You could argue that Orlando Bloom/a sense of humor/an accidental-on purpose 5 o’clock shadow/your husband vacuuming are the hottest things out there. But, to me, there’s nothing sexier than some really cheap airfare.
At least, that’s how it used to be. Now it’s mostly Chris Pratt + dinosaurs.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to compromise in the name of saving a buck. I’ve survived on peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and Hot Pockets alone in order to live in a sweet downtown loft apartment. I’ve used Kleenex on my butt and Charmin on my face.
I’ve basically duct-taped my way through life.
It’s this training that led me to believe round trip flights for less than $75 would be a walk in the park. Or in my case, a year without cable before Netflix. As it turns out, regarding my air travel experiences, I’m actually a first-class SNOB.
I can survive without beverage service. I can fit all my stuff into a carry on. Who really needs in-flight magazines anyway? (Just kidding! Please let me write for you!) But is it really too much to ask for clean floors? A tray table? Desk agents that don’t lie to me?? I get enough of that from the guys at Jiffy Lube who keep telling me I’m out of blinker fluid.
Traveling Spirit Airlines will challenge even the most tolerant of us and I advise you to really consider your options. That $25 flight looks about as tempting as Jared Leto with a tray full of Rice Krispy Treats but know that all magic comes with a price, deary.
Spirit–Less Money. More
Go Questioning Your Life Choices.
What is Spirit Airlines?
Picture this: During your life of travel you’ve only stayed in 5-star hotels. There are people to carry your bags for you, a bowl of fruit in your suite, a phone next to the toilet. You watch HBO in the terrycloth robe from the closet and wash yourself with toiletries from brands you’ve actually heard of.
Then suddenly, perhaps after quitting your medical job to become a full-time blogger, you find yourself staying in a hostel for the first time. You sleep in a shack of bunkbeds with 15 strangers and one stray cat. Someone steals your duffel bag in the middle of the night to loot it for condoms but you quickly realize it’s you who’s totally f*cked.
It’s kinda like that.
Spirit Airlines is… a way to not feel guilty tagging along with your husband to Texas for his work thing. It’s a way to justify a trip to Disney World just a couple weeks after you’ve returned from Europe. It’s every man for himself actually.
Spirit Airlines is an American “budget airline.” If you’re not familiar with budget airlines, well then I hope that terrycloth gives you bum rash. I mean, good for you–you’ve probably never had to steal internet.
Budget airlines are the personification of the phrase “you get what you pay for.” The fares themselves are really cheap. Really, shockingly, enticingly cheap. However, all that fare gets you is a back-breaking seat in a steel tube. Thinking about bringing luggage? Of course you are–you’re not a robot. That’ll cost extra. Thirsty? Choking? Water will cost extra. Checking in at the airport? That’ll cost you too.
Before you know it, that cheap-ass ticket you bought now costs the same as any other flight only now you’re maxed-out on F bombs and stepping over pee stains in the carpet at the terminal gate while praying you don’t see anyone you know.
I can just hear you now–no big deal, huh? You don’t need all that extra stuff anyway? Exactly. Spirit Airlines hears you too and that’s why they’ve come up with more creative (i.e. bullshit) ways to make money off you. Especially if you’re a first-time flyer. Read on.
Booking your flight
There’s a classy way to be affordable and a trashy way. For instance, take a look at the marketing strategies for, let’s say, Allstate auto insurance. Or Corona. Even McCafés are pretty nice. On the other hand, Spirit Airlines is handing out 2-for-1 lap dances at the joint across the street from the airport next to the place that trades cash 4 gold.
On a similar note, there are businesses that can get away with trashy humor: any Seth McFarlane endeavor, Hardee’s, or that commercial for the new Schick Hydro Silk razor with those girls trimming their bushes by a pool, for example. However, there are some entities that I feel should maintain an air of professionalism no matter how cheap they are, like airlines.
Now, I have at least a rudimentary understanding of marketing so the fact that Spirit Airlines targets a certain market segment is not lost on me. But when it comes to something like air travel—that often cripples a large segment of the population with fear—a casual attitude is something nobody wants.
I bring this up because, if you can get through the website without changing your mind, you’ll probably be fine.
The Spirit Airlines aesthetic
For starters, Spirit Airlines’ whole deal looks like it’s targeted at school children. The cartoons, the fonts, the immature attempts at humor, the patronizing attitude towards their customers. That is, until you get to Spirit.com and have to slap yourself because there’s no way this is real life, right!?
