Spirit Airlines sucks. If you haven’t had the misfortune of flying this horrible air-service – then save yourself the trouble and don’t.
However, if you want a memorable story to share with your family and friends – then be my guest, and jump right aboard.
Perspective – Bad
I heard horror stories of how bad Spirit was, but I didn’t believe any of the hype. I figured these people were travel rookies, unfamiliar with TSA Security rules, and lacked common-sense travel habits.
I was like, “How bad could it possibly be?”
Because when my wife and I needed a flight to Puerto Rico for a business trip, the Spirit price was half the nearest competitor.
How could I resist? That was a deal too good to be true.
Alas – I was about to learn the error of my ways – and pay dearly for it.
Perspective – Airports
The first mistake came because of my own carelessness.
We lived in Manchester, NH, and there’s an amazing airport in MHT. People in Massachusetts routinely fly out of MHT, just to avoid the headache that is Logan Boston Airport.
If you have to fly out of Boston, then fine. But when you have a killer airport 10 minutes down the road, there’s no reason to drive anywhere else.
So that was mistake number 1 – choose the airport close to home – even if you have to pay an extra $50, who cares. All that money saved is a waste if you have to spend an extra day just commuting to the airport.
And then tip number 2 is to always fly direct. Always. Especially in the middle of January, when snowstorms routinely shut down airports.
You’re practically guaranteed to ruin your travel plans with a connection, or lost baggage, simply because you saved $100.
When you’re stuck overnight in the Chicago airport, sleeping on a cot, you’d gladly pay any amount of money to be rid of your travel nightmare – but that’s another trip entirely, and I’m getting off topic.
Perspective – Blizzard
Off to Puerto Rico, the night before, a blizzard rolled in.
We had an early morning flight out of Boston, and had a decision to make.
We could wake up early, as planned, and fight rush hour traffic in a blizzard. But we’d be risking missing our flight, because of traffic and snow. Or we’d get to the airport fine, and only to find our flight had been cancelled – then we’d need to drive back home and do it all over again.
As a travel pro myself – that option seemed ripe with mistakes, stress, and travel headaches. I didn’t want to do that.
So instead, we drove down the night before and got a room at the airport hotel. All the stress would be gone, there’d be no driving in a blizzard, we could sleep in longer, and if inevitably our flight got canceled, we’d already be in a hotel and could wait an extra day – all the while enjoying a beautiful snow day in the city – it sounded magical.
Plus, as an added annoying bonus, I still had to pay for parking at Logan Airport – whereas Manchester I didn’t – I’d get a ride or taxi or whatever. Staying at the hotel allowed us to park for free (yeah!) and get a chauffeured shuttle directly to our gate. Excellent plan, if you ask me.
However, the initial cost savings of the Spirit flight was now out the window, thanks to the hotel cost. So whatever, that wasn’t Spirit’s fault, as weather isn’t predictable – but still, it was my fault for booking the further airport. I’m a moron.
Perspective – On Time
The morning of our flight we woke energized and refreshed. Except the scene outside looked like a Thomas Kinkade holiday card as a blizzard pounding the city. A Hurricane Katrina type blizzard. It was nuts.
We checked the flight status and every flight was cancelled, except for Spirit.
“How?” I asked. As I spoke into the howling wind, no one answered my question.
How the heck was every other airline – Delta, American, JetBlue – all lit up in CANCELLED red letters – and one lonely Spirit flight status of “ON TIME”?
I shook my head in disbelief. “There’s no way we’re getting off the ground,” I said.
I wanted to stay in the warm hotel, enjoy a leisurely continental breakfast and coffee, relax in the hot tub. I didn’t’ want the hassle of arriving at the gate, only to find the flight had been cancelled.
Perspective – Robbed
So, we arrived at the gate, and were immediately introduced to the insanity of Spirit Airlines
We quickly discovered we had to pay for our checked luggage and carry-on bags.
“That’ll be a $150,” the Spirit clerk said.
“Excuse me?” I coughed.
I knew checked luggage would have a fee – all airlines had recently introduced this cruel measure, and I wasn’t foreign to the concept – but you’re charging me for my carry-on bag?
How was that possible? I felt like I was boarding a flight with the mafia, and they made up their own rules as they went along, nickel and diming me for whatever suited their fancy.
It made no sense.
I was already calculating in my mind the apparent lack of convenience and cost savings of this trip.
Buying the ticket online and saving $200 over the nearest competition suddenly didn’t sound like a good deal. When you’re ripping people off and stealing their money at the gate, it certainly sets their vacation off in the wrong mood.
And Spirit knows exactly what they’re doing – because they suck.
Perspective – Insane
With the weather howling outside like a crazed wolf, the attendants kept reiterating our flight was “on-time” and ready to fly.
I kept shaking my head at the insanity of it all, like I was being herded against my will to a flight that would never leave.
And I was partially right.
The entire airport was a ghost town. There wasn’t a single sole in line at TSA, and we breezed through. That would have been nice in any other circumstance, except when the security officer asked what we were doing and what flight we were on – because clearly we had to be idiots to be at the airport.
“Spirit,” I said.
“Oh, good luck,” was the reply, as he chuckled.
That should have been an omen, and I should have left immediately.
