Spirit Airlines forced to cancel hundreds of flights, leaving many travelers stranded

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The company blames weather conditions and a lack of available crew

Spirit Airlines is experiencing a major meltdown, with the carrier canceling flights right and left and leaving travelers stranded. Unfortunately, the airline’s CEO says it’s likely to continue for now.

The budget airline’s misery started in late July when bad weather forced it to cancel flights. The next domino that fell was a shortage of pilots and flight attendants who had “timed out,” forcing the airline to cancel more flights because it had limited personnel in reserve to fill the gaps. 

That’s when things started spinning out of control. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Spirit canceled at least 60% of its flights, followed by another 56% on Thursday. Trying to offer a plausible reason why, Spirit CEO Ted Christie said the uprooted flight crews were strewn across the U.S., and it simply took extra time to play catch-up and get personnel and airplanes back into position. 

Christie said the airline also experienced some “technology outages” while trying to corral the necessary crews.

Travelers vent their dissatisfaction

Needless to say, Spirit left thousands of passengers in the lurch. One Spirit flier, Santosh of Edinburg, Texas, vented their frustration in a ConsumerAffairs review. 

“Are Spirit Airlines Bankrupt??? It's been cancelling twice on me. And I have to go from Austin to Edinburg. I keep booking rooms and cancelling it in less than 24 hrs. I am fed up. Who is going to compensate my cost? Moreover I need to join my work ASAP. I will never think of going in Spirit. Such a nightmare!!!”

USA TODAY reported that Spirit was sending some passengers $50 vouchers for future flights as a gesture of goodwill, but some considered the $50 a slight given the situation. In response, Christie tried to smooth things over. 

"The intent is to give people something they can use on us in the future,” he said. The executive made it known in an interview with CBS News that the airline was reimbursing passengers for things like food and accommodation.

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over

Anyone booked on a Spirit flight anytime soon could find themselves experiencing more of the same. Christie said cancellations will continue "over the next few days,'' but he said he hopes things will settle down once the weekend is over.

As of midday Friday, FlightAware reported that Spirit had canceled 260 flights -- 34% of its planned take-offs. Another 53 departures (making up 6% of its total flights) have been delayed.

Anyone who has plans to fly Spirit over the next week should be aware that the U.S. Department of Transportation has policies in place that may allow customers to receive refunds to cover certain costs. Those policies are available here.

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