I explained what a “bare fare” was earlier but I’m pretty sure you could’ve figured that out on your own (and without the logo of the guy with his hands over his crotch). But just in case, Spirit Airlines has come up with a “helpful” video quiz to make sure you understand.
Okay… this has to be a joke, right? “Show us your smarts we’ll show you our parts.” ??? Surely they’re not going to make that woman strip. My guess is they think distracting you with strippers will make it easier for them to screw you from behind. Take that as literally as you want just keep an eye on your wallet.
A blow-up doll? I am so embarrassed for them. And for myself for having flown this airline… twice. Is this an airline or an entrance exam to Trump University?
Not to mention, if we’re going to get technical here, this quiz is totally bogus. All of those things will cost extra on Spirit Airlines. The gallon of milk might fit the dimensions of a “small personal item” but don’t take my word for it.
Also, she won’t actually take anything off… will she?
This is not happening.
Oh shit–that happened.
This is the most unprofessional strip tease since that time I got a bee in my shirt. This is an airline–the people we trust with our lives and our luggage and our passport photos–not the afterparty of a Kid Rock show. You’d expect these kinds of marketing tactics from Carls Jr. or your local Hooters but not from the company flying you to your business meeting. By God, you lint-rolled for this!
I feel like even broke college kids heading to Vegas for the weekend (their core demographic, no?) would appreciate an airline that takes themselves seriously. Besides, aren’t they all feminists now anyway?
**In Spirit’s defense there are two other quizzes besides the one labeled “Babe.” One features a guy and the other a bear. So, an equal opportunity offender.
The issues I have with Spirit booking
Not an accurate representation of costs
That cheap fare you just booked is not an accurate representation of what the flight will actually cost you. As hard as you’ll try to fight it, there will be additional costs. Mostly in the baggage department. This paragraph could not describe online dating any more accurately even if I wanted it to.
Their $9 Fare Club is an outright lie
I still haven’t figured out where they got the name for it because it has nothing to do with $9 fares. I tweeted them asking why they named it so and have yet to receive a reply. I understand; it’s obvious they’re incredibly busy:
I became a member of the $9 Fare Club because, when booking a flight from Boston to Orlando, I could save $80 by signing up for a year membership (at $59.95). So yeah, I saved $20, just enough for one of those Schick hedge trimmers. I’ve since saved a few bucks here and there on baggage fees but a membership will not help you in the case of an overweight bag. (More on that to come.)
There are also no airfares anywhere near $9. At least not inside the cabin. Maybe in the wheel-well? But I hear the frigid breeze costs extra.
And just who would be okay with a $9 flight? Can they charge so little because they only put $9 worth of gas in the tank? My husband (and constant voice of reason) says that kind of stuff is regulated by the FAA but we’ve all been there–driving long after our gas light comes on, turning off the AC and the radio just in case; breaking up contractions to fulfill that mandatory 1,000 word count. I’m not convinced my $600 Dyson won’t crap out on me so I really don’t trust a flight that costs less than a 40-piece Chicken McNuggets.
What you actually end up spending will be a complete surprise
The airline’s à la carte pricing is about as consistent as a Ryan Lochte testimony. What you’ll pay for something when booking online vs what you’ll pay a day before your flight vs what you’ll pay at the airport vs what you’ll pay seconds before you board the plane are all different and unpredictable. What you’ll pay to fly here will be different than what you pay to fly there. Every size (and weight) of bags costs something different. But somewhere in there someone is getting robbed at gunpoint outside a Brazilian convenience store. Or was it a taxi?
You will get screwed on luggage
When dealing with a company keen on actively manipulating its customers, it’s virtually unavoidable. However, knowing they’re out to screw you from the start will help you prepare. Know the policies and pay close attention to what I’m about to tell you.
- Avoiding luggage fees on every other airline is simple since traveling with only a carry on is not that difficult. If you need to make it happen, you can. ⇠ A quote borrowed directly from my upcoming after-school special titled Cheap Ass: A Travel Blogger’s Story. However in this scenario, SPIRIT AIRLINES CHARGES FOR A CARRY ON… like a bitch. They actually charge more for a carry on than they do for a checked bag. Even Mork from Ork knows this is na-nutty as a fruitcake.
- AT THE AIRPORT, THAT CARRY ON WILL COST YOU $55. FIFTY-FIVE DOLLARS. Or in broke college student terms, 220 Chicken McNugggets. Now let’s say you go to the airport with your already-printed-out boarding pass and straight to the gate (because you reasonably assumed a carry on was free). That carry on now costs you $100 to bring on the plane. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. That is literally more than the entire cost of my RT flight and like one third of a biology textbook.
