the blog post where Craig goes unhinged on Spirit Airlines...

We recently took a much needed holiday to Punta Cana, which was exceptional and relaxing, but not what I am going to really focus on here. Due to events earlier this year, we found it necessary to move our plans from late January to late March. Not a huge issue to move the reservations, given the circumstances, which I really wanted to do rather then cancelling and letting travel insurance kick in. The only caveat was that our carrier changed from Delta to Spirit due to availability. I should have seen this as a red flag (it's not hard to find horror stories of Spirit Airlines) but viewed it as a means to an end. We arrived in Detroit almost three hours before boarding time, and there was already a ridiculous line at 4:00am for Spirit Check-In and ticketing. It took almost the two hours to navigate the line to their automated check-in terminal, which was not working properly due to an alleged software update the night before, then to a customer agent who was able to get us checked and on to TSA. The whole time there were two customer service reps navigating the crowds, trying to get some order to chaos, and who were clearly overwhelmed. I get that there would be larger crowds on a discount carrier, due to their lower costs, but the lack of organization or available help was just negligent.

The rest of the trip to the D.R. was uneventful. The planes are clean and modern, and in a word "spartan" (merriam-webster: marked by simplicity, frugality, or avoidance of luxury and comfort). There is nothing in the way of entertainment on these flights, no in-seat video, no power ports, the fold down trays are something I would expect in a Fisher Price play set, and the seat pocket is non-existent. I still contend that the seats seem to be designed for maximum casualties. Given that everything is a la cart, including getting assigned seats together with your travel partner (yes it is), I am really surprised they have not considered a pay by the minute restroom, they are missing another revenue stream opportunity (no pun intended).

Leaving the D.R., we had a slightly less chaotic check-in at the Punta Cana airport, and we were soon on our way home. Upon landing in Ft. Lauderdale, we we informed that a CBP/Immigration/Customs security alert had shutdown Customs for a duration and the CBP were straining to catch up. We would have to wait 20 minutes at the gate, and another 20 minutes standing in a hallway in the terminal before we could even get to Immigration and Passport Control. This did not bode well for our connection to Detroit, which I was pretty sure we were going to miss (and I was right). We hurried up to the Agent Assist line (already 30 people deep due to the number of missed connections) and were told the best they could do was confirm us for a flight on Monday and put us on standby until then (for those keeping score, it was Saturday around 6:30pm). This would require us to be at the gates the future flights would depart from and just wait and hope. That sounded like a bit more risk then I wanted to assume for 40 hours, so cell phone at the ready, I called our travel agent who was able to get the ball rolling to have us on a Delta flight the next morning, with the strong possibility we might be able to get on a delayed flight that night. The Spirit agent did not offer any hotel suggestions or any other manner of assistance, and this really does sum up my experience with this company: they do not care if you are satisfied, if you are always looking for the low cost, you'll more then likely continue to use their service even after they abandon you (would that qualify at Stockholm Syndrome?). I had the Spirit agent confirm us on the Monday morning flight in case something else went apart with Delta. We gathered our luggage and hoofed it to Terminal 2 to check in at Delta.

I think the only way I can describe the difference between the two companies is likening the situation to eating at two different restaurants, a fast food chain (your choice of brand) versus a table service establishment. There are certain comforts and amenities that come with table service. It's not a great comparison, but it's all I can think of at the moment. We walked into the ticketing area for Delta and there was no chaos. There was no lines of upset passengers, the ticket agents were cordial and willing to go out of their way to help. Ours got us re-booked immediately on the flight that was on delay that evening, so we would be home before Monday night. Even the TSA checkpoint was quick, efficient, professional and incredibly courteous. The gate agent even worked on seating us on the flight so we could have our own row. The flight was originally supposed to leave at 7pm, but was delayed 2 hours while a new plane was flown in (a bird strike damaged an engine). So the delay worked in our favor and we were in Detroit a little after midnight. The flight back was luxurious compared to the Spirit flight. The seats were comfortable and adjustable. There was in-seat entertainment and in-flight wifi (I got to watch a movie). There was also complimentary in-flight service at multiple times during the flight.

In the end, it cost me two one way tickets. Spirit refuses to refund the missed connection since that leg of the trip was already started and partially completed. They also indicate that since they could get me re-booked within seven days, there is no compensation required. Last, a CBP delay does not constitute an event that is in their control. Lessons learned....