“A Scathing Reveiw of Spirit Airlines”
Flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles
- Round Trip
- Number of Stops:
- No stops
- Date of Flight:
- November 2010
- Seat Class:
I’m no stranger to discount airlines. I’ve enjoyed marvelous trips on Ryan Air, Easy Jet, Jet Blue, Southwest, Allegiant, Virgin Blue, etc. Paying less to travel than everyone I know by hundreds - if not thousands of dollars is what I do. I watch airfare like brokers watch the stock market. I watch. And when it’s right I strike. Credit card slammed down, a wonderful trip ensues. From my home in LA, I’ve flown round trip to Tokyo for $367, Frankfurt for $240 (yes, round trip, all in), and I frequently enjoy round trips to Des Moines in the $80-100 range. I’ve hardly ever paid more than 10 Euros to fly to anywhere, from anywhere in Europe.
But never, on any of these cheap trips, did I fear for my life like I did on my first flight on Spirit Airlines. Tonight I took the direct flight from FLL to LAX. Did I pay $49 for my one way ticket? Yes, yes I did, but trust me I’ve paid less and gotten so much more.
Now, to be fair, I have feared for my life on a plane before, but it had nothing whatsoever to do with the airline (Qantas), its skilled pilots, or polished staff. That fear was prompted by the weather, which produced eight or nine hours of heavy chop all the way across the Pacific, not a stick of land in sight… But no, the Qantas flight and other weather-related white-knucklers are rationally excluded from this tirade. Tonight, the skies were as calm as a sleeping child. On this trip I feared for my life before we even left the gate.
“It’s a tight squeeze,” said the passengers in seats D and E of my row. “There’s not much room,” they said, worried. And boy, they weren’t kidding.
I don’t happen to carry a tape measure with me when I fly, but I am 5’2”, 110 lbs and I felt such frightful feelings of claustrophobia (unheard of) that I began to pray (ditto unheard of.) I was fighting to breathe, sweating in my hands, and we hadn’t even left the gate yet. To give you some idea of how little space there was, the nice normal-sized people sitting next to me didn’t have enough room to open their laptop. It wasn’t a big laptop. I could choreograph crossing my legs as I sat down, but I couldn’t uncross them ever again. If I laid my forehead on the seat in front of me, I would be sitting up straight. I could only pick up my purse from under the seat in front of me by lassoing the handle with my foot, raising my knee at an odd angle, and grabbing blindly, while smashing my face into the tray table, which was still in its upright and locked position. I could have made-out with the woman in front of me. And remember, I’m a size 2 petite.
The cabin itself was ragged. The seats and seat pockets, ripped and thread-worn, connoted the interior of a 1982 Datsun. The seat backs didn’t have an “upright and locked position” – they flopped. And the tray table, when down, pitched at a frightful angle into my thighs. It wouldn’t have been able to support the weight of even one elbow, if the space between the seats had allowed for an elbow to rest there, which it didn’t.
But I don’t want to just whine about my claustrophobia-induced reaching-to-god panic attack or my total discomfort – me, tiny, me. I need to say something about the safety on this Airbus A319. I’m no stranger to flying. I love to fly. My spirit totem is bird. I was born under an air sign. I’m golden for flying. And so never mind all the recent news stories linking Airbus with calamity; I’m good with Airbus. But would it not be logical for a thinking person to conclude that the mechanics of an aircraft are in the same rag-tag, beat-to-hell, old, neglected state as the cabin? What is there to lead one to assume otherwise except – hope?
I heard people all around me (those who weren’t praying for their lives) laughing at the airplane. The couple behind me was in hysterics, finding they could ride their un-lockable seats back and forth like loud unruly rocking horses. But when we taxied out onto the runway, well, that’s when it really got funny. The plane made the most unnatural sounds: something between a long fart and a squealing pig. We passengers laughed and with our laughter we stood together, saying with one tense voice, “my god, what a piece of crap. We’re all going to die.”
I mean, have you ever heard of a plane load of people laughing at the very aircraft about to fly them from pinky-toe-touching-Atlantic to pinky-toe-touching-Pacific?
Now, a confession: I’m still in the air as I write this. I’m trying to do anything I can to focus my mind on something besides sheer, helpless, free-falling terror. If I survive this flight, I won’t be taking Spirit Airlines again. Pray for me to touch down safely. And really? Honestly? Just spend the extra forty bucks and take Jet Blue.