- THE ONLY FREE ITEM YOU CAN BRING IS A SMALL PERSONAL ITEM. I know women whose purses don’t even fit this category. Shit, I have friends whose bras wouldn’t even qualify. So unless you’re willing to wear everything you plan to bring on the flight (not a bad idea actually), you’re going to pay for luggage no matter what.
- THE WEIGHT LIMIT FOR A CHECKED BAG IS 40 LBS. NOWHERE during the booking process was I alerted to this change in protocol. Everyone who travels knows the baggage limit is ALWAYS 50 lbs. It’s common knowledge like cinnamon buns are delicious or Mrs. Doubtfire is the best movie ever. I assume Spirit Airlines also knows this and made their limit 40 lbs just for shits and giggles… and profits.
My husband and I shared one checked bag to save money on our trip to Dallas–a bag that ended up being 43 lbs. Unaware of the unique-to-Spirit weight limit and without a carry on to shove our heavier things into, we had no other option than to pay the $30 overweight bag fee. The scene that followed was not unlike one from CSI: Miami.
My husband: There’s nothing we can do. We have to pay the ransom.
Me: We will not negotiate with terrorists! If you pay the ransom they will have no reason to keep our luggage alive!
My husband: Why didn’t I fight? Why didn’t I run?
Me: These are professional criminals. It’s what they do. Horatio is on his way to the scene as we speak.
My husband, to the agent: Thirty dollars. It’s all there. Count it if you want.
Me, to no one in particular: So they brought the war to us. [puts on sunglasses] Now we… are gonna take it to them… in the form of a retaliatory blog post.
- THEIR SCALES ARE RIGGED. I know what you’re thinking… “typical woman” right? Well, no! I take full responsibility for the number of Oreos I eat. But sometimes you’re just screwed no matter how much you do everything right.
At home, our suitcase weighed 36 lbs. At the airport we weighed our bag at the desk next to Spirit. Then we weighed it on another one. Then another. We literally weighed our bag on four different scales that all said 36 pounds. See, Lochte? This is what consistency is.
During check-in the Spirit agent weighed our bag… 43 lbs. HOW. IN. THE. HELL.
Me: “We JUST weighed our bag on the three scales next to you and they all said 36.”
Maleficent: “Well, those aren’t our scales so I don’t know.”
Me, to no one in particular: “Children, what have we learned today? Let’s all say it together: That when you try to comply with a company that has 2,237 customer service complaints, chances are you’re going to get screwed in ways you never learned about on Loveline.”
(I think it goes without saying–I would be just the worst school teacher.)
- Sometimes they have scales in the airport terminal to weigh your bags before getting in line. The point of this is lost on me (as is the plot of The Walking Dead) because by then it’ll be too late to do anything about it. But still, there they are. Oh, but they won’t work.
Checking in for your flight
The boarding pass
The thing about Spirit Airlines is that they WANT you to be less environmentally-friendly so they can charge you for it. Their idea of ‘going green’ has more to do with dollar signs bulging out of their eyeballs all Scrooge McDuck-like.
Twenty-four hours before your flight you’re encouraged to check-in online and print your boarding passes from home or they’ll charge you $10 to do so at the airport. Personally, I don’t have a printer; it’s the one thing I didn’t steal when I quit my job. So… I saved our boarding passes on my phone THE WAY WE DO NOW. It’s 2016. Other than wiping your ass or lining your gerbil cage there aren’t too many instances where we need paper.
So of course, trailblazers that they are, Spirit Airlines tells me (at the airport) that they only accept paper copies and that it’s a $10 charge (each) to print my boarding passes for me. I’m sorry, but isn’t printing a boarding pass a fundamental airline requirement? Like metal detection? Waiting until you’ve fallen asleep to come by with the beverage cart? Trying to be funny at some point but failing miserably?
OF COURSE they don’t accept digital boarding passes–where’s the cents in that?
Ever the investigative journalist, I asked the TSA agent at security if the machine she was using to scan my paper boarding pass was able to scan digital boarding passes as well. Her response: “Yes it does. [pause… pause… pause…] Oh, but we can’t do it for Spirit boarding passes.”
“Verrry interesting,” I think as I stroke my beard. So you’re telling me… the necessary equipment is already there? And it’s already able to perform the functions that you just aren’t allowing it to? And is this because you stand to profit from not using it? My dear Watson, I think we’re on to something!
