An Open Letter to Spirit Airlines
February 20, 2014
Attention: Mr. Ben Baldanza, CEO — Spirit Airlines
Dear Mr. Baldanza:
Look at the photo above. Take a really good look. Press your eyeballs right up against the screen. Sniff. Take it all in.
THAT’S WHERE I BUNKERED DOWN LAST NIGHT. All because of your incompetent ass-joker tinker-toy excuse of an airline.
Check out the breezeway with chunks of sour vomit splattered right outside my motel front door. What you don’t see were the gangbangers wandering the hallways the entire night, slamming doors, screaming profanities, serenaded by a hissing nest of feral cats parked outside my window making it IMPOSSIBLE to get any sleep. I ended up at this slimeball slumber party — all because of YOU. Make that, because of YOUR AIRLINE.
That’s right. It’s YOUR fault. SPIRIT AIRLINES FAULT. At the time I should have been buckled into my seat up in the air sipping away on my third cocktail some 35,000 feet over Kansas, instead I was padlocked into a dive motel room trying to tune out an argument down the hallway that thankfully didn’t escalate into gunfire. Oh, and I think at least one of the females was in heat. One of the cats, I mean.
Tell me something. Be honest. Would you want to stay in this shithole?
Well, I did stay there. And it all happened because your company doesn’t have a fucking clue as to how to handle customers.
As I describe this nightmare scenario to you, I came across something you recently said where you were quoted in a business article. You claimed the company you run, Spirit Airlines, is “the McDonald’s of flying.”
Hmmmmm. Oh really?
I don’t eat at McDonald’s very often. More like never. But I sure as hell know it’s nothing like flying your airline. Tell me. When’s the last time you waited ONE HOUR and FIFTY-FIVE MINUTES FOR A FUCKING MEAL! When’s the last time you reached the counter and was told your order has been CANCELLED and to come back TOMORROW? When’s the last time you went into McDonald’s, and ended up camping out for the night in an URBAN WAR ZONE? When’s the last time you walked into a McDonald’s and saw fresh VOMIT laying near the front door. Okay, skip that one. Maybe you are onto something.
See, I had this thing called a “reservation” on Spirit Airlines. Paid $450 (for starters, no extras yet) for a round trip ticket. So, don’t call me a cheapskate. I’m not some bargain-hunting deadbeat like the rest of your fliers. I chose Spirit Airlines because the flights happened to line up best to my busy schedule. Besides, $450 plus the $90 add on for baggage is no BARGAIN. I’ve flown to Florida 15-20 times and never paid more than $500. NEVER! So, you should be like SwissAir as far as I’m concerned for the price I’m used to paying. I should be sucking on fancy chocolates in a reclining seat, not paying $3 for a bottle of water, like you charge on your airline.
Wednesday night, I was to fly from Ft. Lauderdale back to Las Vegas. The plane was to make one stop in Dallas. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, for most airlines, checking in passengers is simple. REALLY FUCKING SIMPLE. Most airlines, even the bargain junkets, get you into your seat and fly you were you want to go.
But not fucking Spirit! Let’s just generously say you extended my vacation an extra day and took me on the “scenic route” to get home. Oh, and it cost me another $200 and you sent me through Chicago in mid-February wearing nothing but a fucking pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Wait. We’ll get to how THAT all happened a bit later.
My original flight was sheduled to leave at 8:15 pm. Like clockwork, I arrived at Ft. Lauderdale Terminal 4 promptly at 6:15 pm. That’s TWO FULL HOURS before the flight was to take off. Plenty of time, right? Only, no one told me I might as well have landed at Disneyland on opening fucking day! When I walked into your terminal, this is the madhouse I saw.
People. Bags. Babies. Bullshit. Lines coming out my fucking ass.
But wait. This is nothing. Here’s where the clusterfuck circus known as Spirit Airlines really begins.
I admit. I had never flown your shitty discount airline before. Had no idea what to expect. Seems the usual standard boarding procedure is to: (1) Get in line (2) Print out a boarding pass (3) Pay the $45 fee to check one bag (4) Head off to the gate (5) Arrive ready to board with plenty of time to spare.
I’ll pause for a second. Grab a pen, Mr. Baldanza. You may want to write down steps 1-5. They’re what all flying customers expect.
