Feeling the “Spirit” of Budget Airline Travel

Are you sitting down? Because I am about to tell you something that you’re not going to believe…

I had a great experience on Spirit Airlines! No seriously! I’m not kidding! It was very cool! And do you know why? I attribute it to keeping an open mind and the fact that I was not letting anything stop me from going to Costa Rica! 

I have heard the horror stories. Everything from gum-smacking, eye-rolling rude flight attendants to the plane being held together by duct tape. I have it on pretty good authority that there is some truth to the rude employees part. However, the duct tape bit, I am positive comes from the skeptics who falsely believe that super cheap fares equal a super cheap airplane.

tinytrayI will admit that Spirit planes (and Frontier as well) are not as “plush” as their larger, more expensive competitors. No reclining seats and teeny-tiny tray tables (unless you pay for the better seats). There are no seat-back pockets which I personally see as a bonus. Less of a chance of me leaving something in it. No airline brand magazine or SkyMall (like that’s some great loss). Then there are, of course, the a la carte costs that tend to get everyone’s panties in a wad like baggage fees and airplane snacks. But I am at the point now that I have a very serious “by any means necessary” attitude about traveling, therefore none of that really matters all that much.

Aside from being “less plush,” the plane was like any other plane I’ve been on before. Same seating space. Same overhead space. Same lights, air vents, and lavatories. Not a strip of duct tape in sight. And no, you do not have to pay for toilet paper!

The staff at Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson International Airport and on my particular flight… awesome! No eye-rolling or gum-smacking and not at all rude. They were so friendly and helpful and well aware of their less than stellar reputation. To me, it seemed they were going out of their way to change that perception. Not sure how it is in other airports, but I had no problems whatsoever.

Due to unforeseen financial setbacks, I had to wait longer than I had planned to buy my ticket to Costa Rica. The fact that I was able to get a ticket on Spirit for roughly half of what it would have cost on another airline (a la carte fees included) made it more than worth giving up all the perceived creature comforts. If I had to rely on another airline, I would not have been able to go. Period. Similarly, I recently had to buy a last-minute ticket to Lost Angeles and paid less than $300 for it on Frontier (including a la carte fees). Someone tell me again why these airlines suck?

Now that I am on this single serving life journey, I firmly believe that being forced to use these airlines and having a good experience with them was no accident. Money has long been tied for the number one spot on my list of reasons why I believe I can’t travel. I’m not saying that this obstacle has been completely removed… but it has been greatly reduced and at the very least shows me that travel… particularly international travel… is possible.

Tips for Feeling the Spirit (or Frontier):

#1 – Do all the nickel-and-diming up front! Don’t wait until you check-in or get to the airport to pay for bags or priority seating upgrades. Do it when you initially book your ticket. Fees greatly increase the later you wait.

#2 – When you pay in advance for your carry-on baggage, you are automatically placed in an early boarding zone AND guaranteed overhead bin space! Can’t say that about other airlines, right?

#3 – Bring a neck pillow and travel blanket. They do a lot to help make the less “plush” seating more comfortable.

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