And what exactly is that $10 charge for anyway? The paper? The ink? The 5:00 flight to Philly?
As you can see, the $10 boarding pass is little more than a palm-sized piece of receipt paper. I get more paper and ink when I buy a bag of Skittles at CVS. Plus I get Skittles.
Spirit Airlines does provide kiosks at the airport for you to print your own boarding pass. It is my belief that this is a free service but their website says they charge $2 for each boarding pass you print from the kiosk. Their website also says “big butts” so do with that what you will.
Oh, and did I mention those kiosks you’re supposed to use are up at the counter, between the pissed off mother of four and the couple trying to repack their entire suitcase?
And that they won’t check you in until you print your boarding pass? So they skip to the next person while you’re still at the counter printing your boarding pass? And the other people are trying to check in but you’re in their way at the kiosk? And then when it’s your turn, you’re the bitch who cuts the line because technically you were there first?
IT’S PRETTY TERRIBLE.
I’ve been on… oh, a million flights? I know the drill. I could be the drill sergeant. I had to look up how to spell ‘sergeant’ but that’s another point entirely.
Remove your shoes, soldier!
Take out those liquids, you maggot!
Place everything in the bins, private! I want those pockets so empty I can hear my farts echo ten times over!
Now push it all through the machine like you’re making goddamn Play-Doh spaghetti!
So you can imagine my surprise when an agent cut in front of me just as my belongings scooted their way into the x-ray machine, took all my stuff out of the bins, then laid it all over the belt. Me: “Huh?” Her: “We don’t have very many bins…” Me: “Unlike your mother…” ⇠ Sorry, still in character.
That dumbass logic is the kind of crap that would have her scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush until her fingers and knees bled. Ya know, if I were her drill sergeant. Damned missed callings.
Clearly Spirit Airlines also skimped in the plastic bin department. I didn’t even know Plastic Bins Я Us offered a 10-piece package. Not to mention, my stuff was already in the bin… going through the machine. She backed up the security line to pop in and undo my handy work. The x-ray machine isn’t a black hole; you’d have your bins back in 15 seconds or less, lady. And if I’m not to use the bins for my shoes/liquids/etc., then what are you saving them for? Is that an extra cost I wasn’t aware of?
What to expect at the gate
I pray for the sake of future travelers that the Spirit Airlines gate at Boston’s Logan airport is a temporary one soon to be demolished… or the set of a new airport-centric candid camera show, Junk’d.
I was dumbstruck by how disgusting this gate was. I’ve seen NYC subway tracks with less garbage. I’ve seen train cars with less graffiti. I’ve seen toddlers’ diapers with fewer mysterious stains. I overheard the girl next to me ask her mom, “Are we in a Greyhound bus station?”
There was trash all over the floor. There was half-eaten food strewn across the few available seats. The gate itself was scarcely bigger than an Ikea show-bedroom. There was a full-grown Doberman in the corner.
At the gate you’ll see that your fellow flyers are split into two groups, three if you count the canines.
GROUP 1: The target market. They’re drunk. They’re wearing Ninja Turtle pajama pants. They’re heading to Florida for… wait for it… a Kid Rock show. They’re listening to dubstep ON SPEAKER. They spill their Jack and Cokes on you and say things like, “Aww yeah–she got bars!” ⇠ I have no idea what this means. Does that mean I’m old or just college educated?
GROUP 2: Those that, just like you, instantly regret their air travel choices. You hear them say things like, “Jenna loves Spirit Airlines; she always flies with them. [Looks around] I don’t know what she’s thinking though…”
I eavesdrop A LOT and heard five similar conversations plus the freshest beats out of this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival but like, muffled and treble-y. It’s always nice to know there might be a bigger issue than just you being a stuck-up bitch. Unce unce unce unce. ⇠ I Googled “how do you spell a techno beat” and that’s the result. They can’t all be winners, you guys.
During your Spirit Airlines flight
Finally! You made it through baggage drop. You survived the idiocy of checking in. You’re only slightly covered in something sticky from the waiting area. You made it past the gate agent who, upon being bum-rushed by travelers trying to board, said, “Fuck it!” and just let the whole mob by without checking any of the boarding passes. Four thousand words later and you’re boarding the plane!