So I arrive and there are TWO long lines. Gate agents are screaming at the top of their lungs. Destination cities. Passenger names. Gate information. Picture an INS office. Since I can’t get anyone’s attention, I have to decide for myself which of the two lines to join. It’s 50-50. Didn’t seem that big of a decision. I had plenty of time, right? Seems the shortest line is always the smart choice.
So, I get into a line that seemed to have about 30-40 people ahead of me. The other lines seems had perhaps 100 passengers. Easy decision.
Well, I get into the line and the fucking thing doesn’t budge an inch. At least for a while. Five minutes becomes ten, which becomes twenty. By this time, I’ve moved exactly four squares on the carpet. A caterpillar would move faster, not that I know much about fucking caterpillars, but if you’ve ever seen how slow one of those things moves, you get my drift. Anyway, infants are balling their asses off, mothers are screaming, and I’m calm as a saint because I’m thinking to myself — even though this is bad, they are going to get me to my flight on time. Right? They can’t possibly keep me hanging. Here, take a look. I snapped this photo while in line.
Time out, Mr. Baldanza. Remember your “McDonald’s” comment? The one you made to the national media? Take a look at these two photos. Let’s do a side-by-side comparison, shall we?
EXHIBIT 1: Spirit Airlines terminal.
EXHIBIT 2: McDonald’s at Chicago O’Hare (one of the world’s businest airports) taken the following day.
I’m terribly confused, Mr. Baldanza. Maybe it’s just me. But I don’t see the similarities. Maybe you can explain this to me. But I digress. On with my story…..
So, this giant python of a line I’m parked in isn’t moving worth a fuck.
I’d say about 30 minutes has gone by and I’m wearing a watch, so my guesstimates are pretty good. Then, I overhear someone say this is the “full service” line? Full service? What in the hell does that mean? I’m afraid to ask. Either that, or else NOW I know everyone’s flying this fucking airline.
Out of nowhere, one of your screaming gate agents standing in the middle of the terminal shouts out, “If you’re on the 8:15 flight to Dallas, you need to be in the center line to print out your boarding pass! No one will be allowed to check a bag without getting their boarding pass at the kiosk first!”
Okay, I got it. I think.
So, I make what turns out to be a fateful decision. I take myself out of the line where I’ve been standing for half an hour, waddle over into the other line with a 40-poound bag in tow, and start the wait anew. I do exactly as instructed. Like a good little boy. So far, I haven’t even dropped one f-bomb which has got to at least get me nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
This line moves faster than I expect. But there are more people in it. So, it’s sort of a push. It takes me about 30 minutes to finally reach the kiosk where I can self-check. I type in all the basic information and expect to be set and ready to go. But just when I expect my boarding pass to pop out like the pay ticket on video poker machine, here’s what I receive instead.
THIS KIOSK CANNOT COMPLETE YOUR CHECK IN. PLEASE BRING TO AN AGENT.
I can’t believe my eyes. I read it again: PLEASE BRING TO AN AGENT.
Oh, fuck me running. This is bullshit!
It’s 50 minutes until my flight is scheduled to take off. The clock is ticking. I flag down one of the screaming gate agents and I say this needs to get fixed. Pronto! The agent instructs me I need to get into the FULL SERVICE line and check in over there.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was just fucking over there! You fuckwads fooled me into leaping out of the sure-thing line for a greener pasture and now you’re bouncing me all over the fucking airport like a rubber ball! This is insanity!
The agent runs off and I’m standing there in meltdown mode.
Back to the full sevice line it is.
Well, the motherfucker is now EVEN LONGER. Wouldn’t you know it.
At this point, I realize I’m going to miss the flight. And that’s when a sudden calmness falls over me. There’s nothing to be done at this point. And here’s where I’ll soapbox my case little.
This is for the nitpicking little bitches out there reading this who BLAME THE VICTIM. So, listen up. You might learn something that saves your ass from getting ghettoed overnight in North Miami. It’s not missing the flight that frosts my ass. It’s not having to stand in a line for 90 minutes. It’s not being inconvenienced. It’s not being nickled and dimed by a carnival act in the air that ticks me off. No. No. No. No.
