Spirit Airlines “gotcha” fees lawsuit moves forward

Sep 12, 2019

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A federal appeals court in New York said ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines must face a lawsuit alleging that it hides fees from passengers who book on third-party websites.

Reuters reported that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with 22 passengers who were suing the airline, claiming they were “blindsided” by the extra charges for carry-on bags. The court held that there was no evidence that the carrier had provided them with any notice about fees beyond the cost of their tickets.

The lawsuit had been tossed out by a district court judge in Brooklyn last year, but the appeals court has returned the case to the judge.

Spirit relies heavily on ancillary fees to offset its low ticket prices. When booking directly on the airline’s website, travelers are alerted multiple times about fees for carry-on and checked bags, which are cheaper when paid for in advance but can sometimes exceed the cost of the original ticket if a passenger pays at the airport.

Those same alerts are less prominent, and in some cases not present at all, for passengers who book their tickets on third-party sites like Expedia or Travelocity, the lawsuit alleges.

With fees such a large portion of its revenue, Spirit has been a vocal opponent of full-fare advertising rules since they were implemented in 2012. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that all fare advertisements show the full cost of a ticket, including taxes and fees — something that Spirit claims obscures the various costs of air travel.

In the current lawsuit, Spirit has argued that their contract of carriage clearly states that passengers are required to pay a fee for carry-on baggage.

Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.

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