Monday, July 11, 2011

Never fly Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines did it again.

Last time, after 6 hours of delay in Bogota, Mike missed his connection to Tampa and had to rent a car to drive 5 hours overnight back home. He got a $50 voucher. I got food poisoning from the McDonald's burgers they gave us at the airport (my first McBurger in over 20 years, and of course it almost killed me...)

It gets better.

As a birthday present for the Cancers in my life (Mike and his Mom, my mother in law) I planned a vacation in a time share in Cartagena back on January 28th, 2011. Spirit happened to be one of the few airlines back then that had a direct flight there from Florida, but because there were no flights on Saturdays - and as everyone knows time shares always go from Saturday to Saturday - I had to purchase the tickets arriving in Cartagena on Friday July 8th, 2011 and returning Sunday July 17th. We had to purchase two extra nights in a different hotel to compensate.

We got the big seats for everyone - therefore we had to pay the extra fee each way for each one of the 4 passengers which bumped considerably the price of the tickets. And remember, this price did not include the bags...

We had been planning this trip for months, which means LIFE happens. Mike's brother is going to get married so he could not come to Cartagena with us! I called Spirit Airlines on July 4th and he was removed from the trip just by giving them the reservation number.

On July 8th we woke up very early and we went to the airport with our bags and ready for our Caribbean adventure. When we got to the counter the service lady, after reviewing our passports, tells us:

- Your flight was yesterday!

- WHAT!!!

- Yes, your flight was yesterday.

- That cannot be ( and we showed her our printed email with the schedule we purchased in January )

She said our schedule had been changed back in April or May and that an email had been sent to me. She printed a new schedule: we were supposed to leave a day earlier and return a day later!


You have hotel reservations to make! Vacation permits from work to obtain!



If you purchase tickets 6 months in advance you expect a PHONE CALL! You do not improvise a summer vacation, especially when you plan it in the winter!

We asked if we could talk to her supervisor, Sammy, who was actually ADORABLE and extremely courteous. There were no flights to Cartagena that day! She told us that airlines change their schedules very often in the summer. She managed to change the reservation to leave Saturday, coming back on the 16th - 6 months later this was the schedule we needed... She told us to come back the following morning, very early, just to make sure there were seats in the Cartagena flight.

You should have seen Craig's look when he had to pick us up at the airport again... We spent the rest of the morning at IKEA distracting our senses (what else can you do when they cancel your trip like that? It is like a coitus interruptus...) We also unpacked 20 lbs out of our bag because it was a little bit on the heavy side. Mom's was just half a lb overweight.

Saturday morning we got to the airport even earlier: 6.00am - the poor kitties did not know what was going on. We asked to speak with Sammy and she was as professional and nice as the day before. She did her magic and she said that she had been able to find us some seats in the plane to Cartagena: 8D, 8E, 8F and that we were ready to go. We paid $86 for the bags.

In Ft. Lauderdale, when we presented the boarding passes, a very cranky Spirit worker informed us we could not board the plane to Cartagena because we were on standby and the plane was oversold.


I told him we had our seats assigned and that our bags were already in the plane, and that we were never on standby. The nasty and cranky worker just said we could not fly and that whoever gave us our seats made a very big mistake. It was clear they had bumped us out of the plane and had given our seats to someone else...

The next flight to Tampa was at 8pm so we chose to rent a car and drive back. We could not stand another experience with Spirit airlines. And wait in that horrible terminal for I don't know how many hours!

We gave them our bag numbers, and while I was discussing what to do about our reimbursement - which hopefully is supposed to happen within the next 5 business days, and if it does not happen get ready for my wrath! - with another Spirit functionary Mike and I saw our 2 bags side by side being taken off the plane and put in a luggage cart.

I can spot my bag anywhere: a Swiss Army 28" upright with 360Deg spinning wheels I just bought in May at Target for my Spain/Morocco trip with a rainbow belt around it (of course!)

They told us we could pick up our luggage in the downstairs belts. After 45 minutes the bags with a yellow tag that that said "standby" were delivered. Ours - of course - were not, because WE WERE NEVER ON STANDBY and they never had a yellow tag! One hour later the man in charge of luggage could not find the bags anywhere, even though we told him they were put in a cart. He thought they were shipped to Cartagena. We gave our information to the ladies in the room who told us they were going to give us a call when they could confirm with Cartagena. Later we figured out they had called the sheriff when they saw 6'4" Mike walking angry into their office. It just seemed odd to have a sheriff in the luggage office, now it makes sense...

We rented a car with the best rental car company ever : HERTZ = no problems, no hassle, great service, especially when we were SO exhausted. Believe me, it sure makes a huge difference when you are in the middle of a broken vacation, and someone treats you right and gives you a very fair price. We had no reservations, we just walked up to the counter and the problem was solved.

Lesson: always bring a car charger for your iPhone with you!

Mine died and when I finally was able to plug it at home I heard a message from Spirit telling me the bags were in fact in Cartagena and they should come back to the US in the next flight. I immediately called Ft. Lauderdale who told me the bags were in the Tampa flight that was landing at 9.02pm! It was 9.06 pm!

We drove immediately to return the rental car and to find out the bags never arrived. We called at least 10 times yesterday, and nobody knows what is happening.

The bags are lost, nobody even knows where they are.

People are paying a lot of money for their bags and their carry on luggage. What are they getting in return?

It is 7.30am, I should have been sleeping for the past 2 hours in the best Hotel in Cartagena, instead I have been blogging about the irresponsibility of Spirit Airlines, a company that pretends to be saving people's money but at the end is unable to have a decent technological infrastructure to track bags! Invest in efficient tools that will save you time and money! Use hand scanners - I used to develop software for that 12 years ago, good grief! - to track your inventory! Invest in using handheld two-way radios so the people at the door can communicate with the workers loading the bags, so that people do not have to run down the stairs!

I already have a ticket with them to go to New York in October, because of a cancelled trip I could not do earlier in the year and I am seriously thinking about cancelling it - but how can you just give this irresponsible immature airline like Spirit $400 as a gift? They are already taking enough money from you! I am going to use it, but it will be the LAST TIME!!!

What Spirit Airlines is doing is very dangerous for their long term existence. People were easily fooled with their free trips attached to their credit card - that I am proud to say I do NOT have - their $9 specials, etc. But people are not stupid. In Spanish we say "Lo barato sale caro" = cheap things end up being very expensive at the end, and people will end up figuring out that Spirit Airlines is nothing but a BIG GIGANTIC SCAM.