Professor Walter Block’s most famous book is likely Defending the Undefendable (download it free here): in it, Prof. Block “defends” drug dealers and prostitutes and bad landlords. I love the book, it’s a tome that lets me defend my own instincts to defend all market transactions that don’t include fraud.
I feel like defending Spirit Airlines today, although most people would be doing the opposite.
I took a short 3 day trip to Fort Lauderdale from my USA HQ of Chicago, half for business, half to spend some time with a young lady. As usual, I flew my favorite airline in the States: Spirit, the most hated airline by the plebeian demand-everything entitled masses. I’m no cretin, though: I can afford first class tickets, but I prefer Spirit as I’ve said in my previous article.
I flew in on the late Saturday night Spirit flight out of O’hare: on-time, seated in a Big Front Seat for the optional $50 charge. I don’t check-in luggage, I don’t even carry-on luggage (both cost more), I just bring my one free “personal item” (up to 12″ x 14″ x16″) with 3 days of clothes and happily disembark with no wait at the luggage carousels. My flight was $111 round trip, including all fees and taxes. The next cheapest airline for that weekend was around $278, or $167 more.
My original return flight was due to depart at 7am this morning (Tuesday). Around midnight the night before, as I was about to check-in to my flight, I received an email from Spirit:
This email is to inform you that Spirit flight number NK – 478 from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Chicago, IL schedule to depart at 07:03 AM on June 26, 2012 has been canceled due to maintenance. If you have already contacted Spirit and have been accommodated, then you may disregard this email. Otherwise, the following are your options:
1. Be re-accommodated on Spirit at no charge based on availability.
2. Receive a future flight credit for any unused flight segments (service fees will be waived).
Yep, 7 hours before I was to take-off, and 6 hours before I was cabbing it to the airport, I got a lonely email saying that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I called their call center right away, and received one of their famous Indian-accented call representatives. I’ve called Spirit before, and I’m pretty good at dealing with their foreign citizens manning the phone and reading from a book. Being Half-Indian myself, I guess I am just blessed that I can understand them.
He apologized for the cancellation, and offered me two options: rebooking on a later flight, or a credit for the unused portion of my ticket. Since I checked other airlines before calling, I knew a return flight to Chicago was $262 one-way, and I have to be in Germany on Thursday. I told him I wanted to rebook. He said he would gladly rebook me for Thursday night, making me miss my outbound international flight.
I explained to him that it wouldn’t work and asked him to find me another available flight, even one with a connection. After 15 minutes on hold, he booked me on a flight the next morning, upgraded me to an exit row free of charge ($30 in savings), and emailed me my confirmation. I hung up, pretty pleased that I would get to spend an extra day in Florida. Of course, I have a condo there so I don’t have to pay for a hotel, but even if I was in another city without free housing, I still wouldn’t have an issue.
No, Spirit didn’t give me free hotel room. No, Spirit didn’t give me a meal, or a credit for a cab ride, or even a free fanny pack. All they did was get me on a flight a day later, and not even a comparable flight. Yet, I’m not mad, I’m not ranting on Facebook or Twitter about it: in fact, I congratulated them on doing a great job keeping prices reasonable.
Others in this same situation are all over the Internet, demanding that government or “someone” do something about the travesty that is Spirit’s cancellation policy. This anarchist type disagrees, and wishes those other whiners would shut the fuck up and preferably not occupy any seats near me on a flight, because they’ll hear it good and hard without lube if they ever bring it up within earshot of me.
Spirit offers very low fares because their Contract of Carriage (PDF link) specifically denies any and all benefits to flying. They have no benefits. Want a bottle of water? $2. Coffee? $2. Bag of pretzels? $2. Want to bring on a carry-on? $20-$100 per flight, depending on where you buy it, each way, each segment. Check-in? $18+. Want to book a ticket online? It’s $7 more per segment than booking it at the terminal. Forget to print your boarding pass? $5.
Cancelled flight? You get a credit that you have to book within 60 days for a flight within 365, but that’s it. Or you can get on a later flight, maybe days later.
This is a good thing. My flight to Florida was $111 remember. Round trip. About half of that was government taxes. Spirit’s Contract of Carriage is on their website and spells it out clearly: you get nothing for free.
Other airlines have fabulous cancellation policies: free hotels, free meals, free cab rides, free plastic airplanes for the kids, free blankets for cold flights, free water and soda and coffee and pretzels.
Listen, asshole: those things aren’t free. A flight on Delta or American or United or Southwest would’ve cost me at least $167 more. Guess what else is included “free” in that $167? Flight insurance for cancellations.
They don’t call it flight insurance, they don’t really advertise it, but it is insurance. Spirit offers flight insurance in case of cancellations. It’s available to be bought when you check out, and I think it’s around $20. I don’t buy it. American Express offers travel insurance, as do most major credit cards. You can even buy flight insurance with cash at a travel agency. It costs more, but it’s available. Or, it’s hidden in your ticket price.
I know the risks of flying Spirit, but I’ve had only 1 cancellation for every 46 segments on average. Spirit offers that insurance for $20, right? I figure I’ve saved $920 in insurance costs (hidden or otherwise) because I don’t get cancelled on often. That’s enough, so far, for me to book a 5 star hotel in New York City if I wanted to (or 7 nights at a 2 star hotel). I could’ve rented a Ferrari for 3 days on that savings and driven home to Chicago.
You pricks who whine for entitlements forget that the market has answers that government does not: if you want better terms, pay for it. You whiners are assholes. It’s too bad that it’s illegal to punch people who complain, the world would be a better place if we could knock out a tooth or two when people make demands for entitlements.
Even though Spirit delayed me at least a day and gave me zero freebies, I am already booking my next 5 trips on them. New York for $68 sounds lovely. That’s round trip. Boston for $56 also sounds lovely. Round trip. I won’t buy the optional insurance. I won’t book United or American or Delta or JetBlue. I’ll save hundres, thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars over the full fare full service airlines, and put that in my pocket for the times cancellations or mishaps happen.
And they do happen, even on the major airlines with “free” insurance.
And when they happen there, the same prick whiner entitled bastards will be complaining. And I still don’t have the right to sock them in their ugly mouths.