It’s the GROSS FUCKING INCOMPETENCE. The stupidity. The utter lack of organization. The unnecessary madhouse that this airline creates by being so thoroughly disorganized. Hey, if airlines like JetBlue and Southwest can make those low-cost fares work for millions of travelers, if these other greyhound buses in the sky can fly without starting a near riot, then why can’t Spirit do the same? Is that really too much to ask? Oh, and another thing. I’ve flown those communist airlines over in Eastern Europe before. I’ve even done commuter flights on Turkish Air. Nothing over there was EVER like this. So don’ nitpick bullshit me, jokers. I’m not having any of it.
Wait, I’m not finished yet! So, shut up and listen.
Had this been some weather-related issue, I’d have no problem. No problem at all. A major air disaster. I’ll wait. Terrorist threat? Shut it down. I’ll understand. But this is a typical Tuesday night in a mid-size airport. There’s NOTHING that can possibly justify such a monumental clusterfuck.
I’m hardly alone in my outrage. Half the people in line are livid. Several others apparently missed their flights, too. We’re whate you call “breakage.” We’re the busted bottles of coke, the stained shirt, the broken egg inside the carton of a dozen. Breakage. Acceptable numbers to inconvenience and piss off because you know full well that as soon as we vow never to fly your airline again, some unsuspecting victim will click the PURCHASE NOW button and start rolling the dice on their travel plans.
But the people I really feel most sorry for are the mothers who have to endure this giant madhouse with infants in tow. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. You arent just ruining my day. If nothing else, think of them. Seriously — have you no shame, Sir?
Okay, on with the story. You still with me, Mr. Baldanza? Good. Don’t go anythere. Because I’m still got a way to go.
The line crawls along and by 8:10 pm I’ve finally reached the front counter. I feel like fucking Moses after he weathered the ark, or whatever.
A nice lady with the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen smiles and asks me what she can do for me. Here’s where I show my extraordinary grace in the face of adversity. I know it’s not the nice lady with the white teeth’s fault. She’s probably making $12-an-hour forced to put up with shit from people like me all day and night. I’m not going to make things worse. Besides, what can she do about it? I’m sure tempted to ask her about Spirit Airlines’ dental plan, though.
Lady punches a few buttons on the computer, wait, leans forward, waits, looks back at the screen, waits and finally tells me, “hey, you missed your flight.”
My blood pressure surges 25 points.
“What time did you get here, Sir?”
Oh, fuck me silly. Is she going to INTEROGATE me now? What is this, an investigation?
“Where’s you’re boarding pass?”
“It’s right here, but you can see it wouldn’t print out and……………”
“It doesn’t print out if you arrive late, Sir. You should have just come to this line. See, that line is if you arrive on time.”
Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Think white clouds. Singing birds. Sparrow. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Dream of fucking sparrows.
“Can I please get on another flight?”
“There are no more flights tonight going to Las Vegas. Everything is fully booked. We will have to TRY AND SCHEDULE you for tomorrow.”
TRY AND SCHEDULE ME? Huh?
“Do you put me up in a hotel?”
Lady with pearly whites tells me to show back up at 6 am. At that time, they’ll try to book me on a flight on that day. Now, it’s 8:30 pm and the flight I’m supposed to be on is somewhere over the Everglades. I counted the time. The lady has spent 15 minutes trying to re-book me. JUST ME. Suddenly, the math is all starting to come together. Fifteen minutes here. Fifteen minutes there. It all adds up to a giant shitshow.
Oh well, I’ll just taxi to a nearby hotel, sleep six hours, and come back early in the morning.
There’s only one problem. A major problem. Every hotel in the city and surrounding area is completely sold out. EVERY HOTEL. Turns out Ft. Lauderdale happens to be the cruise capital of America. Every bluehaired old cruiser using a walker in the known universe has locked up every vacant hotel room situated between North Miami and Boca Raton. During this time, I make so many phone calls to hotels in the area trying to book a room, my cell battery goes dead. Things get so desperate, I have to visit one of those lonely businessman’s “loser stations.” You know what I’m talking about. That’s where you pick up the red courtesy phone and it connects you directly to the major hotels in the area, which are always rigged to the highest rack rate they can whack you for because they figure you’re royally fucked and will pay anything if you didn’t book advance on Travelocity and are now so stupid to be red phoning to an airport hotel with the advertised free shuttle ready to ship you off to the slaughterhouse.
Sold out. Sold out. Sold out. Sold out.
Ninety minutes have now passed. My phone is fucking dead. My patience is gone.
