I did something for you, dear readers. I booked and took flights on Spirit Air so that I could come back and give you an unbiased opinion as to whether it’s ever worth flying them. Spoiler alert: Never. No. NOT. Don’t ever, EVER give this airline your money. Don’t. Won’t. Shouldn’t. Shouldn’t have.
You’ve probably heard about Spirit’s awful reputation by now, but I had to see for myself. We flew to Dallas over Labor Day to to get family-reunited and birthday-celebrated and baby-showered. Normally I fly one of the big legacy carriers to DFW (American, Delta or United/Continental), but this time Spirit popped up in my ticket searches and their tickets were stupidly cheap. Their business model is simple: undercut all other airlines by an obscene margin, take airports’ cheapest, least-reliable gates (that would otherwise go unused), target customers that would otherwise be taking Greyhound buses (not flying), assess gigantic fees on everything from bags to drinks to seat reservations (!), treat said customers like dirt, PROFIT.
The true brilliance of this model lies in the hundreds of thousands of chumps just like me who looked at the ticket prices and said, “Huh, it can’t be that bad, can it? It’s just a few hours in the air, and I’ll save so much money!”
In the end, you might save money, once you take into account all the fees. But you will definitely lose your mind and want to cry. Spirit was the only flight I’ve ever taken where police had to escort passengers off the plane for a verbal altercation that had happened between some parents of screaming children and the, uh, not-too-understanding young gentlemen who sat in front of them. But they only removed the parents and the kids, not the guys who threatened the family and the flight attendant! So that was strike 1. I’m all for removing problem passengers, but be fair about it.
And then there were the old-as-shit planes with tiny busted seats, the total lack of refreshments (literally, they charge you $3 for a cup of water, and by the way did I mention how delightful it is to be 7 months pregnant and dehydrated on a red-eye flight?) On the day we were to fly back to Portland, their website wasn’t working, so we couldn’t print our boarding passes. We got to the airport and the Spirit area was so chaotic that when I got to a kiosk to print out the passes, it told me I’d missed a cutoff to do so, and would have to pay $5 a pop to get them at the front desk. I mean, WHAT THE WHAT? Luckily, the front desk lady was either exhausted or incompetent or both and didn’t charge us.
Spirit requires you to pay $13-16 per person, per flight to reserve an actual seat; otherwise they’re randomly assigned when you check in, with no guarantee that you sit next to your traveling companion. She assigned us a few seats and they weren’t together. When I asked if they could be, I think she took pity on my pregnant ass and re-did the seating so we could sit together.
And then the flight was 2 hours late, with no notifications on the monitors or by the gate staff. They did hustle us between 2 gates several times, though.
I have friends who have told worse tales about being trapped on the runway for hours, having flights delayed or canceled with no notice, totally clueless flight crews and gate staff, refund hell, and more.
Let my experience be a cautionary tale to you: It isn’t worth it. It just isn’t. I saw the fares that were 40-50% below all the other airlines and I was seduced! Don’t you make the same mistake! You’ll pay that 40-50%, just in insane fees and time and hassle instead.