On Your Side: Spirit Airlines Lost Bags

Next time you pack for a trip you may want to add original receipts and a notary seal to your list of necessities. That’s the hurdle one man faced when trying to file a lost baggage claim with Spirit Airlines.

The low-cost carrier confirms it lost Mickey Patel’s bag, but still denied his claim. Consumer reporter Steve Noviello found out why.

Patel flew Spirit Airlines to California. He made it, but his checked bag which he intended to carry on did not.

“I was anticipating doing so. When I arrived at the gate I was advised, ‘You’re gonna have to check a bag,’” he said.

Aside from all his clothes, Patel’s bag contained precious family memorabilia that he was carrying to the coast for a dying family member.

“My understanding was that I have a claim, they’re gonna find my bag and hopefully they’ll get it to me as soon as possible,” he said.

But he said the claims process was intentionally cumbersome.

“It’s a set up to fail process. You can’t meet their expectations,” he said.

In addition to the claims form, Spirit has a long list of excluded items which they won’t consider in a claim even if you can prove were in your lost luggage.

“You can’t claim any watch or jewelry or personal effects. All of those things are excluded,” Patel said.

Many other airlines have a similar policy. But with Spirit, you also have to provide original receipts for items with a value of more than $50.

“Some of this information you’re asking for is years and years old. Where will I get the original documentation?” Patel asked.

If you can hunt the original receipts down, they’ll need to be cataloged with your claim. The whole thing has to be notarized and sent by snail mail to Spirit.

“It’s a policy of trying to be as ornery as possible about actually reimbursing for a claim,” said Rick Seany, the CEO of FareCompare.com.

The airline industry expert said consumers who go to Spirit in search of savings on the low cost carrier should be aware of their policies when there’s a problem.

“They’re a completely different business model than most people who don’t fly often are used to,” Seany said.

Part of that model is their pension for employing as few people as possible.

“If Spirit had their way, there would not be any humans involved in the process at all,” Seany said.

Patel said that made the claims process painful. When he requested what he thought was a pretty standard service he was denied.

“A phone contact so that I could address my questions with a representative one on one. I was advised that’s not possible.

Instead, everything was done slowly by email, with the exception of the package of original receipts Patel had to mail in.

“They really don’t have any contact information,” he said.

A spokesperson for Spirit Airlines confirmed Patel did check a bag and that it was lost. But even after filling out the claim form, digging up original documents, noting exclusions and mailing it in, the claim was denied.

“They believe that I had a different claim or have had a different claim, which is news to me because I have never flown Spirit but twice,” Patel said.

It turns out the other claim wasn’t even with Spirit. It was with another airline almost a year ago because of a busted zipper on a bag and a claim for damage.

But because Patel had checked “no” when asked if he’d ever made a bag claim, Spirit determined it was fraud and threw the whole thing out.

“I’m not aware of the airlines tacitly building a list internally that they all share. It would have to be some sort of third party that builds up that list,” Seany said.

The Spirit spokesperson said that’s exactly where they get their list and Patel is on it. They said it helps them fight fraudulent claims.

“When you check your bag, you expect to receive it on the other end,” Patel said.

He insists he’s no fraudster. Instead, he’s out the contents of his bag, his time and effort.           

“Even with my bag being lost they charged me a baggage check fee and I haven’t received a refund of that either,” he said.

It’s important to note that other airlines do require original documents for certain claims, but their threshold for value is three times as much as Spirit.

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