Okay, that does it. My recent Spirit Airlines experience has caused me to conclude, no more discount vacation services for me. Like that old saying “you get what you pay for“, and having discount services ruin your hard earned vacation is not worth the risk, just to save a few bucks. If someone is selling something cheap, there is a reason for it, and often, that reason is a cut in product or service. Very simply, you can‘t get something, like a lower fare or rate, for nothing. It had to come from somewhere, and that becomes the question; where did they cut a cost, or corner. No matter if it is discount car and hotel web services, or a discount “bare bones” airline like Spirit calls themselves, if you use it enough, sooner or later, you‘ll find out the complete reason for the discount.
My first bad experience with a discount travel service was an on–line car rental company a few years ago. The weekend I flew into Dallas, there were also several huge football games with universities and the NFL‘s Cowboys, all playing that weekend, so when I arrived, there was no car? A long, expensive taxi ride was the only solution, because when I contacted the car company for help that night, they couldn‘t. Same for the refund later, so the problem got worse.
In the end, the real problem was the company I rented through was built to sell rentals and not much beyond that, unless the stalling and attempts at not refunding my rental are part of the business plan. Most of the time it worked, but when something unusual, like the football game schedule, causes a glitch, the discount service becomes a discount customer service provider too.
Discount hotel sites are too often the same. They cut deals with hotels that allow them to sell at discount rates, but little else if you need them. Many of my friends here in Mahahual who work in the local hotels, as well as the tourist who come in our business, tell me horror stories of people coming, and the rates are higher than the discount service sold them when they bought. The reason is always the same too. The discount companies ignored their own arrangements, or ignored the hotel‘s notices, and booked the guest at a discount rate when they should not have. Most hotels end up either charging the higher rate, which angers the guests of course, or honor the rate and negotiate the loss with the discount company later. Those companies know enough hotels need the volume discount services can provide, so most hotels eat the loss to prevent the customer from blaming them.
My recent Spirit Airlines experience was again, a classic “too cheap to operate properly” problem, that ruined another vacation trip for a traveler. I have been flying most trips back to Dallas the last couple years via Spirit, mainly because they have the best Cancun to Dallas flight times, and are non–stop direct flights. The fact that they were cheap was a bonus, or so I thought.
Spirit‘s bare bones ticket pricing makes sense to the consumer at one level. Most understand their their cheap rate was because of things like the seats don‘t move and are not that comfortable, because the planes are stripped down models, much like that fleet car line with no radio and roll down windows. Fair enough, I can see that. But for a direct couple hour flight, no big deal. Same for no drop down tray or electronic entertainment portal. No problem, I have my own. No included drinks, snacks and all the other things, like bag fees and advanced ticketing extras, all things that if you use, you should pay for. If not, you don‘t and your prices are cheaper. I get that.
But it the less obvious things, like using the cheapest, and most inconvenient gates in the airport for the passengers, or even no gate, like at DFW, where their international flights park away from the terminal and you have to board a bus to transport to the customs. These are parts of bare bones pricing you don‘t see, until you arrive and it is too late.
My hour and a half wait in the check–in line is an example of that too. Same for when I had the problem at check–in. I‘ve had similar problems many times over the years with other airlines, and always, they were able to fix whatever the problem was, at the check–in. But the Spirit rep told me, their system would not allow her to do that, and that I needed to call the US office and fix it myself. Unfortunately for me, the local cell service was down, so I told the rep I could not call. She sent me to some pay phones, who also were not working, so I again told the rep, I could not contact their office in the US. She finally told me, even after explaining that I had driven 4 hours to get to the airport, stood in line for an hour and a half, and that she would be making a paying customer walk out and miss a flight that she had already told me they had empty space on, sorry, she could not help me was the reply. I was shocked.
As I walked out of the terminal on the way to my car for the long drive back, I looked at the other airline check–in areas and, it was obvious one company, Spirit did something different, because theirs were the only check–ins that had a line back up. All others had no, or almost no, wait. Spirit‘s backed up into the terminal walk area.
But in addition to no kiosks check in, longer lines and weird gates, the deal breaker for me is they are just not set up to service unsuspected problems, like making the customer call the US office to fix their own problems. Sorry buddy, you‘re on your own. Next please! That‘s a vacation spoiler, and I know, because they spoiled mine.
Finally, Spirit capped their bad airport service with handling the entire situation wrong again when I formally complained. At first, they told me they could re–book me, but would need to charge me a fee of course. Even fixing problems, like bags, check–ins and such, costs extra with Spirit. I told her I would not pay anything extra to fly such a bad airline and wrote a note to the customer service to better document my complaint. I received a prompt email saying sorry, it was their policy. I returned a note and again, expressed my disappointment in their service, informing them that I even work in tourist vacation part of their industry. They then sent me a note, not apologizing for ruining my trip, but for not performing up to their standards, whatever that is. They then made me “one time offer” for a voucher to fly another trip. My response now is no thank you.
An apology for ruining my vacation and being asked “what can we do to fix this” would have been the proper answer. That is what good companies do. Had they done that, what they would have heard was give me a refund, to cover the cost of the second ticket I was forced to buy from another airline, and include the $100 I spent on gas for the wasted trip, and I‘ll feel like they had done the right thing. Had they done that, who knows, I might have even flown them again. Certainly would not have written this blog entry, that is for sure. But as I told the rep, I could not in good conscience, ever tell a tourist I deal with, or those who read this blog, to ever use Spirit’s service. In fact, I recommend they not even consider them, no matter the price. I would not fly them if they gave me 100 vouchers now.
The point is this, stay away from discount services because sooner or later, the reason they are cheap will affect your trip too. Unsuspected things happen, and discount travel companies, set up to sell vacations, are unfortunately, not set up to provide good enough customer service for most. Had I taken the time to read Trip Advisor‘s ratings and reviews of Spirit Airlines (click here to go to that ) I would have seen that. Any business with a rating that has more bad ratings than any other, should be ashamed of that and even more so, the things people say.
Clearly Spirit seems to not care because people are unhappy with their service, which means their bare bones business model must be profitable. I can however say, a little less profitable now, because they lost this customer to their bare bones service and probably many more now who read this. Same for the other discount travel services too. Just don’t!
Happy travels, and thanks for reading!