Dear Spirit Airlines Management,
AS someone who normally feels it is more effective to focus on the positive than the negative, I thought I would share with you my experience travelling on your airline this past week and avoid the standard, “this is the worst travel experience I’ve ever had” spiel. Based on my observations, I am confident you receive plenty of those communications each day. Perhaps even each hour.
First, let me say that your staff was exceptionally friendly. I am certain that they are bombarded with irate customers day in and day out, so to have met with a few of your flight attendants and ticket agents who managed to bring levity to our plight was a real treat. From the bottom of my heart, I ask that if you disregard every other comment I make in this letter, you at least let your team know that their attitudes made our disastrous travel at least a little more bearable.
I would like to sincerely thank you for starting my trip from DFW airport to Chicago O’Hare on a rather athletic note. As a mom of two small children, who do not travel lightly, it was a refreshing way to kick off my 6 am flight with a little cross-terminal sprint at 4:15 in the morning. You see, while many airlines would have the accurate check-in gate listed on their website, Spirit instead chose to advise we check in on the opposite end of terminal E from where we were supposed to be; the resulting dash with two kids under the age of three (and about 150 pounds of luggage) gave me just the cardio workout I was hoping to achieve prior to boarding. While I’m sure my fellow passengers did not appreciate the malodorous sweat pouring from my body throughout the flight, I can rest assured knowing I am just that much closer to losing the last of my baby weight.
To then be given adequate rest afterward was an additional reward, as I was really quite exhausted at that point. In standing behind only two customers at the ticket counter for 45 minutes, I was able to recoup from my workout and hone my toddler-amusement skills. At 5:00 a.m., it is usually fairly easy to keep any small child enthused, but my daughter is not the average child. So, thank you again for giving me the opportunity to challenge myself as a parent.
I appreciate the fact that the ticket agent so graciously agreed not to upcharge me $50 for the two pounds that my bag was overweight. Because although it was, of course, my error in overpacking, it was nice to know that after a near-miss of my flight because of the line at your ticket counter, I would not be screwed over in that regard. Again, I choose to focus on the positive.
Interestingly enough, I learned what it’s like to be the last person on the plane for this trip. As my husband and I hoisted our children and our bags through the airport (because again, we had to sprint to the opposite end of the terminal), we were thrilled to see that the plane had not left yet when we finally reached our gate. Thankfully, I perfected my “mommy stink eye” when boarding, because I got a hefty dose of embarrassment and shameful glares from 100 other passengers as we practically threw our children into their seats. Because, you know. We had become those people. The last ones on the plane. It was good for me to learn how to say “eff off” with my eyes, because I’m sure I’ll need to remember how to do that at some point in the future. So, again, thanks for that.
Once we were airborne, everything was fine. Thankfully, that flight landed, and we managed to get off the plane without further incident. As we drove away from O’Hare airport last Tuesday morning, I dismissed our experience as a funny story to tell later, and assumed that my flight home would be much better. Boy, was I right.
Flight 903 from O’Hare to DFW was, in a word, delightful.
Thinking ahead, I decided to check on the flight status as I drove into the airport, and was quite amused at the little joke Spirit Airlines put on the website last night. Some prankster had updated our flight status to show our 8-ish pm flight departing at 1:30 a.m. Ha! What a laugh. I was so tickled that Spirit would have a sense of humor like that. Because no airline in their right mind would ask passengers with two small children, and nowhere else to go, to wait inside the airport for 6 hours. While I did attempt to call several of the customer service numbers listed on the website, to respond “who’s there?” to this obvious knock-knock joke, I was even more pleased to find no human being to speak with. I am quite the robot enthusiast, the automated phone prompts were just a cherry on top of this hilarious joke. Since we assumed this information could not possibly be accurate, we forged ahead.
