Have you ever wondered what it will be like to go to a random destination and not look back?
One day as we were looking at Google Flights, Peter alerted me that a flight from Orlando (MCO) to Dallas via Spirit Airlines is around $80 round-trip. With my philosophy, I asked: “Why not?” and we booked it the same day!
Now, we haven’t flown ultra low cost carriers in the US yet, so this was a first. The initial reactions of our friends and colleagues were: “Spirit is the worst airline” – but we didn’t care. For a total price of around $235 for two people (around $118 each), including 1 checked luggage, we were willing to take a chance.
Our day started out okay enough. We got a toll pass to ease the traffic from Jacksonville to Orlando, and we got Groupons for cheaper airport parking. We were on time on the way to the airport and everything was going smoothly. Well, turns out our plane wasn’t on time.
We got a notification that our flight was delayed an hour. That’s fine, we can survive by watching a bit of TV and reading a bit. However, there was also an interesting change in the weather condition in the few hours that we spent in the airport. From bright and sunny to a full on thunderstorm! Oh dear. Suddenly every airline departing and arriving in MCO (Orlando International) was delayed.
Another notification, another hour delayed. And then, chaos ensued. There were last minute gate changes and well, lets just say I felt bad for the gate agents. People waiting for a Chicago flight were ushered through our gate, and then people waiting for a Cincinnati flight had to move gates and weren’t too pleased about it. Another hour and finally our airplane arrived. They had to clean it of course, and finally got in. We were on the second to the last row of the plane, and Peter, being the tall guy that he is, had to squeeze his legs in to fit in our allocated seats. He termed the plane “the bus” and felt pity for people who are taller than him (for the record he is 5’11”). It did not bother me much though (I am 5’2″) so I can pretty much squeeze in everywhere.
Oh, another surprise: we can’t use the toilets at less than 16,000 feet. Now, I have been in long, overnight bus rides where the toilets don’t work, which was terrible. But having a broken toilet in an airplane was a first for me.
As advertised, there were no frills, no entertainment, no free food or drink, which was fine. And also as advertised, it’s a cozy flight.
Our verdict? Despite our first time flying ultra low cost carriers, it was actually good value for money. However, note the following:
- If you are pressed for time and need to be in a destination at an exact time and date, this airline might not be for you.
- If you are used to the free snacks, drinks, and entertainment options, this airline might not be for you.
However, if you are willing to follow their rules, you’ll get from one place to another for more than half the cost of other airlines. Some tips:
- Do not book the last flight of the day if you can help it – Spirit does not have backup airplanes, so if there is a delay that happened during the day to the aircraft you are flying, chances are you will be extremely delayed if you are flying the last flight of the day. Not counting crew time outs and well, you can be in a bit of a pickle.
- Pack light, or share one checked bag with your partner or friend to lower costs. A carry on bag costs $25 per person per way, but for a checked bag, which costs $30 per person per way, you’ll get to pack more for less.
- Pack your own food and drink – we mean it! It will save you so much more money than buying food at the airport! Make some sandwiches, bring some snacks, as easy as that.
- Pre-pay for your bag online- paying for your checked bag online is much cheaper than doing it at the airport.
- Don’t forget to print your boarding pass – hotels have free business centers which you can use to print your boarding passes. This saves you $10 per person rather than having an agent do it for you.
And thus, our tips and thoughts about Spirit Airways. It’s a budget airline which (may) get you to your destination on the date and time that you need, but always plan for contingencies in case something comes up.
It’s great value for money, and is definitely something we’ll consider again.