An Open Letter to Spirit Airlines, LaGuardia

Dear Spirit Airlines,

As I sit here in LaGuardia Airport long after the flight to my friend’s wedding in Mexico was supposed to take off I admit that it would be easy to blast you with expletives and trash the customer service. However, I’ll refrain. I am a firm believer that life’s best lessons are found in emotionally challenging moments and this one is packed with oh so many lessons – certainly more than the number of bags packed on that plane. You’re probably going to get some nasty notes from my fellow passengers so I hope that this comes as a more uplifting communication.

First, I recently learned in the Dalai Lama’s book on happiness that a “sedentary life” is like a present perpetually wrapped. With that in mind, thank you for having Zone 1 line up to board and waiting for twenty minutes to make the announcement that you should not have done that and don’t actually know when boarding will begin. The fact that the first first flight of the day has a last minute mechanical issue was not your fault, you told us so yourselves. After waking up at 3am to make my 6:45 flight, sitting in that airport chair was just lulling me back to sleep and into the dreaded ‘sedentary life’ anyway. Honestly, and I mean this, standing really helped to get the blood flowing. As the sun peaked over the rooftops of Queens, I felt alive.

Did you happen to catch the Oprah show where the pediatrician lectured on childhood obesity? I’m guessing you did because after the standing and then sitting back down again, having all of the people with children begin boarding only to have them come back up the ramp again really got those little hearts going. Although it was only one repetition I’m sure some calories were burned. Crying burns calories too, I think.

And I hate to bring my own personal issues to the discussion, but this experience has brought to light something I’ve felt for a long time.  It’s hard to meet anyone in New York. Honestly, with so many people here that may seem counter intuitive, but it’s true. That’s why I’m so glad that after our flight was delayed for, well now it’s been nearly three hours, you still had the passengers on next departing flight come to the same gate. I had never met any of them before! Some really nice folks. In GQ a few months ago it said that you have to meet 40 people before you can make one lasting connection. Those are terrible odds. But with that in mind I am on my way to making at least five new connections. No, not flight connections, personal ones.

Before I go (No, not to my friend’s wedding. I have to find some Advil), and above all, thank you for teaching me how to communicate in a cynical, ineffective and at times rambling manner with a message riddled with misinformation. Without that lesson this email would have simply been explatives and trash talk.

Yours Truly,
(formerly) Seat 2B

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4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Spirit Airlines, LaGuardia

  1. This is hilarious. Of course, I would feel better if it weren’t this particular airlines. I had just recently joined their club where you can supposedly get the really cheap fares at times–as low as $9. When I signed up for that, it was about 3am, and I was too tired to actually bother reading all the details. I have the uncomfortable feeling if I actually read the available arrival and departure times for these fares, none of them will actually intersect. Or else the cheap fares will be to places that no one in their right mind would ever visit.

    I hope you made the wedding anyway. If you didn’t, just keep saying that no one has any business getting married in Mexico unless they live there.

  2. Cristina says:

    You’re not alone: I have had the worst experience with these people too! I Google’d the company and found the name of the (then) Vice-President of Flight Operations and sent him a certified letter but of course I never heard from them. This is my letter:
    New York
    August 20, 2007

    Mr. Jeffrey D. Carlson
    Vice President of Flight Operations & Director of Operations
    Spirit Airlines Inc.
    2800 Executive Way
    Miramar, FL 33025-6542

    Subject: Spirit flights New York-Lima-New York

    Dear Mr. Carlson,

    When I booked my flight to Lima, Peru I was fully aware of Spirit no-frills, low budget status and only expected to be taken safely and on time from point A to point B. It did not happen that way. I live ten minutes by car from La Guardia Airport and since I did not have a seat assigned, I showed up at the Spirit counter at 8:15 AM on Thursday August 9, 2007. It was a good thing to be there so early for Flight 197 scheduled to leave at 10:30 AM, as it took me over 90 minutes to get to the agent. It was a mob scene. There was not an empty seat in that flight and while it is commendable that your corporation strives for high occupancy levels, you should also think about assigning additional agents to handle full capacity flights.

    The return trip on Friday August 17 was worse. Flight 978 from Lima to Fort Lauderdale is scheduled to leave at 10:55 PM but when I checked-in at 8:30 PM I was told that the airplane that was supposed to take me “had just left Fort Lauderdale” en route to Lima. The agent candidly also told me that “most likely” I would miss my connecting flight to New York, as it actually happened.

    Please check your records to verify that a large percentage of passengers in Flight 978 had connecting flights to their final destinations. It was a total nightmare to get any information about rescheduled flights; after all, your agents at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport were aware that because the flight was delayed, most of the passengers had lost their connecting flights but this did not seem at all a matter of concern to any of them. Their attitude could not have been more cavalier if they tried. I travel quite a bit and I have never before seen such untrained, unprofessional staff as the one manning the counter that day. They were truly a sorry bunch.

    After standing over two hours at the counter, at 10:00 AM I was given a boarding pass to Flight 174 scheduled to leave at 4:05 PM. I had to demand a meal voucher, as this was not offered to me as is customary. It was a great relief when at around 3:30 PM the electronic sign at the counter by the gate actually posted the flight number and destination. I was not staring at the electronic sign at all times, therefore I don’t know when it changed and posted Flight 238 to Orlando/Atlanta, which was supposed to have left at 3:10 PM. The PA system even announced the change of gate to passengers of Flight 238! All those poor passengers flocked to the gate. Passengers to New York were left wondering what had happened. No one from Spirit Airlines made any announcement and all of a sudden, the agent at the door started screaming (not using the mike) that the plane at that gate was leaving for New York. All the signage, at the counter and the door leading to the airplane, remained “Flight 238 Orlando/Atlanta”, which was very confusing.

    Adding insult to injury, after we boarded the plane an announcement was made that the flight would be delayed because “there are international passengers coming in and we don’t want them to miss their connecting flight”. The plane remained at the terminal over one hour waiting for those people, a courtesy I was not extended earlier that day. Mine was also an international flight but I guess a flight from the Caribbean has more pull than one from South America.

    Flying Spirit Airlines has been an awful experience and not that I expect it to affect you one way or the other, but believe me when I tell you that I have told my horror story to all my friends and family. Because I was in Lima, Peru at the time of the earthquake, I have been contacted by dozens of people. All of them, plus all my friends and family members have been advised by me not to fly Spirit Airlines if their lives depended on it.

    Thank you in advance for your attention to this letter.

  3. Jill says:

    Doesn’t seat 2B put you in first class?

    • Marc Cappelletti says:

      The man when I checked in put me there for no charge. Good thing because I’d just paid $40 to carry on. (I was actually in 2C, 2B was empty). Still, it was a dirty pleather seat with a rip in it. No service. On my connecting flight when someone was already in the seat we realized that the staff in NYC hadn’t checked me though. It happened to multiple people and the attendents had to find us open seats. They actually did a commendable job dealing with the situation. BUT I then had to move to the regular seats and in general, I have never sat in a tighter space.

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