I have to admit, I was concerned about flying Spirit Airlines for the first time. Only seconds after I updated my facebook status with the news I had booked a flight on the airlines, my timeline erupted with scores of friends warning me not to fly Spirit, many even “scolding” me for the choice.
I needed to get to Vegas for a night and Southwest wanted more than $350 for the 50-minute flight from San Diego to Sin City. $350+ for a 50 minuet flight? I just couldn’t do it, it’s the principle. I’d feel bad for months if I bought that ticket.
So I searched for alternatives. Spirit Airlines was what I got. $116 round trip. I’ll take it!
But the second I started the booking process on the Spirit website it felt a little weird. Before I could even confirm my reservation, their comic-book looking web portal started asking if I wanted to pay to bring my bags…including my carry on bag. Yes, they wanted to charge me for my carry on! And they threatened me multiple times online to pay for my bags now or I’d be charged an even higher “bag price” if I arrived at the airport with luggage. The only thing allowed to bring on without a fee: a small “personal” item, like a backpack or briefcase.
I was also informed that there would be no complimentary snacks or drinks. “Okay,” I thought, “I don’t need soda and chips; water is healthier anyway.” Except they charge for water too. Yup, for water! What the heck, what if someone was dying from dehydration and didn’t have a debit card–is it even legal to deny a man and his horse water?
They also wanted to charge me for “picking” my seat.
Now, here’s where it gets even crazier: I soon found out that I had better check-in and print my boarding pass from my own computer, or I’d be charged at the airport to simply print my ticket. You can’t make this stuff up. This was sounding more and more like a sketch from SNL.
But then I started thinking about the price difference, and all the money I was saving. I remembered that I was no “amateur” when it came to traveling. Nope, seasoned globe-trotter here. I’ve been around the world, traveling in rickety boats with holes in them, on “chicken” buses in Guatemala, and in six-seater propeller planes over Suriname. Surely taking a 50-minute flight on Spirit airlines wouldn’t phase me.
Here was the plan on how I was going to avoid every extra (and ridiculous) nickel and dime charge:
1) Pack light. Really, really light. Look, this may not work for a trip longer than two nights, but for one night in Vegas? I don’t mind wearing the same pair of pants two days in a row. It wouldn’t be the first time. Don’t judge me. I packed clean socks and underwear, some toiletries, and I was good to go.
2) Feed and hydrate yourself before boarding. You better believe I took advantage of the “free” drinking fountain at the terminal. I drank that water and enjoyed it like it was champagne before boarding!
3) I let Spirit pick my seat. It’s the principle dammit. I know paying $10 is probably “worth” not getting a middle seat, but I just couldn’t bring myself to it.
4) I made sure I checked in online and printed my own boarding pass. In fact, I printed two, just in case I lost the first one. Again, it’s not that I couldn’t afford a measly two dollars to get a boarding pass at the little “kiosk,” but I ain’t goin’ out like a chump.
I checked in exactly 24-hours before the flight, hoping that might make a difference in keeping me out of a middle seat. Not sure if it helped, but I was assigned a window seat. That was my first sigh of relief.
I arrived to the airport anticipating the challenge. I was out to prove everyone wrong and show them that I could save a buck and arrive at my destination unscathed. I was kind of pumped up actually.
The Spirit boarding area at The San Diego airport was super clean, with new(er) seats with charging receptacles at every other chair. The flight status was showing an on-time departure. I didn’t claim victory yet, but things were looking good.
I wish I had a better story about the flight, but it was really pretty uneventful.
The only thing I didn’t like was that the seats didn’t recline. It was weird to not even have that little silver button on the side of your armrest. But let’s be realistic, does that half-of-an-inch-recline really make that much of a difference. Of course not.
The flight attendants were young; they looked like they could still be in high school, and carried even more corny humor than Southwest personnel.
There were advertising placards throughout the cabin, akin to a bus. That was interesting, but whatever.
I arrived on-time and in one piece. And with money in my pocket. Money I saved because I flew Spirit. I felt good.
The flight back was the same. Except there was an overabundance of interesting characters on this one; too many people who looked and acted like this was their first experience on a flying vessel. I was thinking that this must be how riding a train through India feels. And smells. And I swear The Clampetts were sitting behind me. I got a free back massage the entire trip.
We left ten minutes late, but made the time up in the sky. We landed on time and it was a wrap.
The bottom line
Sorry haters, I had a great experience on Spirit.
I think seasoned travelers can handle Spirit just fine. It’s the perfect airline for overnight stays, where minimal luggage is required. Pack light, be on time, print your boarding passes, bring your own water. It’s not bad at all and definitely worth keeping hundreds in your pocket. Just add in a little extra preparation and think of the trip as an “experience” and you’ll be just fine. As long as you know what you’re getting into, and take your Spirit flight as a “challenge,” you’ll probably do great just like I did.