Bargain airline sued over Shortcut Security line

Bare Boned

If your company’s brand is all about the bargain, you can expect some to identify your company with cheaper services and the exclusion of certain benefits. Spirit Airlines, however, compounded its bargain-fare image by charging what many consider to be high rates for every possible amenity from baggage weight to seat assignments, and even for what many consider to be the God-given right of carry-on luggage.

This approach may have been a sound business decision by the numbers, but it earned plenty of passenger ire: Spirit, for a couple of years, was racking up record numbers of customer complaints before the U.S. Department of Transportation. It even became a running joke on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show.

It’s Making Me Wait

Still, Spirit can’t seem to catch a break.

Earlier this month, the company was sued by one Cintya Larios Guzman, a Virginia resident who booked a flight on Spirit from Los Angeles International to Dulles International.

Seeking to avoid the “general mayhem that accompanies flying out of LAX,” – her words, not ours – Larios Guzman claims to have paid an extra $8 to Spirit for a special “Shortcut Security” option. According to the suit, the option is presented by Spirit in its marketing “as a way to bypass the normal airport security line for a person who is running late or just does not want to stand in the normal security line.”

Larios Guzman claims that once she checked in and headed toward the security checkpoint, she asked a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worker where Spirit’s “shortcut” line was. The employee told her that no such line existed, and she would have to join the general security queue.

The Takeaway

“Apart from almost missing her flight,” the suit claims, “Plaintiff also suffered monetary damages as a result of Spirit’s advertising and sale of the ‘Shortcut Security’ option when no such ‘Shortcut Security’ was available.”

The suit alleges common-law breach of contract claims, unjust enrichment claims, and violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act against Spirit due to the purported offering of the Shortcut Security option. Larios Guzman is also asking for an injunction to keep Spirit from offering the shortcut in the future to other potential passengers. The suit alleges, “It is the TSA that controls the security access to an airport and unless a person has the TSA ‘precheck’ designation, they must go through the same general TSA security line as passengers who did not purchase any ‘Shortcut Security’ service.” It will be interesting to see how Spirit justifies the promotion and advertising of the Shortcut Security service in response to the plaintiff’s suit and allegations that only the TSA can shorten security check times through its own process. Nevertheless, this suit will serve as another reminder to businesses that the promotion and advertising of valuable and rare benefits to their customers can certainly garner business, but such services must be compliant and ultimately possible, to avoid risk of a lawsuit.