Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spirit Airlines: Crushing your spirit since 1980!

Last week I took a little trip out to New York to hang out with some friends. Since I am not made of money I opted to buy the cheapest plane ticket that I could come find. For a shockingly low price (I don't remember exactly after taxes but I think it was $116) I found a ticket on Spirit airlines. Sure, I had to leave at 6 am and return at 11 pm but I can handle those inconveniences in stride. What I was not expecting was that Spirit Airlines would be the cheapest and worst airline in the history of air travel.

I feel that I might be understating how horrible Spirit is. Allow me to shed some perspective on the issue. Most of the time people complain about their travel experience they turn their anger toward the TSA. This is understandable. On my morning flight I was chosen for special screening, got the back scatter thing-a-majig where they took pictures of my junk, had a pat down, and as a cherry on top had my bag completely searched. THIS WOULD BE THE BEST PART OF MY TRAVEL DAY.

Luckily for me I had decided to check in 24 hours before my flight. I never do this. Ever. I decided to take the leap and do it this time so that I could reserve a seat so my fat ass wouldn't be crammed in the middle seat between two other amply sized asses. In order to reserve a seat I would need to pay $18. Yes, you heard that correctly, $18. No, this is not to upgrade into first class or whatever the hell they are calling the fancy leg room seats these days. This is simply to reserve a seat so that as a single passenger I am not forced into a middle seat. I don't understand how picking a seat is not part of the standard ticket price.

On top of that nonsense there was a baggage fee of $28 for a checked bag. While I find checked bag fees to be repugnant they have become standard practice, I may dedicate a blog to complaining about that at a later date. I then learned that Spirit has another baggage fee, a far more sinister baggage fee. $30 for a carry on. I understand that this is shocking so I will repeat it in all caps for you. $30 FOR A CARRY ON BAG. Part of me wants to tip my hat to the people at Spirit for this one. You were the first airline to have the brass balls to charge people for carry on bags, kudos. Passengers are allowed a "personal item" for free but will be charged for a carry on. Another fun thing about this is that it is $30 if you decide to pay for it before getting to the airport. That price goes up to $35 if you buy your ticket in a non-online manner, $40 if you pay for your bag at the ticket counter and $45 if they decide at the gate that your personal item is too big. Of course you can save ten bucks on all bag fees if you join there frequent flyer club. . . for sixty bones a year. If you want to join for a 60 day trial it only costs $19.95, which conveniently happens to be the exact amount of money you would be saving on a bag for a round trip ticket.

It is safe to say that I had worked myself into quite a frothy fury after learning about this. Luckily I read this the day before the trip or else I would have shown up with a carry on bag and completely lost my shit when learning of the fees and then boom, pow! Next thing you know this blog is never updated because I'm taking an alternate vacation to Gitmo. I decided to pack as sparingly as possible and throw everything in my backpack. I noticed that the dimensions of my bag were still bigger than what they laid out for a personal item but it could easily be compressed into the required size with a little cramming. It was worth the gamble, and it paid off on my way to NYC.

Allow me to throw the story out of order a little to explain the problems I had at the gate at LGA on my way home. As I was about to board I was told that my bag was too big and that I needed to pay for a carry on fee. I used every ounce of my eloquent charm and responded, "Bullshit. My bag is fine." It is at this point that the woman asks to see my bag. She places it in the handy little box they have to demonstrate whether a bag is too big to be considered a personal item. While doing so she makes sure to stretch the bag as much as possible so that the top 3 inches or so are peeking over the rim of the box. "See, it's too big to be a personal item," she said to me with maximum condescension. I will admit that yes, she was correct to some degree. Except that the last foot or so of my bag had NOTHING in it. So I reached over, crammed it down and then announced, "Actually it fits perfectly fine. I'm not paying for anything and it's going to go under my seat. That's that or I would like to speak with your supervisor." She sighed and admitted defeat. Although to make sure that I knew my place I was sent to the back of the line to get on the plane since I had been pulled out. I'm pretty sure she did this so she could glare at me disapprovingly for the next 5 minutes.

Back to the out going flight. Check in went fine and I wasn't hassled about my bag. When I boarded the plane and found my seat I was given another treat by our friends at Spirit, a seat that would not recline and apparently only had one arm rest (on the aisle). Now, my row may have been defective because my row of seats on the way home had arm rests but on the way there, nada. There's nothing more fun than sitting next to a stranger (who was also around my size) without the benefit of some sort of barrier. Now, I don't blame Spirit for this, but my neighbors happened to be Jehovah's Witnesses. What a lucky day! So starting around 5:45 am when we were seated they immediately started in on me. I tried to be a trooper and endured it for about fifteen minutes before finally quipping, "Look, I grew out of having a imaginary friends when I was 7, please leave me alone."

I realize this has been going on for pretty long but you need to understand just how crappy Spirit Airlines is. I could complain about how it cost $3 for a coke and that even water wasn't free but by now I'm pretty sure you already have been convinced to never fly Spirit. I just want to do a little math for you. My ticket was $116. I could have flown United and been saved almost all of this bullshit for $145. So I ask myself in order to enjoy the same benefits that I would have had on United (free seat selection, free carry on, free soda, reclining seats etc.) how much extra would it cost on Spirit? Here we go:
Outbound carry on : $30 +
Outbound aisle seat: $18 +
Outbound soda: $3 +
Inbound carry on: $30 +
Inbound aisle seat: $18 +
Inbound soda and water because I was a parched little fella: $6 =
$105. Add this to the original price of ticket and that's a grand total of $221!

In summation, in order to be treated like a normal human being on Spirit you will need to pay roughly double the ticket price. Awesome. When I went to their website today I found a special little nugget of joy, apparently Spirit is complaining about how the government wants airlines to include taxes into their quoted ticket prices. They had a nice little page saying how this is unfair and even had a link so that I could write to my congressman to protest. Once again I underestimated the size of Spirit's balls. The level of hypocrisy required to post that on the website when every tiny little detail of the Spirit flying experience requires extra fees is mind numbing.

End Rant.

TL:DR - Spirit Airlines is only slightly preferable than traveling in an unheated boxcar.

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