Nothing left to do. No where to turn. No friend in sight, I head outside to hail a cab – to nowhere.
Turns out the taxi driver speaks about as much English as I speak Haitian. I explain to the driver to take me to ANY CLEAN HOTEL nearby where he thinks there’s a room available. All I hear is “Okay,” followed by dead silence. About 15 minutes later, we end up about ten miles away and the meter’s at $24.90 and still rolling like a jackpot stuck in reverse. Come to find out, the Motel 6 he thought might have a room is fully booked. You know it’s fucktime when Motel 6 doesn’t leave the light on for you.
From there it’s off to the greater unknown which by the looks of things has crossed the Dade County line. Taxi drops me at some motel called the ”Red Carpet Inn,” which might as well be in North Miami. There’s no red carpet here so far as I can tell. I head into the lobby and to my salvation find out there ARE vacant rooms. Bingo! That actually should have been warning sign.
This area I’m in sure is a strange place. Reminds me of where they shot that great scene with the chainsaw in the bathtub in Scarface. The blacks scattered all over the property speak Spanish. I mean, what the fuck?
Like I said, this joint has NO RED CARPET, which sure seems like false advertising to me. I wonder — is this your airline’s sister property, Mr. Baldanza? If not, perhaps it’s should be.
In fact, ccome to find out my hotel room has a TILE FLOOR. You ever stayed in a hotel room with a tile floor, Mr. Baldanza? I guess TILE FLOOR INN doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as RED CARPET INN.
So, you’ve already heard about the arguments raging outside and the feral cats hissing all night. And of course, the motel’s ”free WiFi” that’s advertised doesn’t fucking work, which is why I have to write this letter to you on the following day.
Somehow, I manage to wake up at 4 am and shower along with a small roach in the tub (which I hope was female) and by 4:30 I’m in a taxi headed to the airport. See, this time I decided to build in some EXTRA TIME. That way, if I have to spend another 1:55 standing in line, I’ll still have about 45 minutes to spare. Besides, I couldn’t sleep anyway.
So now, I’m dressed in wrinkled, soiled up clothes because I didn’t expect to spend this extra day in Florida. But at least I’ll be back home soon.
Check in this time takes about 30 minutes, which makes me feel like I just hit the lottery. I have no idea where I’m off to nor where I’m going, so long as the nose of the jet is headed west. That’s all that matters at this point.
I arrive at the gate and learn I’m flying and connecting through Chicago O’Hare, where it’s snowing and like 18 degrees. Oh, and there will be a six hour layover. And I’m dressed in shorts.
So, I’ve got to hang out for six hours in Chicago. Good thing there are bars and I have a credit card.
During the flight, there’s a barrage of ceaseless announcements. Think of a busy poker room. Every 20 minutes or so the passengers are reminded of a special promotion where if you FILL OUT AN APPLICATION for a “Spirit Visa card,” you get a free round-trip ticket to anywhere on the airline. A free round trip ticket? On Spirit?
NO FUCKING THANKS!!!
My long day’s journey into night and into day again finally comes to a merciful end at 6 pm local Las Vegas time, where Spirit Airlines touches down on the dry desert dust.
I deplane and march off to baggage claim. Even starting to mellow out, a little. Well, that wasn’t so bad, after all. I finally made it. So, I got inconvenienced. I had to overnight in the ghetto, pay $200 for two taxi rides and a dumpy motel, wait six hours on a layover in Chicago. All is forgiven.
Hmmmmm. I wonder where my bag is?
Hmmmmm. I wonder, why is this taking so long?
Hmmmmm. I wonder, how come everyone has already retrieved their bag? Hey, where’s mine?
Why is the baggage carousel now coming to stop?
WHERE’S MY BAG?
You know, MY BAG? It’s bright red. The one I paid $45 for to get from Point A to Point B. $45 — for 40 pounds max. Not 50 pounds like the other airlines. Not $30 like the other airlines charge. $45 for my bag, which is NO WHERE TO BE FOUND!
Mr. Baldanza, can you please help me hunt for my lost bag? The bag that now seems to have vanished off the face of the earth?
Wait. I have a better idea. I think I figured out where it is!
Why, of course!
My bag must be at McDonalds!
PS: My “lost” bag turned up at the baggage claim office. Thanks.