spirit did have the ability to “get in front of it” given it knew it faced a labor shortage as the peak summer travel season approached. According to the suit, Spirit laid off or furloughed thousands of workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was well aware it did not have sufficient labor to meet the increased demand for flights between July 30 and August 6. Moreover, the suit alleges Spirit’s labor woes were “exacerbated” by the airline’s failure to maintain its flight crew operation systems, which supposedly caused its “already depleted labor supply to not arrive at airports on time to complete its scheduled flights.”
Despite the foregoing, Spirit did not inform customers about either the labor shortage problem or operations issues when selling tickets for flights it knew would be impossible to complete, the lawsuit alleges.
Spirit was well aware that customers likely would not have purchased flight tickets had those customers been informed that Spirit was experiencing a severe labor shortage that would likely have an impact on Spirit’s ability to provide flight service during the summer travel season.”
Tens of thousands of stranded flyers
One plaintiff in the suit claims Spirit did not refund the purchase price of her tickets or arrange for alternative travel arrangements for her family’s canceled flights. Instead, she was issued a “reservation credit” and a travel voucher to be redeemed by December 31, 2021 and October 2, 2021, respectively, the lawsuit says.
The suit argues that Spirit’s reservation credits and travel vouchers come with accompanying restrictions that make their effective value “far less than their nominal or face value.”
In the end, the woman was forced to pay more than $1,300 to buy tickets on another airline, the suit says. The other plaintiff in the case claims that although Spirit refunded the purchase price of her August 6 flight, she was nevertheless forced to pay more than $700 for tickets through another carrier to complete her trip.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are among the tens of thousands of consumers left stranded as a result of Spirit’s known labor shortage.
Who’s covered by this lawsuit?
The case looks to represent all persons and entities who bought tickets for domestic and international Spirit flights scheduled between July 30 and August 9, 2021 that Spirit canceled because of its labor shortage.
Alternatively, the suit looks to cover all Florida residents and entities who fit the same criteria.
My Spirit flight was canceled and I was left stranded. Can I join the lawsuit?
You typically do not have to do anything to join or be considered part of a class action lawsuit when it’s first filed. Generally, it’s only if and when a lawsuit settles that those covered by the case, called “class members,” will need to act, typically by submitting a claim form online or by mail for their piece of the deal. These individuals will usually receive notice with instructions on how to file a claim for whatever compensation the court deems appropriate.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Truth is, class action lawsuits generally take some time to work through the legal process, either toward a settlement, dismissal or arbitration outside of court. For now, it’s best for consumers to stay informed.
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