Stories from my 14-month study abroad in Buenos Aires, my 16-month post-college move to Miami, and my get-me-the-hell-out-of-Miami move to Denver

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Must Say, I Love Spirit Airlines

I'm at the airport too early, like always; the story of my life.

Growing up in a family where Dad always insisted that we arrive at the airport three hours early, even pre 9/11, I find it's hard habit to break.

So here I am, eating some half stale pizza in Orlando, waiting for a flight to Fort Lauderdale that hasnt even come up on the "Departures" board yet. I've got some time to burn. But hey, at least I know I'll have plenty of time to make it through security this time.

The line itself looks miserable, and the faces on people when they first see how the long the line is makes my stomach turn. I've been there, once, and it's a feeling you never want to have. It was in Fort Lauderdale a few years back, when I just made it onto my flight by the skin of my teeth.

Word to wise, if you plan on traveling from Miami Beach to Fort Lauderdale International Airport, and you're cheap enough, like me, to use public transportation, do yourself the favor of giving yourself more than 3 hours!

I have never missed a flight, due in part to my Dad's well-instilled "arrive early" value, but it was close that day. They saw the despair in my eyes when I told them my flight was leaving in 15 minutes and I had to catch a bus to Minneapolis, my college town, as soon as I landed in Chicago.

You're probably thinking,

"He flew JetBlue, they're so hip and love to help customers."


"Surely it was SouthWest, they're such a quality airline." 

Well you'd never guess it but the airline that won me over that day is the one everyone whines about, none other than Spirit Airlines.

Since that hot, South-Florida-sweaty(it's a special kind of sweaty), stressful day back in 2009 when Spirit customer service turned my horrible day into jubilation, I've been a loyal customer and I think they're one of the best airlines out there.

This post will tell you the story of Fort Lauderdale, and the next will tell you why I think Spirit is great, beyond the customer service.


I've been on various forms of public transportation for nearly 2.5 hours and I finally start to see the airplanes taking off out the window of the train, but I know I'm still 15 minutes away from checking in, and my flight leaves in an hour.

My stomach starts knotting up. If I miss this flight, I'm not getting back to Minneapolis for at least 3 days. I've got a bus waiting for me as soon as I get off the flight in Chicago, and from there it's an 8 hour ride to Minneapolis, my college town.  I NEED to make this flight.

I get off the shuttle from the train station, crash through the doors of the airport and my stomach falls out. The longest security line I've ever seen. An hour, minimum, just to get to security. I'm finished. I'll never make it. I have one hope, customer service.

As I patiently wait in line, two Long Island accented women are verbally destroying the poor customer service girl for Spirit. They're angry about the wait, they're angry about their luggage, they're angry about the airport's temperature, and in their eyes, it's all this poor girl's fault.

Being raised in the Midwest, where values and morals are instilled from an early age, I can't believe what I'm seeing. They're treating her like less than a human, and no one deserves that treatment.

It's my turn to talk with customer service. I take a deep breath and just be the nicest possible person I can be. I acknowledge the fact that I'm aware that I'm VERY late for my flight, but I also express my distress about the situation. I might not make it home if I don't make this flight. If she can help in any way, it would be greatly appreciated.

Having just dealt with such poor examples of the human race, I don't think she could even believe her ears when she heard me say please and thank you. She could see I was in need of help and she knew she was the answer.

As a smile sprang to her face, she asked, "Any bags to check?"

"None, just my carry on." I reply.

"Let's go!" was all I heard as she grabbed my hand and started leading me toward the outrageously long security line.

On her radio I hear her say, "Gate 23, I have the missing passenger Jones, I'm personally leading him through security." 

What would have been an hour wait in security and a guaranteed missed flight turned into VIP treatment.

She personally led me past the security lines to the metal dectors and sent me off with a big smile and a "Now go catch your flight!" 

As I ran towards the gate, another Spirit employee was waiting for me with a smile and a "We've been expecting you."

I stepped foot into the airplane, the door was closed, and we were pushing out of the gate before I could even sit down. Nearly to the minute of the scheduled departure time.

I wish I would have gotten her name, the Savior of Fort Lauderdale, because she deserves a raise. That kind of customer service is hard to find, in any industry, let alone the airline industry, and she is a model for others to follow.

This is also a lesson to all you people who immediately resort to insults and accusations as your way of expressing anger and grief. I'm sure those Long Island women missed their flight, and with how they treated that customer service girl, I'm okay with saying that I think they deserved it. A smile and some polite words might have gotten them on their flight like it did for me.

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