Never EVER Fly Spirit Airlines

Just this past weekend I had the extremely unfortunate experience of flying Spirit airlines. I will admit that I had some people trying to ward me away from them from the beginning (including my husband who now has the great pleasure of saying, “I told you so”). Part of me just figured it was the “no frills” aspect to their structure that was off-putting to many. We were going on a pretty quick weekend trip to Florida, so I was looking for a direct flight and their base prices were quite enticing compared to their competitors. I thought hey, lets give them a try. I mean, how bad could it really be? Boy was I wrong!

Travel down started out pretty smooth. We arrived the general two hours before the flight that we normally do. Columbus airport on a Thursday morning was not very busy so checking in bags and getting through security went smooth and we had plenty of time to spare before needing to board. For this short of a trip, I generally wouldn’t worry about checking a bag, but spirit actually charges more for a carry-on that for checked luggage so I went for the route of paying less, and not having to haul the bag with me the whole time. Flight was on-time on the way down. Looked like everything was working out perfectly, until my bag didn’t show up.

As I have said before, I like to travel. This was not the first time that my bag didn’t make it to my destination. This was however the first time that my bag did not arrive from a DIRECT flight. The only time I have ever not had a bag make it, was when a connection was tight. My bag was not the only one that didn’t make it either. From the discontent people at lost baggage, it seemed that at least a good handful of other people didn’t get their bags from the same flight. I tried to brush it off. I mean, I had some things I was really needing for the trip overall (namely a dress intended for a princess day for my daughter) but I was hoping that they could get it there on a later flight the same day and tried not to stress too much over it. We had what we needed for the day so we put in the information to get our bag back and went on with the trip.

The bag did not arrive back that night. Even though they called Friday morning around 9am to let me know that the bag would be delivered in four hours, our bag actually didn’t end up arriving until 2am the next morning. Stressful, especially because there was really no one that you could even get ahold of to discuss the issue, but we got it back so that was the important thing. 

Finished our trip and ready to head home on Sunday, we go to the airport, getting there about 9am for our 11:30 departure. Spirit has this “self-tag” feature where you print off your own bag label to check your bag, saving you exactly zero time since they still require you to formally check and weigh your bag with the attendant before you can move on. The line just to “drop” your bag was outrageous. We ended up waiting about an hour. We saw a bunch of people scrambling a bit with this as the were concerned about missing their earlier flights. It was inconvenient for us sure; we always arrive early just in case of things like this and thankfully my son with autism who has difficultly waiting was not with us on this particular trip, otherwise a wait like this could have been a whole other issue. 

Even while waiting in that crazy line, even after the bag issue, I just kept trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. My husband was already ready to write them off forever and I just kept saying, “well, we just know that they have issues with the whole checked bag thing. So, when we fly with them if we just make sure we carry on, we shouldn’t run into these issues.” Famous last words because then, it got worse. So much worse.

We get to our gate and wait for the time to board. Excited to be heading home (knowing that we didn’t leave anything important in our checked bags fearing that they may drop the ball again). Time to board the plane, and they make an announcement that the crew for our flight is not here. They are not sure how long this delay will take. Another inconvenience, but manageable at least. It is hard for me to fathom how a company can not have a crew available for a full flight and have no idea when they will be arriving either, but once again, we try not to stress and just wait.

A couple of hours goes by and we finally see a few people dressed in Spirit airlines attire walk up to the desk. Some of the people around us actually start clapping! Just a few minutes later, the gate attendant gets on the mic and announces that there is no crew coming for the flight. The flight has been CANCELLED. Not only was the flight cancelled, but we were instructed to go back out through security, back to the ticketing counter to resolve our issue. He would not help us at the gate. I have NEVER flown any airline that doesn’t do it’s best to resolve your issues right there at the gate. Especially when it is completely the airlines’ fault. He also suggested that we move fast, splitting our groups up to go get our bags from baggage claim, knowing that there would be a mad dash to get everything resolved.

We split, I get the bags, my husband dashes to the ticket booth. On my way to meet him he actually calls me to tell me that the domestic counter will not help anyone. Apparently, they were too busy fixing issues with people who had missed their flights so we were told to head to the other side of the airport to Spirits international counter. I head that way quickly, and only have a few parties ahead of me. They adjust the stanchion posts to prepare for the longer line, but just a few minutes after being there we are told that they will not be helping us either. Us being there was affecting their ability to check in other guests (Eye Roll). The lady announces that we have to go over “there” to be helped, pointing off somewhere in the area behind us.

This is when people start to get very angry, and yes, people included me. We all wanted clarification on EXACTLY where to go, and reassurance that we wouldn’t be pushed somewhere else again. The international counter attendant instructing us to move just walked away, refusing to answer any more questions from the group, and began outright ignoring anymore inquiries. Another spirit worker stepped up, giving us no more reassurances than anyone else. Many parties, including me, told her that we would no longer be waiting, we would find another way home and to give us information on who to call to get refunded without waiting, in the what now looked like another two-hour line, for resolution at the airport.

We scrambled, and called our family for help. There were seemly no flights available to Ohio for the same day. We ended up settling to pay an amount of money that I don’t even want to say out loud to book a last-minute flight to Detroit (2.5 hours away from where we live) arriving at 11pm and arranged for family drive the distance to pick us up. It seemed a bit extreme, but looking now at news articles of how bad everything continues to be told me we made the right decision.

I understand that sometimes things happen that can affect flights: Delays, cancellations, bad weather, etc. I can deal with issues. I think for the most part I have more patience than most when it comes to things like this. What I can’t deal with is a company that has such a complete disregard for its customers. They provided nothing resembling even a basic level of customer service that you would expect to get. Even calling for a refund took me three tries to get someone that would give me a refund and not just try to “credit” me with Spirit. And don’t even ask to speak to a supervisor, I fully believe that they don’t really exist.  Bottom line: Spirit Airlines is a poorly run company, and they do not care about their customers. So even if the prices look enticing, it is just not worth the risk. Especially if you are traveling with a special needs child. Just know that you truly get what you pay for and that is why I will never EVER fly Spirit airlines again.

Disclaimer: I was extremely fortunate that this particular trip did not involve my autistic son Damion, although the majority of our air travel does include us taking the whole family along. I contemplated whether or not to write this specific piece since it did not happen to him first hand, but I have a good enough imagination to anticipate that having him along with us would not have changed the outcome to our experience and would have only exacerbated the issue. Since a core piece of this blog is travel, I thought it would still be beneficial to warn all families of children with special needs away from utilizing this horrible, horrible company.