How Spirit Airlines Broke My Spirit

I’ve flown my entire adult life and I’ve endured most issues we all encounter when you’ve flown a lot: missing luggage, delayed flights, overbooked flights, overpriced food and drink, etc. We all know things rarely go perfectly when we travel, but my experience with Spirit Airlines has left me feeling broken.

I was meeting friends in Las Vegas because they’d never been and it was one of my friend’s birthday. I scrimp and save these days, but they’re taking care of the room, and I don’t gamble so I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and watching their reactions to the lights and glitter of this desert oasis. I got online and searched for the least expensive round trip flight from Burbank Airport to Las Vegas. I just needed something easy since I only travel with a personal item and one carry-on. I found a round trip ticket with Spirit for $62. Great!

I get to the airport and stand in line. Once at the check-in desk the woman tells me I will be charged for my carry-on. “But the reason I squeeze everything into one carry-on is so I don’t have to check it in or pay for it, otherwise I could have packed more.” “You can have one personal item and we charge for a carry-on,” she reiterated. I’m stunned. I’d flown American Airlines the past two years and was allowed one personal item and one carry-on, with a $25 charge for any check-in luggage. This charging for a carry-on is completely new to me.

“What is the cost?” And why do I have to ask? Because… “$75,” she says. I’m stunned, again. “What??? You’re kidding.” She’s not. The woman standing next to her says, “Do you want us to check and see what the cost is if you check it?” I’m still stunned, but if it’s cheaper? “Yes,” I say, maybe a little too sarcastically. She types into her computer and comes back with, “$74.” Wow. I save a whole dollar to leave my bag in their care to possibly lose. I can’t even feel my body at this point as I realize not only do I not have a choice because my flight is approaching and people are expecting me, but I’ll likely have to pay this same charge on the way back to Burbank. I hand the woman my card and she says, “There’s an additional charge of ten dollars for checking in at the desk.” Now I’m wondering if it’s possible to be more stunned. “Wait, why are you charging me $10?” “Because you’re checking in at the desk and not at the kiosk.” I tell her to give me my ID and the lady next to her says, “Well, because it’s so close to your flight time,” and while she’s explaining why I should check out there I ask again for my ID and go to the kiosk where it only costs me $75 instead of $85.

And the in-flight water refreshment (I did not buy) was not free.

Now I’m returning from Vegas, having spent money on a credit card reserved for emergencies on food and some travel, knowing I have to pay around $75 for my carry-on. I check in at the kiosk and an agent makes sure to monitor my progress and that I choose 1 carry-on to pay – $72 this time – then walks away. At the end of the transaction seconds later the machine will not print my boarding pass, instructing me to see an agent. So now I have to stand in line and finally see someone who tells me I have missed the window for my flight even though I have 40 minutes to make my flight. “I can make the flight, but I need the boarding pass.” “No, ma’am, you are five minutes late for checking in,” she tells me, “but we can re-book you for another flight.” Grant you, it took more than five minutes from leaving the kiosk to talking to someone, so…?? I’m so tired an angry at this point. “I have 40 minutes to make my flight.” She types into her computer and says, “We can re-book you for a 5pm flight for $99.” I must have looked like I was about to start crying, so she says, “Let me see if just a new ticket is cheaper.” I wait. “Same flight at 5pm one-way is $26.” I say, “Great, but what about my carry-on?” “You’ll have to pay for it again.” “So it’s the same price.” She’s adding the numbers in her head. “I need a refund for the $72 I just paid for a flight my bag will not be on because you’re refusing to let me try and make my flight.” “Sorry, we don’t issue refunds.” Just a blanket ‘no’ on any additional help. Not a customer service number, or ‘let me see what I can do’, or ‘you know what, I’ll waive the carry-on fee’, nothing. She asks what I want to do and I say, “Give me my ID, I’m going with another airline.”

I’m not ashamed to cry. I’m tired and stressed and it ultimately helps me relieve that pent up stress, so I go outside, sit on the curb and cry. After I have a good cry, I stand in line at Delta and am told it’s $600 one-way to Burbank, but she looks up Southwest and says they have flights leaving for Burbank. So I stand in line at Southwest and am told there’s a flight leaving at 2pm for $108. I take it it. I tell the woman helping me what Spirit charges for carry-on luggage and she responds, “What? You’re kidding!” Southwest does not charge me for my carry-on. I get through security, make it to the terminal and talk to a woman at the counter asking if I can board early because I have a wrapped, hurt knee and cane and am worried about being bumped or pushed and she takes my boarding pass and punches something into her computer. “Do you want to just get on this flight? There are 75 available seats.” The flight has boarded, but there’s room for me to board and go home? YES!

I did the best thing I could have done in that situation; get off the merry-go-round. I mean, if I’m going to cry trying to navigate flight travel with an airline, there’s something terribly wrong. And after reading some other’s experiences flying Spiritless Airlines, I wanted to cry all over again. The soullessness of the entire experience left me feeling broken and inhuman. They grab you with the cheap airfare, but you pay in more ways than just money. Don’t believe me? Search “Reviews for Spirit Airlines.” A lot of the experiences are worse than mine.

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