I’m not quite sure what “spirit” they are hoping one catches when flying with them, but if my trip this past weekend is any indication I think it is something akin to misery and self-hatred. I’d heard the stories and the warnings from my friends, but I hadn’t ever flown with Spirit Air and wanted to experience it for myself. I think I should have just trusted them and saved myself the pain.
The flight booking process was not particularly bad. Sure, there were up-sell options all over the web page and they default to including the travel insurance in the ticket so you have to know to uncheck that box, but otherwise it isn’t so horrible. They even showed the options for upgrade to the “Big Front Seat” during the regular booking process so I had the choice right then to see how much extra it would cost and make that decision right there (no, it wasn’t worth it to me at the time, though I probably should have in retrospect). I got the nice reminder email 24 hours prior to my flight offering online check-in and that worked quite well. Up until this point the process was actually rather similar to any other flight I have booked and flown in the past several years.
The airline’s main operations are from their hub in Ft. Lauderdale. Most carriers go to some effort to ensure that their hub operations are as good as possible, both in customer service and amenities available at the airport. If the terminal at Ft. Lauderdale is any indication of the quality of other facilities I would be very, very scared. There was a Nathan’s and a tiny, dark bar with decent (airport) prices on beer. Otherwise the terminal was overcrowded with passengers waiting for delayed flights and generally not much space to move around. I’m sure that part of that is based on the facilities that they have available to them from the airport authority, but I just felt dirty sitting there. Not particularly pleasant. At least the view of sunset was nice (photo above).
They do not assign seats in advance unless you’re willing to pay somewhere between $7-20 for that luxury. Since the website said that I’d be able to choose a seat at check-in for free I decided to save my money. Of course, at the time of check in I still was only offered paid options for seat bookings so that wasn’t so useful. I did end up with an aisle seat, but it was in row 24, one of the many rows on their planes that have even less legroom than normal a knee and soul-crushing 30”. I actually felt badly for the woman in the seat in front of me who had to suffer with my knees in her back for the hour or so we were on the plane. I spent most of the in-flight time with my legs turned out into the aisle so that I had a chance of still feeling them at the end of the flight. It was not fun.
Fortunately for me my flight was only 37 minutes long. The short duration meant that there was no beverage or snack service on the flight. Sure, one could ring the call button and ask the flight attendant for a drink or snack, but since everything on board is for sale I wasn’t really all that motivated to try that aspect of the service.
Despite the short scheduled flight duration there was some extra time spent waiting for customers on a connecting flight so that added to the time on the plane, but overall it was short enough that it was survivable. But I also know that the discounted price was not worth it to me for the cramped and dirty seats and somewhat uncertain reliability of the carrier (lots of delayed flights that night with no particularly apparent reason). The flights would pretty much have to be free to get me back on one of their planes, and I’m not 100% certain that would be enough. But at least I tried it once and now I know what not to do next time.
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