Delayed Flight Diverts to Detroit, Puts Passengers on a Bus, Bus Breaks Down

On Monday takeoff of Spirit Airlines flight NK440 from Fort Lauderdale to Cleveland was delayed 2 hours 5 minutes and then as it neared its destination diverted to Detroit due to weather.

Now, Detroit – Cleveland is just a 95 mile flight. However Spirit decided to bus passengers from the Cleveland airport to Detroit Metro. The buses arrived three hours late.

One of the buses broke down near Toledo. And while airlines have to provide food and water during flight delays, there are no such rules about bus delays.

“I would like a representative from Spirit to contact the passengers that were sitting on that bus on the side of the highway, elderly people, people with kids,” she said. “They wouldn’t give us any drinks, meals. They wouldn’t even give us a bottle of water.”

According to Spirit the bus made it to the Cleveland airport around 3:30 a.m., around 10.5 hours late. A passenger on the flight bus relays that they made it home at 5 a.m.

Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

Spirit gave passengers each a $50 voucher for future travel, but pointed out that’s generous and not something they have to do.

A spokesman said the airline was not required to offer anything because the delay and diversion was caused by the weather.

It seems to me that claiming a $50 voucher for future travel constitutes going above and beyond is worse, even, than offering just $50 for a broken down bus (whose busted water hose was not caused by weather).

And it underscores how airlines blame everything on weather, if there’s weather anywhere that can plausibly be connected. When my United flight from Washington Dulles to Austin a couple of weeks ago was stuck on the ground in the previous city on a mechanical delay, United’s system showed the cause of delay as weather. It was only when they cancelled my flight after several hours, with the plane still stuck on the ground elsewhere due to maintenance, that they updated the cause.

On the other hand, Spirit’s passengers were probably lucky to get a $50 voucher. Under their previous CEO they might have gotten nothing at all. Ben Baldanza famously hit reply all and accidentally shared his philosophy of giving nothing to complaining passengers with… a passenger reasoning that people will keep buying their tickets if they’re the cheapest so there’s no reason to compensate for bad service.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Doesn’t this contradict your other article how the government shouldn’t regulate seat sizes? It’s a perfect example of how airlines have taken things too far and need more customer regulation to ensure a basic level of service.

  2. Spirit is a terrible airline. I have never flown them and never will. It isn’t the business model that keeps me away (adding fees for everything), it’s their absolute collapse during IROPS. What are you supposed to to when they have one flight a day somewhere and they cancel the flight? You can’t just “take the next one” you might not even get on the flight the next day as all the bumps can’t fit on the next flight. Their seat pitch is awful, their route network stinks, irregular operations puts them into chaos, and add in their nickel and dime business model and there is absolutely no way I would ever travel on that airline. You can add Frontier to that as well. I may not love the legacy carriers, but at least when things go wrong, you can simply take the next one. Delays stink, but waiting three hours to then be put on a BUS and arrive 10.5-13 hours later because they are too cheap is unacceptable and a $50 voucher is an insult.

  3. @Tyler if we let the free market do it’s job then airlines that continue to act like this will cease to exist. Sure, it will take time and yes there will be casualties (not death but stranded pissed off people) but eventually they will lose enough business they will buckle and change or simply go out of business.

    No regulations needed. Just don’t fly them.

  4. I agree with Graydon.

    I will never fly them and only uninformed idiots will. And more than likely only once. Unless they have a real low IQ.

  5. I had a flight on an airline that was sopposed to go to LGA and we wound up in JFK due to weather
    They offered no compensation and no bus to LGA
    I had to take a cab and I live on Ditmars Blvd less then 1 mile from LGA !!!
    When I questioned American about a free airline provided bus to LGA their response was your lucky we didn’t have to land in Newark !!!!
    At least they made an attempt to get the customers where they needed to go

  6. Years ago, my parents were on a connecting flight on Piedmont (1988) that was cancelled. They ended up putting everyone on three buses. The bus my parents did not have a working heater on it for the Dayton-Toledo run. It was below zero windchills. They did not get anything from the airline for freezing on a bus that should have been out of service.

    So I think Spirit was generous with the 50 dollar voucher.

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