7 On Your Side: Freebie flight turns expensive for New Jersey mom

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A New Jersey family trying to cash in their flight vouchers turned to 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda for help.

For the family with six kids, it was like hitting the lottery, after unexpectedly being awarded hundreds in prizes toward free travel. But when they tried to redeem the rewards it was a no-go.

"They were celebrating their 100th plane," said Katie Garcia, prize winner.

It was a post card worth $100 and Katie Garcia didn't just get one for herself, all six of her kids got one too.

"We were excited. My kids were so excited because they'd never been on an airplane before," Garcia said.

The surprise certificates were handed to her family when all seven of them landed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from Atlantic City last May.

Spirit Airlines cameras were rolling when they gave all passengers on three separate flights, the hundred dollar future flight credits.

"When I got this we were stoked. I was like this is going to change all our plans," Garcia said.

That's because Garcia could only afford one-way flights. The last-minute budget-busting trip was for a family emergency.

"My brother-in-law was put on life support," Garcia said.

They had planned to drive home to New Jersey, until Garcia says a Spirit representative at the airport told her she could use the credits to fly home in a week and half.

"If a Spirit representative hadn't told you that you could use that, would you have just driven home?" asked Nina Pineda, 7 On Your Side.

"Of course, we can't afford that," Garcia said.

The Spirit certificate states the credit can be used "to book any flight available in our system." But there was one restriction, you have to book by July 31st. Just wait "7 days" for booking instructions.

"He (the Spirit rep) had told me that if the vouchers weren't in, pay for it and you'll get reimbursed," Garcia said.

So she did, shelling out $769 to fly her family home. But when Garcia tried to get refunded, the airline told her no, denying she could use the rewards for that flight.

"Now I don't have any money, I don't have anything. I used all my money," Garcia said.

The schoolteacher was devastated, so she called 7 On Your Side. We contacted Spirit, and in the spirit of their celebration, the airline agreed to credit the Garcias the full $769.

A representative from Spirit Airlines thanked 7 On Your Side for bringing this to his attention, saying according to the promotion's rules, passengers had to wait until June 5th to book travel. But that wasn't clearly spelled out on the certificates. Still, the representative said the airline made an exception, and refunded the total fare and additional expenses as a courtesy.
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