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“You Weren’t My First Choice:” A Love Letter to Spirit Airlines

On a recent trip, I had the pleasure of flying aboard Spirit Airlines for the first time. Over the 90 minutes from Orlando, Fla. to Charlotte, N.C., I was given plenty of time to explore my humanity, the state of low-cost carriers and the life choices that lead me there. The result is this: a love letter to Spirit Airlines.



Dear Spirit Airlines,

As with most flyers, you weren’t my first choice of airline. In fact, you weren’t my second, either. Instead, you were the cheapest option to get me home after a weekend with friends in Orlando. And even then, the term “cheapest” was debatable.

To begin with: the airfare was completely unbundled. Everything came with a price, from selecting my seat to getting a better boarding group (which still felt very random, at best). What perplexed me the most was when it cost less to check a bag than to bring one on board. Certainly, my personal item was free – but $30 to check versus $36 to carry-on seems a little impractical.

Because I was too “frugal” to purchase my seat selection ahead of time (and there were no Big Front Seats left available), I was stuck in a middle seat, left questioning my decisions between two other flyers. I now understand why I just paid for the airfare alone: no matter which seat I would have chosen, they would have almost all been equally miserable.

Then came the optional “snack” purchases. The $5 charge for a 12-ounce can of soda made the overpriced $4 bottle of water seem like a steal. I’m sure that I was not the only one to feel that way: The in-flight menu also had a suspicious tear out of it that almost resembled a bite mark.

After sitting through the world’s tightest airline seats, I’m still not convinced that the aircraft could be safely evacuated in the event of an emergency. Getting in and out of them, to begin with, was a struggle, let alone getting anything from my personal item. In the event of a major incident, I’m not sure I would be able to make it out and work with the other passengers to escape safely.

In the 90 minutes we spent together, I was left to contemplate the state of aviation today. Over the weekend, my friend quipped: “Flying is what you make it.” While I agree, I don’t see any circumstance where anything I could have done could make the experience better.

But you did give me a new appreciation for the competition – even if I’m in a city dominated by American Airlines. This trip allowed me to stop worrying, and learn to love the legacy airline (including Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines). While their seats are getting thinner and legroom is tightening, at least I have the option to select a better seat with nicer amenities. Through holding the right credit card, I can choose to either carry on my bag or check one for free. And despite the delays and irritating connections in Atlanta or John F. Kennedy, I can make the flying experience what I want it to be.

While I’m glad I got to fly with you, I don’t know that I can either recommend it or willingly do it again. If given the option, I would probably travel aboard a Greyhound bus instead. At least there I can get free Wi-Fi and have more space to sit next to equally colorful characters.

But don’t stop flying, Spirit. Through your interesting business model, you give the rest of us perspective on the aviation business today. When points devalue, routes get cut, flights get canceled and nobody wants to help, it could always be worse. We could be flying with you instead.

Thank you for that perspective. I’ll be sure to hold onto it the next time I’m forced to pay $50 for a seat with extra room in economy.

Gizzabreak January 16, 2020

Well penned. Never underestimate the amount of money to be made serving/servicing the way, way, bottom end of the market.

HMPS January 16, 2020

Hello ! You gets what you pays for !

hospes444 January 16, 2020

I'm not sure why so many people BASH Spirit airlines? I've been flying them for years. If you know what you are doing it is a wonderful airline. And while there is less leg room than any other carrier, unless you are 6 foot 3 or more, it's not really too bad. Clearly the picture in the article shows a person who is not sitting back in their seat!! If you're going to slouch you wont fit in most carrier seats. Learn how to use Spirit to your advantage. I myself fly at least 8 times a year, and have had few problems with this airline.

snidely January 16, 2020

Food - Humans don't need to eat every 1.5 hours or even 3 or 4 hours. On 6 hour red eye, not at all. You can always bring your own. Drink - Bring your on. Baggage - We have taken numerous intl. flites with just carry on. Often take short (same day return OAK-LAX) w. just brief case. Seat assignment - Was surprised that JetBlue charged $9 to reserve last cross country flite. Still a fraction of price of AA or UAL. AND more room.

OUTraveling January 15, 2020

@DeltaFlyer123 I think SPIRIT might bring back the catapult or perhaps a trebuchet (for $50 more).