Perspective – Miracles
As we got to the gate, we sat around with the other lost souls bound for this dreaded flight.
Outside in the storm, the runway crew did a stellar job of cleaning our plane and spraying de-icer all over the wings – because frankly, there was no other work to do, and no other planes– our flight was the only one with a death wish.
“It’s still on-time,” they announced. “We’re waiting for a break in the weather.”
A break in the weather? In this winter-monsoon? Who’s making the decisions around here? I didn’t want to get on that flight. It felt like a crime was about to be committed.
Still, an hour later, somehow, miraculously, we boarded.
And I wish I hadn’t.
Perspective – Seats
Our assigned seats were in the back row, with me in the middle.
Again, there’s an upcharge to pick your seat ahead of time, and I really didn’t care. But after realizing how horrible the flight would be, I regretted every prior decision.
The backrow on the plane didn’t recline. You’re forced to sit in the upright position for the entire 3-hour flight. What kind of maniac made that executive decision?
Next, the seat and the legroom is much smaller than any other airplane.
I’m 6’1”, which is kind of tall, but when I say I couldn’t fit in the seat – I literally could not fit. I had to sit in the worst awkward position, just to cram my knees against the seat in front of me.
And then I felt bad for that person too – because they couldn’t recline their seat either – my knees were preventing that from happening, even if they wanted too.
And my wife, who is considerably shorter than me, couldn’t fit either – just to paint an accurate picture. Her knees were crammed. Like the width between those seats is smaller than the width of your actual leg.
She displayed her discomfort by ramming the seat in front of her over and over again – the poor lady in front of her must have thought a toddler was sitting behind her, wailing away on the tray-table.
Then, a lady in the row next to us complained.
She said, “I have back problems. I can’t sit in a seat without a recliner.”
“I’m sorry,” the flight attendant said. “I don’t assign seats.”
But I’m sure the stewardess hated her company’s policies – I’m sure as a human she felt empathy for all us poor souls – crammed on the airplane like a herd of cattle.
That’s like how Spirit displaces all of their horrible decisions, like it’s someone else’s job and someone else’s problem.
What a wreck.
Perspective – Afraid
We mysteriously took off and I was never more afraid for my life.
I find airplanes annoying and inconvenient – but not scary. I don’t think I’ll fall out of the sky or anything.
But this time I did. The takeoff was rickety like we were strapped into child’s wagon and chucked down a rocky hill.
“Good luck,” I remember the security guard saying.
Yes, good luck indeed.
I heard about older American airplanes being sent to retire in third world countries and living an additional second life of questionable safety.
Somehow Spirit got their grubby paws on these questionable hand-me-downs and now I was strapped to one.
I held onto my wife, as we took flight in the storm. She looked possessed, like one of those photos they take of you on a rollercoaster. She wasn’t having fun. She needed to puke.
Perspective – Water
Once airborne, I finally felt safe.
The last 24-hours had been filled with stress, headaches, and spending extra money.
This trip had turned into a nightmare and I wasn’t having any fun.
At least now, we were on our way, and things would get better.
“Can I have water?” I asked – for me, for my wife, for my sanity. I just needed a drink.
“That’ll be $5,” she said.
I’m usually cool, calm, and collected. I see these stories of people throwing fits on airplanes and I don’t get it.
But now I was furious.
However, I couldn’t afford to get in a confrontation and meet the Air Marshal. I didn’t have time for that.
Even though I was beyond angry – just nothing surprised me any more about this company.
They charged for everything. Sodas and snacks, and other perks like airport transfers, taxis, parking, whatever. I was just waiting for them to announce a 50/50 raffle. The cheapskates.
Perspective – Landing
The landing then, was even worse.
As we sputtered into Ft. Lauderdale, the plane felt ready to catch fire. It made the most ungodly sounds an airplane should never make.
My wife too, lost her mind. She still has a hard time flying – like PTSD – from this one single incident.
We ended up missing our connecting flight too, because of that initial delay. So that’s just an annoying travel headache that’s easily avoided.
But I was thankful to be off that flight.
As we rebooked a new flight for later in the day, I told the travel agent, “I couldn’t fit in the seat.” Out of mockery, like how is this legal?
Thankfully, she upgraded us to the emergency exit row. I could at least fit there, but it felt like a normal seat on any other airplane.
I really hoped there wouldn’t be an actual emergency, because if people needed to get off that plane in a hurry, it wouldn’t be good.
We also had Spirit flights coming home – which I considered rebooking to a different carrier. I went ahead though, and picked my seat ahead of time and picked the emergency row once more.
I didn’t care that it cost more money. I was done with Spirit at this point and they could take all of it.
I just vowed to never fly them again – and vote with my pocketbook.
They may make a profit in the near term, but I for one will never use them again.
And I’m certain to make sure everyone else know how horrible they are too.
Perspective – Lesson
One thing I learned, in this horrible travel adventure, is that things can always be worse.
Any plane I’m on now, if I’m uncomfortable, I always remember that awful Spirit flight. And I remember how bad things can get, and you can be tortured and tempting death.
Or when I’m miserable at work, and don’t want to be where I am, I remember that Spirit flight too, and it immediately puts me in a better mood.
“At least I’m not on a Spirit flight,” I think.
And then I smile.