…a Spirit Airlines plane that brags about being part of the “youngest fleet in America.” I don’t know about you, but riding on a brand new airplane is not my dream. I want that sum’bitch to have some hours under her belt. Is it just me? Because they really brag about this. Something else I don’t want in an airline, besides side-boob: inexperience.
Are they really trying to convince us that adding more seats to a plane is a good thing? More kettle corn, more baby pandas, more male flight attendants with French accents? Yes. More seats? No. And calling it “cozy” doesn’t piss us off any less.
Stop trying to manipulate us with your friendly words!
And as you can see from that screenshot, the seats don’t recline. (I had no idea all these years that reclining a seat was so expensive! What privileged little lives we have led!) Oh, and that’s the only place you’ll see that tidbit of information. I didn’t figure this out on my own until I’d tried reclining my seat for about ten minutes. An idea made even more confusing by the fact that the flight attendants still begin and end every flight with, “Make sure your seat backs are in the upright and locked position.”
This is literally the only way they can be! Why must you taunt me!
You don’t need to recline your seat anyway; it’s not that long of a flight. You can just watch a movie on your laptop or lay your head down on the–oh, no. Nope, you can’t do that. You would need a tray table and it looks like Spirit only sprang for the sample size. It was serendipitous then that I brought a book that was actually bigger than this “table.” On which I did a crossword puzzle.
What is… 8 letters, “manure of an adult male cow,” starts with B, ends with T?
And you thought you were gonna make it through this flight without having to look at tacky display ads the whole time, didn’t you? What do you think this is, HBO? ‘Cause if it is Imma need y’all to stop making Sex and the City movies, ‘k?
In all seriousness, is this a Greyhound bus? I’d also like to point out that this ad for a Las Vegas casino was on my flight from Dallas to Boston. And while we’re at it, if they’re accepting ad money, why the hell am I paying for a carry on?
Tips for flying Spirit Airlines… if you must
Personally, my plan is to avoid Spirit Airlines at all costs. (LOL, “at all costs.” I crack myself up.) There is only one reason we as travelers accept these crappy experiences. There’s only one reason we would ever agree to sleep in a room with horny strangers who might rob you, why we duct tape our hubcaps, why we hoard fast food condiments… and that is to save money.
And that should be your ONLY reason to fly Spirit Airlines. However, they don’t exist to save you money. They exist to make money. Remember that and prepare accordingly.
✈ Know Spirit Airlines’ policies backwards and forwards before preparing for your flight.
- Consult this page for a thorough listing of all the additional ways they can charge you and read EVERY LINE of every section. I’m not even joking.
- Traveling Spirit Airlines is every man for himself. They are not out to assist you in flying for cheap. It’s up to you and you alone to know all the different ways you can get screwed on your flight that aren’t the mile-high club.
✈ Keep your checked bags UNDER 40 LBS. Not the usual 50. I can’t speak for what their scales will do on the day you fly so… I guess just the lighter the better.
✈ Print your boarding pass at home. Or at work. Or at your neighbor’s house. Or at FedExOffice. Or sneak into your old employer’s office with the key card you took when you left for such emergencies, I don’t care. But they WILL charge you $10 (each) to print your boarding pass for you or charge you $2 (each) to use the airport kiosk to print.
✈ Keep in mind that the $9 Fare Club is self-renewing. If you purchase a membership to save money on a single flight like I did, make a note of the renew date a year from then and be sure to cancel it ahead of time. I’ve read a lot of reports saying they don’t alert you to your renew date and will continue to charge your credit card $59.95 each year.
✈ If you use a free Free Spirit membership to collect air points through them, they will charge you up to $100 to redeem your points. Free Spirit–an absolutely worthless promotion yet significantly profitable way to steal from you.
✈ You don’t need to pay to choose your seats. You and your husband/wife/children will all get seats together. Don’t let them scare you into paying extra to pick adjoining seats.
✈ Bring an empty water bottle through security to fill up on the other side. That complimentary water they aren’t giving you could cost almost $4 at the airport. Not that you’ll have anywhere to keep it during your flight…
✈ Keep your expectations extremely low. If getting from point A to point B with no consideration of ethics or human decency is your only concern, Spirit Airlines may be just what you need. Well, that and a good slap to the face from yo’ momma!
If this is indeed your game plan, I encourage you to Google “Spirit Airlines review” and read anything that pops up. Just anything. Go ahead, pick one. Especially this article (and then this followup) that explains Spirit’s unethical operating practices in a way I don’t have the patience to.
Spirit Airlines–Less Money. More
What is your favorite budget airline?
Let me know below!
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