Sprit Airlines, You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Word

What comes to mind when you hear the word “spirit?”

If you asked me in February, my answer would have either been “ghosts” or “booze.” Unfortunately, the word has been forever associated
1 by my experience with a certain cheap airline which bares that name.2

Let me preface this rant by stating that the flights themselves and all the people associated with those flights (cabin crew, pilots, etc.) were great. We only had one short delay and the flights themselves were smooth and without incident.

However

Everything else associated with our Spirit experience left a lot to be desired.

One thing which I knew going in was that the space on the airline was going to be cramped. Spirit has more rows of seats and each aircraft than planes of the same make run by different airlines. Still, the flights appeared to be less expensive than other airlines, so I decided that we would make due.

I say “appeared” because there are a number of additional fees which are tacked on (like baggage fees) and other amenities (free food and beverage service) which are not included but are standard elsewhere. Still, that is not my chief complaint. You get what you pay for, or don’t get what you don’t pay for, right?

My complaints are two-fold, but both stem from the same issue — while on the ground, the passengers were treated more like an inconvenience than a consumer of a service.

For example, Spirit has an easy check-in option available on-line. You simply type in your reservation number the day before, then when you get to the airport all you have to do is hand off your bags and head right to the gate. In theory. What actually happened was that we got to the airport and were told that we had to stand in a hellaciously long line in order to check our bags. This turned out not to be the case, but there was no one to ask questions of, nor were there any signs directing people what to do.

Another problem is that international travelers have to check in with their passports. We were told that this was done when we check in our bags. Not true. There are kiosks which scan your passports which you are supposed to do before checking your bag. We found this out after standing in the hellaciously long line. Nowhere on the website (I went back and checked) nor in the airport, did it say this.

Very frustrating.

Our real difficulties did not start until we were on our way home. We arrived at the airport
3 to find huge crowds of frustrated looking people, camera crews from the local TV stations, and harried looking airline staff. It turned out that a volcano had erupted that morning and no flights were leaving San Jose. The staff in San Jose went out of their way to try and find us spaces on the next available flight home. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a miscommunication, but more about that later.

We ended up spending an extra night in Costa Rica
4, then went back to the airport the next morning to attempt to make it home.

Note the word attempt.

Some time during the evening, I became horribly ill. Like Captain Tripps ill. I was running a fever, had chills, and couldn’t keep any food in my stomach. I was not a happy camper.

We made it to Fort Lauderdale, then stalled. We went through customs, had someone examine or tickets, then checked our bags in for the connecting flight to Detroit which was not due to leave until some 8 hours later. I spent most of the intervening time asleep on a bench or in the airport bathroom. Naturally, the flight to Detroit was delayed. The Mrs had dinner. I managed to choke down some soup which stayed with me for about as long as a it took me to type the works “I managed to choke down some soup.” We then checked the status of the Detroit flight and found that it was no longer late, had actually arrived early, and had already departed.

Normally, when a plane is ready to leave and there are people who have not boarded, the airline calls them overhead about a hundred times. A very helpful person who had no idea what was going on tried to figure out what happened. It turns out the problem was that we were not booked on that evening’s flight, but for a flight a few days hence.
5 We accept responsibility for not noticing it, but thought that perhaps someone6 should have noticed it.

This is when we discovered the secret of Spirit. There are two types of people who work at the US airports: those who are nice and helpful but have no clue, and those who know what is going on and are bitter, unhelpful, and outright rude.
7

No, they could not help us find a hotel. No, they would not help pay for a hotel. No, they could do absolutely nothing to help us.

Oh, and the real kicker? Our bags had been loaded on that evening’s flight and were winging their way to Detroit.

The Mrs scrambled to find us a place to spend the evening, grumbling about how we had wasted the day sitting around the airport. I stood close to the unhelpful person at the counter and breathed as much contagion on her as I could. We spent the night at a motel off site
8, returned to the airport, and got to spend more time with the unknowledgeable and the unfriendly.

Arriving home really was blissful.

1 Read: tainted

2 Note that I used the word “cheap” and not “inexpensive.” There’s a reason for that.

3 Late, due to a massive amount of road construction.

4 At a hotel which also had a sushi bar and pizzeria attached.

5 This was the tail end of Spring Break and every flight was already overbooked.

6 Like the person who checked our tickets when she took our bags during the layover.

7 That is putting it
way nicer than it actually is.

8 Which I spent alternately covered in five blankets despite the Florida heat or standing in front of the air conditioner.