I recently needed to fly cheaply from DFW to Orlando. I decided to try Spirit Airlines.
With some fear and trembling I look forward to my flight on the no frills/charge for everything Spirit Airlines. This airline is apparently one of the most profitable and most hated carriers in the country. I booked this flight because I needed to save money, and it ended up $100 cheaper than any other flight.
I’ve read the horror stories. And they are pretty bad. Spirit seems to have strict guidelines for what they will do to “help” people. They charge for everything, and if you didn’t bother to read that then too bad, pay the fee or don’t fly. Your ticket gives you a seat on the flight,nothing more. Pay extra for bags, for assigned seats, for boarding status, for snacks and drinks, for anything. Oh, and if you forget to pay for the bag at the time you buy the ticket, pay even higher fees to check it at the counter or gate.
But even after I selected my flights, and seats and checked a bag, it was still cheap enough that I took the chance. I expect the Greyhound of the skies. I don’t expect comfort and I don’t expect courtesy. I just need to get to my destination close to on time.
That’s the only thing that scares me. The complaints about rudeness, or fees don’t bother me. The website is up front about what they charge for. Read it and plan accordingly. But some of the complaints are about cancelled flights, without a lot of help to get your to your destination. They are not a big airline, and they don’t have as many flights. So if one goes down, you might not get another one the same day, or even the next day. That’s scary since I need to get to my destination and get back on the day I’m booked.
Luckily, they do seem willing to refund your tickets in such situations. So worst case, I’m flying into large airports with major carriers. I can get home. It will just cost more.
I’ve been around the internet long enough to know that people will complain quicker than compliment. So I know that for every horror story online there are hundred of less horrifying experiences.
So, I’ve check in. I printed my boarding pass, because they charge you if you ask them to print it. And I’m ready to go. I hope.
The day of the flight.
Got an email when I woke up telling me that my gate had changed. That’s helpful.
In line at 5:26 AM. Long line to check in, Bag drop is shorter.
Bag drop was fast an easy. I had pre printed my pass and handed my bag to the attendant. And I was off to security.
While waiting in security I heard the woman next to me complaining about Spirit Airlines. She saw me smile and began a conversation. She hates Spirit, but only because of the fees. She had to wait in line because her pass wouldn’t print at home. She did say that the attendant waived her $10 fee this morning.
She went on to say that Spirit wasn’t the worst airline, but named another instead. She was headed to Chicago.
5:52 AM. At gate, way early.
As I walked to my gate I heard an announcement for another Spirit airlines flight say that they were missing a flight attendant, and therefore that flight was delayed until they could find one to fill in.
I was struck by the fact that they didn’t have to tell anyone what was happening. Could have just delayed the flight, but instead they gave almost too much information.
6:27 AM. Flight cancelled. They will refund, rebook for tomorrow or put on another airline.
I quickly left the gate and got my checked bag. I slipped into the baggage office where a very nice woman helped me confirm there was no way to fly Spirit to Orlando today. That left refund and rebook, or wait in a very long line and try to get a decent flight into Orlando. I had no desire to fly stand by with the other 100+ passengers now trying to get a flight to Central Florida.
I knew this was the only thing I couldn’t prevent. Cancelled/delayed flights are out of my control. The helpful employee said that they were having cancelled flights all the time this year. Blamed it on scheduled by mix ups. I didn’t want this issue on my return flight later this week.
That made up my mind. I decided to cut bait, took the full refund and starting looking for fast flights to my destination. Southwest had several flights, but I had to drive to another airport.
An hour later I was at the ticketing desk for Southwest, booking a last minute flight that still got me there fairly early in the day. But I was flying stand by.
9:00 AM, In a seat on the first leg. This leg was delayed some and now the last leg is going to be a tight turn. I had decided not to check my bag again, (will need some new toiletries though.) so I hope I can run to the gate and make it. If so, I will arrive just 2 hours later than originally planned.
That would be awesome…
10:30 AM. It was not awesome. Missed it by 5 minutes.
12:27 PM. Flying standby these days is horrible. Every flight is full. You’re just hoping someone doesn’t show up. Had a seat on flight to Memphis that would then go on to Orlando, but I did not have a seat to Orlando. That flight had already check in full. I opted to wait for a direct flight.
Generally, Southwest doesn’t seem to be having a great day. Lots of unhappy flyers in the terminal. Mechanical issues causing delays and cancellations. But, because they have a decent sized fleet, there are options for travelers.
1:55 PM. As my flight time (assuming I get to board) was getting closer I went to double check my position on the stand by list. Because I had not taken the last flight I was no longer on the list. The nice lady added me.
3:28 PM. I’m on the plane. Had to sit by the large fellow who decided both armrests and half my seat were his, but I’m on the plane!
6:30 PM. Arrived safely. 7 hours after my planned arrival time, but I’m here.
Would I fly Spirit again?
(Technically, I never flew them this time…) Only in certain cases. With such a small and old fleet you can’t trust that you will arrive on your planned travel day, much less on time. So if you just need to go somewhere and the day or time isn’t important, they may be a cheap option. But watch out for fees.
Every airline has issues. But outfits like Southwest are large enough to fix/replace aircraft or rebook flights for the same day. Incidentally, I flew American Airlines home, and they had mechanical delays and cancellations, but I was able to get home because they have lots of planes and flights.