4 couples booked 8 round-trip "Big Front Seat" tickets for a Vegas weekend 3 months in advance via the spirit website.
We all paid the extra $100 per seat. One of us traveling is 6'9". He is the reason we wanted the big seats.
We selected our seats on the website. The plane diagram shows 7 of 8 available "Big Front Seats, and we booked all of 7 of them.
We all pre-paid the extra charge for checking one suitcase each person.
We printed our boarding passes at home before getting to the airport; we were confirmed and had boarding passes for our selected seats in hand. We had a van take us to the airport together, and we arrived early- around 5:00pm for a 7:30pm flight.
At the crappiest airport terminal in the country (Smith Terminal @ Detroit Metro), we paid the $2 per bag Curbside Bag Check Fee.
Then came our first encounter with a Spirit employee. When the porter had finished attaching the luggage tickets to our bags, he said "You know that the $2 goes right to Spirit, the fee doesn't include my tip."
We paid the tip too. A bunch of friends heading to Vegas...we were in a good mood, and a crappy attitude from one guy wasn't going to ruin the day. In hindsight, my guess is that the employees must be treated so poorly that they can't help but be miserable. What a shame.
Our flight was delayed an hour. July 24, 2008 7:30 pm scheduled departure. Boarding began around 8:30 pm.
We boarded the plane last because they boarded the plane rear to front. We actually abided by the announcements as far as when to board.
Our boarding passes were scanned.
There was someone in each of our seats when we boarded the plane. And the seats weren't big. Except for row 1. And row 1 was full.
We asked a flight attendant to help with the situation. Apparently the seated passengers also had tickets booked for rows 1-4. They weren't booked as "Big Front Seats" and they certainly hadn't paid extra for them, but they had the same seats assigned on their boarding passes.
My friend who is 6'9" wasn't about to cram into the empty seats in the back of the plane near the bathrooms. We had a problem.
The flight attendant says there is nothing she can do. She starts to get all nasty and keeps telling him to go sit in the back of the plane. He tells her again..."I cant fit in the seats back there....I paid for a big seat months ago, and I need to have one"
One of our friends is calling Spirit on her cell phone...you can only speak to the call center in Bangladesh, and they are specifically trained to not allow you to speak to anyone who can help in any situation.
Another flight attendant comes over to see about the commotion...the plane is already 2 hours late at this point and there are 6 people standing in the aisle trying to figure out why there are no Big Front Seats on the plane.
The 2nd attendant says this situation happens all the time...he says that Spirit had the seating in their planes reconfigured several months ago, and that the planes now only have one row of Big Front Seats...that way they can put 6 more passengers on the plane.
He told us that apparently the web site must not be updated with the current seating diagrams, so people who pay for the seats online can still select them, but they don't exist.
The first flight attendant has now called back to the gate, and security then boards the plane and asks our 6'9" friend to get off the plane...says that he is causing a disturbance and that he needs to come with them. We all know that if he gets off, he's not getting back on.
We worked it out amongst the passengers with absolutely zero help from the crew. Still, 6 of us who had paid $100 each extra for the more spacious accomodations got screwed.
Vegas was great.
Then we had to head home. On Spirit. With the same problem.
We had tried calling Spirit over the weeknd from the hotel to fix the problem. It would be less painful to have every tooth pulled than to have to speak to anyone in Spirit's Bangladesh call center.
At the Vegas airport, the guy in charge of check-in at the counter knew all about our problem as soon as we got there. He was actually kind of helpful (the only person that we experienced out of dozens that could even be called "cordial"), and although he couldn't get us the Big Front Seats we had selected and paid for, he did promise all of our tickets would be adjusted.
Ha ha, the joke was on us.
I have sent numerous emails, attempted several times to get past the call center attendant...I've done everything short of flying down to Florida and surprising them at their headquarters location in Miramar.
If there is one thing I would advise to anyone, PLEASE consider whether their fare (however inexpensive it is) is truly worth the ridicule, rudeness, inconsideration, and utter disregard for your feelings or expectiations that you will undoubdetly experience.
I've flown all of the airlines. I've had baggage problems, overbooking issues, and delays or maintenance problems with flights on other airlines in the past. It happens. But in most cases, no matter how bad the problem has been, in the end you can usually get some type of satisfaction ( a travel voucher, an overnight stay, food vouchers, drink tickets...something that acknowledges that they understood or knew about a problem and were sorry. At the very least...I've received apologies for poor service.
This recent experience tells me that Spirit probably won't last unless they fix something.
I have not been able to reach or speak to anyone to a) acknowledge they have a problem; b) confirm that a refund is going to be issued for at least the cost of the seat-class upgrade; and c) apologize for the way we were treated and for the outdated website.
You can travel at your own risk. Although we paid $400 each round trip, the aggravation wasn't worth one of their $9 fares. In fact, I think $9 is about $8.75 too much.
Too bad, Spirit.
Commerce Twp, Michigan