Thursday, March 24, 2016

My First Experience with Spirit Airlines

I started to write this at 1 a.m. last Wednesday in Dallas. I should have landed in Phoenix by then. My flight from Chicago was delayed because of the thunderstorms moving into the city. We were reassured repeatedly by the gate agents and pilot that our connection in Dallas would be held so that we could make our flight. We sat on the tarmac waiting to take off for 20 or more minutes, landing in Dallas about 11:45 local time.

The flight to Phoenix had left. 

About 20-30 of us were stranded. Some people took 6 a.m. flights to Minneapolis to connect to Phoenix the next day. Some people were put on the next flight to Phoenix at 11:14 p.m. the next night. By the time it was my turn, there were no seats on the next flight, or so I was told. I heard person after person be told by the agent they would get no hotel voucher, nor would they be booked on another airline. I was told I wouldn't be flying to Phoenix until Thursday night.

That meant two days in Dallas.

No hotel. No flight on another airline, No meal voucher. No refund, unless I flew back to Chicago, and even then I might only get a partial refund because "I took half the trip." Not exactly, but OK.

I struggled with what to do. I could fly back to Chicago and miss my cousin's wedding. I could pay for my own flight to Phoenix on another airline, but money is tight this month -- that's why I chose Spirit in the first place. 

But no amount of savings is enough to compensate for having to be stuck somewhere for almost two days. No amount of savings is worth having agents say they can't do anything to help.

 I learned my lesson the hard way. 

I called Spirit's customer service to talk to them about it and was told to take the flight on Thursday. I called again the next day and was told I could get on standby if I pay $25. So I would have to pay even more money to get to my destination?

I was exhausted so I decided to just stay in Dallas another night and catch up on sleep. But the hotel ended up being booked that night, and in desperation, I took the shuttle back to the airport to get on standby.

(The hotel, by the way, was just what you'd expect for $48.)

My husband had called Spirit as well, but he got nowhere. By the time I walked up to the Spirit check-in desk, I was fed up, I was tired, I was hungry, I was angry.

"I need to get on the flight to Phoenix tonight," I said. Tears were flooding down my face at this point.

"OK, we have a seat for $116 tonight."

"No, I was on the flight from Chicago and our connection left without us. I need to get to Phoenix tonight. I can't stay in Dallas another night; I have nowhere to stay. I need to get to Phoenix tonight."

I would say I lost my composure, but I had never had any composure. I felt like the airline didn't care about what happened to me.

The supervisor saw me crying at the desk and walked over. They whispered among themselves, and I said, "I'm not even flying back to Chicago with you guys; can't I just get on this flight?"

Just an hour before I had booked a return to Chicago on Southwest for only $100 that would allow me to make up for lost time in Phoenix.

That's when the supervisor said, "We have three seats left; just put her in one."

I could have cried more. I was going to Phoenix!

I spent the next three hours catching up on work and celebrating with Mexican food. I was put in the third row, which had slightly larger seats, but they weren't any more comfortable. I was just happy to get to Phoenix at this point, so I didn't care.

After this experience, I will avoid flying Spirit at all costs. I have heard from a few people who don't mind flying with Spirit, and at first I could see how. But as soon as weather hit, things went downhill quickly. I now see that you pay more at other airlines but can expect customer service when things go awry. That's the biggest lesson I learned in my travels last week.

Have you flown with Spirit Airlines? What did you think?