Having remembered our previous luck, we managed to arrive at the airport quite a bit earlier, and were thrilled to find the ticker counter line was at least 75-people deep, moving molasses slow. Again. The good news was, this time we had booked an 8:00 pm flight home, so our kids were nice and tired. The mile-long wait at the ticket counter this time was even better than the one on our first trip, because now we got to practice our parent-child communication skills on children who had become deaf from fatigue. Dr. Spock may have a replacement in my husband and I, because we came up with things to keep our kids busy during that hour-long wait to get to the ticket counter that may have been illegal in some countries. And we didn’t even have to give them sedatives! So thanks, again, for that opportunity to enrich my parenting career with some troubleshooting exercises. Really, top-drawer on Spirit Airlines’ part.
Imagine my glee, then, when the ticket agent confirmed that the flight was, in fact, delayed almost six hours. My colicky 6-month old was even more excited, because he absolutely adores the sound of his thundering screams in the echoing halls of an airport. Six hours of piercing cries at supersonic decibels? Oh, boy!
We did truly appreciate the food vouchers we received. Being given coupons for food that essentially expired within an hour of our arrival gave us the thrilling experience of a flash-picnic. Since the only restaurants that were open would close 4 hours before our flight would leave, we got to play toddler-barf-roulette with our daughter, and see how much we could stuff her with chicken nuggets without making her vomit. We learned that seven nuggets are enough to keep her full until the flight ***, without the hefty spew from an over-stuffed belly. So although I was near tears for the duration of our delay, between my son screaming and my daughter drunk-hyper from fatigue, I am grateful that the experience did not end in bile.
I was delighted when my daughter and several other young girls formed a new friendship during their airport slumber party, and highly enjoyed running herd on my slap-happy child for the evening. Having nowhere to eat, sleep, or find entertainment for my boisterous little one was a real bonding experience for my husband and I, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world. We had been considering a couple’s retreat to rekindle our flame, but instead received a two-fer in that hostage situation at O’Hare airport. It was like our own personal game of “Naked and Afraid: Airport Edition,” but we had to stay dressed. Oh, joy of joys!
Once we got on the plane, again, everything was wonderful. The flight attendants were lovely. We did not crash. At that point, I considered this a huge victory. When we finally landed at 4:00 a.m., so grateful was I to be back home in DFW that I practically cried. Instead, I just cried for practice.
Now, I’ll get serious.
I am aware that mechanical issues happen. I am aware that circumstances beyond the airline’s control occasionally prevent optimum service. But to have been met with such a wholly unsatisfying, stressful, time-wasting travel experience all but ruined my trip. We had flown home to see my family, who I only get to see once a year (if I’m lucky), and were unexpectedly informed the day before our trip that we would also have to bury my husband’s grandfather while we were there. To deal with the grief of losing this great man, a Korean war veteran, in addition to finding some modicum of time to enjoy ourselves with family we hadn’t seen in years, was an emotionally draining experience. Spirit Airlines had an opportunity to ease our burden, in creating a travel experience that was as stress-free as possible. Instead, we were met with anxiety, missed expectations, and poor service. While I am grateful to have received some time with people I love, I am wholeheartedly disappointed that my trip was bookended with this kind of airline experience. I’m sure you get these kinds of comments regularly, and I’m sure that as a low-cost carrier, your prerogative is to hold your hands up and say, “Hey, you get what you pay for.” But the next time someone in your family dies, and you have to fly Spirit to get to the funeral, see how easily you can remove the blame and just accept Spirit Airlines’ failures as a price to pay for cheap airfare. The blessing in all of this is that it was my family who had to wait, instead of someone who needed to get home even worse than I did. Thank God, at least, that it was me, instead of a brave soul in uniform.
Oh, and by the way. If you’re going to make me wait six hours to get on your airplane, instead of offering me a hotel room or travel vouchers for your horrendous fail, don’t ever ask me to pay for a can of Diet Coke once I get on your godforsaken aircraft.
Product or Service Mentioned: Spirit Airlines Flight.
Monetary Loss: $800.