Everybody has their own method of finding cheap airline flights (if such a thing even exists).
Mine is going onto Kayak.com, entering my departure city and destination, the dates of my travel and hoping that I can get lucky and stumble upon some hidden bargain—it’s a hit or miss strategy, and one that I recently turned to when I was organizing my spring break trip to Denver.
And as fortune would have it, I found a round trip flight for around $90—not too bad at all. Kayak.com slyly told me to “hurry! There are only 2 seats left on this flight.” I listened, and I got ready to hop on the deal before someone else took my seat. I went to buy the ticket online, and then I saw that the company that was offering the flight was Spirit Airlines.
And then I hesitated—and rightly so.
Google Spirit Airlines. You will find things like “could hardly move my legs,” “always a nightmare” and “worst experience I’ve had.” It scores a meager 3/10 on the Sky Trax website and has collected an endless pile of negative reviews that tell horror stories of ridiculous flight cancellations, bad-mannered flight attendants and a lack of amenities that likened Spirit Airlines to some airborne ponzi scheme. Other websites had results that were no better.
Yikes. It sounded like a trainwreck, like this malevolent company out to get the naïve traveller. I really considered either biting the bullet and going with a more reputable airline for $80 more or finding a different destination altogether.
And I would have had not one comment quelled the anxiety that all of the indignant bloggers had given me. It read, “read up on their rules—10/10”
So I did—and after understanding that Spirit permits very small carry-on bags for no fee and offers no in-flight meal or beverage, I decided to give the infamous Spirit Airlines a go, listening to some guy named Topher Otten’s advice. I packed light, made sure that I had eaten and had something to drink before hand, and headed to Chicago-O’Hare for my flight.
And it so happened that my round trip flight with Spirit went off without a hitch. In fact, I left so pleased with the staff and with the punctuality of the whole crew that I want to help dispel some of the bad press that the airline has received.
It is true that Spirit Airlines has some bizarre baggage policies—you essentially allowed one very small carry one complimentarily, otherwise you must pay a stiff baggage fee. You also will not be given free food or drink during your flight, nor will your seat recline—and there definitely isn’t an in-flight movie.
But if you understand all of those rules, and you know that they are all in place in the interest of offering the cheapest possible flight, you will have a wonderful experience.
My flight with Spirit was among my most pleasant ever—the staff was charismatic, friendly, and unexpectedly funny. They were very conscious of their role within the industry—they offer the cheapest flights at the expense of luxury. They would crack jokes about how they were the discount airline—for instance, as they were reading the pre-flight safety procedures over the intercom, they said something along the lines of, “and please don’t break the tray tables—they cost like 500 dollars, and we are assuming that if you had 500 dollars laying around, you wouldn’t be flying Spirit…”
The crew was charming, the flight smooth and the policies bearable if understood ahead of time. I left holding Spirit Airlines in high esteem. When all said and done, I agree with Topher Otten—“read up on the rules—10/10.”