You may find yourself, one day, staring at a fare that you can’t possibly believe exists. It’s so cheap, so tempting. But, you’ve heard the horror stories. Carry-on baggage fees. Cancelled flights. Airplanes held together with duct tape. So you Google “Should I fly on Spirit Air?” And maybe that’s how you found me, and my sad tale of woe. I’m here to save you all the trouble I experienced this summer. Carry-on baggage fees. Cancelled flights. Okay, maybe my plane wasn’t held together with duct tape, but some child definitely scribbled ALL over it with a ballpoint pen. Really. I wish I had a picture.
But you know what? Shit happens. Especially when you travel frequently. Flights get cancelled. As far as the fees? Unfortunately, random fees are becoming the norm. So while Spirit’s carry-on baggage fee is annoying, it wasn’t a deal-breaker when I booked a flight from Myrtle Beach to Toluca, Mexico via Dallas earlier this summer. The total cost of the ticket, including baggage fees, still made the ticket worth buying. But, as you will see, Spirit Air has absolutely NO crisis-managing skills. Which is a shame, because flying on Spirit is like a nonstop crisis.
A ditty: Sometime around midnight and 1:00am one early Tuesday morning in Toluca, my friend and I were informed by the ticket agent that our plane (scheduled to leave at 3:30am) was experiencing mechanical problems (hmmm… anyone have a fresh roll of duct tape?) and that we would miss our 7:30am connection in Dallas to get back to Myrtle Beach. The agent told us to wait out of line while they figured out what to do with us.
Around 3:30am, when our flight was supposed to leave, another agent approached us – or should I say woke us up from our glamourous airport-chair slumber – and told us that our new scheduled departure time was 5:00am and that we would need to rebook for Thursday or take a refund of $60 and rebook on another airline out of Mexico City. Wait two days, or take the $60 – which would barely cover the cost of a taxi from Toluca to Mexico City let alone buy us a new flight?
After much consideration, we decided to take the delayed flight back to Dallas, despite being warned that we would miss our connection. We figured things would be easier to sort out in the States, without the burden of translating Spanish to English in the middle of the night. Plus, I was so groggy that every time the thickly-accented agent said “Myrtle Beach” I heard her say “Myrtle Bitch” which almost led to a diplomatic breakdown of nations. “I’m sorry, who are you calling a bitch?”
A lot of frustration and many silent prayers later, we landed in Dallas and, with an original layover window of two hours, missed our connection by thirty minutes. It was 8:00am. We had been up all night, we had ran through customs (me, breathless and sweating telling Homeland Security that NO I didn’t buy anything in Mexico now can you please stamp my goddamn passport so I can get going?), and then endured the indignity of having to go through a TSA-monitored security line moving at the speed of snail, and then caught a tram to take us from Gate C where we landed to Gate E to where our plane, if by some miracle might still be (thinking maybe, just maybe, our connecting flight would be delayed too – and then we would make it!) Alas, no. At 8:00am, a half-hour after our connection left from Dallas to Myrtle Beach on time, we stood, utterly spent, in front of a Spirit Air agent and a view out the window of a jetway leading to nothing.
And this leads me to my favorite part of the whole expedition. Again, the agent in Dallas told me that I’d either need to take a refund (this time, $30) or wait two days until the next flight to Myrtle Beach. At this point, fatigued, devastated as I was beginning to realize I might have to live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport for two days when I could have had two extra days in aguacate paradise, I asked her “Do you have any advice? I mean, I just don’t even know what to do right now.” This was her reply, as she continued to avoid eye-contact with me, as she continued to type on her computer:
“Honestly, I’m a crybaby. If I were in your position right now, I’d cry.”
Here is the real problem with Spirit Air. Their limited schedule, which keeps the prices of their flights low, means that if you miss a connection by thirty minutes, by a mere one-thousand eight hundred seconds, you’re screwed until the next flight. If they only operate that leg twice a week, that means you’d have to wait multiple days until you could get home – and that’s if there’s room on that next flight to re-book you.
In the end, my friend and I took our $30 refunds and bought $200 one-way flights on US Airways to Charleston. We then had a lot of help from friends and family to get back to Myrtle Beach. After my experience with Spirit, stepping onto a US Air operated flight felt like stepping into a palace that flew. That $200 get-me-the-hell-home ticket I hastily purchased on my smart-phone in front of the US Airways ticket counter (adding another layer of absurdity to the day: booking an airline ticket online using my smart-phone was about $100 cheaper than walking up to the counter and buying it from an actual person) thus erased any small victory I had initially felt when booking my OMG SUPER CHEAP TRIP to Mexico, and since I’m a budget traveler, negatively impacted the rest of my summer.
So if you’ve got a Spirit Air booking page open in another window, and you’re trying to make your decision, I’d advise that you check the schedules that Spirit operates that route. Make sure that they don’t only fly that leg only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or Mondays and Wednesdays, or Sundays only, or something else crazy, which, if they run out of duct tape, could potentially leave you with no other option than to cry and then swear to never, like ever, fly Spirit Air again. (Because, girlfriend, no airline deserves your tears.)