volarisOur Volaris flight was cancelled just one week before our scheduled trip from Tijuana to Cancun, which we had booked about five months prior.   No reason was given for the cancellation.  We received an email informing us that we’d been moved to a red-eye flight that left the following day at 1am……a full 16 hours after we were originally scheduled to leave.  Unwilling to lose almost one day of our six day trip, we were lucky enough to schedule a flight with a different airline company — at the cost of about $200.   When we canceled the flight, the customer service representative refused to send an email confirming the cancellation and informed us verbally that a refund would be charged back to our credit card “within 20-30 business days”.   It ended up taking 40 days…..hopefully their on-time flight performance doesn’t run as late as their refunds.

The bottom line:  Volaris canceled a flight one week prior to its departure for no apparent reason and took an excessive amount of time to issue a refund to our credit card.  This is no way to run an airline.   It turns out, our experience was more common than we had appreciated when we booked the flight.

Volaris is a low-cost airline based out of Mexico City, somewhat along the model of Southwest and Jet Blue.   It started in 2006 and was well positioned to take over Mexicana’s airport routes when that airline folded in 2010.   Volaris began service in the U.S. in 2009 and has since expanded to well over 20 destinations in the U.S.   However, Volaris’ entry into U.S. markets has been a turbulent one.

Our Internet search turned up a number of different websites containing stories of aggregrievated American customers who had their flights cancelled at the last minute or flights switched without their knowledge.   The prevailing opinion among these customers is that Volaris will cancel an entire flight if the aircraft is not filled. According to some observers, if a Volaris flight doesn’t have many passangers, the airline will change the time to try to boost sales, or will combine two flights into one, changing your travel plans without advance notice.  This is apparently what happened to us.  Many travelers have reported that Volaris will cancel the day of the flight, again, for no apparent reason.   And the number and verocity of customer service-related complaints are surprisingly large for a relatively small airline that has just recently sought to expand into the U.S.   As with our experience, many customers complain that Volaris’ customer service agents either have poor English-speaking skills, are disrespectful or are very unresponsive.  Our searches of BBB customer complaint websites verifies Volaris’ deficiencies.   For example, a Central California BBB reports 42 complaints about Volaris over the last three years.  The same BBB site registers no complaints about Southwest Airlines, even though it is a major carrier for that region.  This isn’t to say that no one complains about Southwest, but one could reasonably expect a far larger volume of complaints about this far larger airline than about Volaris.   Yet, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

As to the 20-30 day refund, essentially, Volaris’ position is that after holding on to our money for the few months that we’d made the reservation, they were going to hold on to it for another month or so after cancelling the flight (and the ticket).   Bad form, Volaris.

There is no doubt that Volaris’ rates are low.   However, anyone lured by these low rates should be aware that they may be getting far less than what they aren’t paying for.  Think about it before giving Volaris your money and your travel plans.