The first time I ever heard about Spirit Airlines was on February 18, 2017. I remember the conversation well. One of my best friends had come down to visit and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which coincidentally is also her and I’s anniversary date. She pulls out a book, Simple Matters, by Erin Boyle from her backpack and handed it to me as our anniversary gift. She proceeded to tell Mike and I about Spirit Airlines, which she used to fly from the Bay Area to Orange County. She told us, “Never fly Spirit Airlines”, with disgust in her voice. The airlines apparently charges additional fees for things such as a carry-on bag, for checking in at the airport, and for picking your seat. The airlines also had no complimentary beverage or snack, and the seats are “super thin and uncomfortable”. “I am never flying Spirit Airlines again,” she vowed.
I nodded and booed and awwwed with her during her grievous tale, and then later forgot about it. A few weeks after that, I was trying to book a flight to visit another best friend in her new home in New Orleans, or as we would later learn to call it, “Nawlins”. I was equally shocked as I was disappointed at the high cost of airplane tickets, ranging around $400-$500 dollars per person. Then I came across tickets that only cost half the price, at $215 per person. Spirit Airlines.
All of a sudden, I recalled the dissatisfaction my friend had with this airline, and a wave of doubt washed over me. I quickly googled the airline and found that my friend was correct in saying there were additional fees for everything. You could only carry a personal item (such as purse or backpack) with a maximum size of 18”x14”x8”. Additional carry-ons have a surcharge. You would also have to pay extra to choose your seat so you could sit with your travel buddy, which in this case was my husband. And you had to pay for water, or other drinks and snacks that you’d like to have on the plane. They did in fact also charge you extra for checking-in at the airport, which I have never even heard of before. But I decided to book it anyway, because of the amazing price tag.
I told myself that this would be a really good way to practice intentionality. Intentionality is defined as “the fact of being deliberate or purposive”. I have written a lot about down-sizing and minimalizing my life in the last year, and I thought to myself, why not put this same practice to use? I was determined to use the price cut to my advantage. I planned ahead and was very deliberate in my actions, and our packing. And I found that I absolutely loved the airline.
What Spirit Airline gives you that other airlines do not is the OPPORTUNITY to save money. All the other flights for that weekend were almost double, if not more than double, the price of Spirit Airlines. The more expensive airlines included a free drink and a bag of pretzels on the plane, an overhead bag, and a screen on the back of the seat in front of you, but that cost was reflected in their fee. Spirit Airlines gives you a choice. A choice to be mindful of your decisions. We were in New Orleans for an entire weekend, and I packed more than I needed, and then some, in my backpack. I had in there all the outfits that I needed for the weekend, plus an extra pair of sandals, an extra purse, and an extra outfit. On top of what I needed, I also had a 32 oz refillable water bottle (eco-friendly, and provides me with water on the plane), my camera bag including extra batteries and a charger, a thick novel (approximately 400 pages), a baseball cap, and all the necessary makeup and toiletries. Now you might be saying to yourself, “But Sam, you are 5’1” and your clothes and shoes are teeeeeeny”. Let me tell you something. My 6’3” husband was able to pack all of HIS necessary items, plus a chapter book and an extra pair of flipflops (size 12) anddd an extra outfit, in a smaller backpack than mine no less! And I think here-in lies the problem. We have a tendency to believe that we need MORE than what we actually do need.
On the way to New Orleans, I sat next to a girl (I had a middle seat off course) who was about my age. She turned to me and said that when she told her parents that she was flying Spirit Airlines, they had rolled their eyes at her and told her it was going to be an awful experience. She said so far it has truly been terrible, because she had to pay extra for her carry on. She said she would (ALSO) never fly Spirit Airlines again. Throughout the flight, she pulled out an extra pair of socks from her purse and slipped them on, and then switched into flip flops. She revealed that her purse can hold a large 8×12 spiral notebook, which she retrieved when she got bored. She also a pencil case that was full to the brim with what must have been 20 pens. Over the course of the next 2.5 hours, she used a single black sharpie. She got up at some point to use the bathroom, and came back with 2 mini Sky Vodkas, and a can of juice. She was upset that no free snack was included. And all I could think to myself was how, earlier this morning, my own husband turned to me and said, “Do you think we get free pretzels on the plane?!” with this worried look on his face.
It’s interesting to realize just how much we, as a society, expect. I think we have a tendency to have expectations that are too great. We expect amazing service and demand it to be available right at our fingertips. For example, we expect to be able to check in for a flight at the airport terminal. Spirit charges extra to do that, to pay for the time their people have to spend at the airport checking those guests in. But you can check-in online for free to save yourself the money, and hey, it saved us the hassle too! I think if I went around and asked people what they expected of an airline, most people would answer, “the bare necessities off course!” But are these really bare necessities? Do you really need them to serve you water or soda, and a bag of pretzels? Is it so awful if they didn’t? Couldn’t you plan ahead to bring an empty water bottle and fill it up at the terminal? Is that too much to ask?
I mean, to put it into perspective here, they are flying you from destination A to destination B at 500 miles per hour. That is a privilege in itself. Some children have to walk on foot for days at a time just to get water from a lake in a desert. How, then, could you complain about having to PAY for an alcoholic beverage. Or having to PAY for the ability to have whatever you think you need in your carry-on bag at your fingertips.
I heard a story from The Minimalists’ podcast about their experience with flying on a flight that made WIFI available for the first time. This was years ago off course, but before the airplane took off, a flight attendant’s voice came on the overhead speaker, and was proud to announce that this is the first time that airline was able to provide WIFI to their passengers. The crowd cheered and there was clapping and whooping and hip-hip-hooraying. Ten minutes into the flight, the WIFI went out. All of a sudden, people were booing and complaining and getting angry, saying “This is Bull***! I can’t believe the WIFI died.” Ten minutes ago, they were cheering because something they have never had before was made available to them. And within those same ten minutes, they started to believe that it should be a given. Something they never had before, they now thought was a REQUIREMENT. Their expectation changed within TEN MINUTES, and they assumed that they deserved the WIFI, and from here stemmed their anger. How quickly we are to assume that we deserve or have a right to certain commodities and services.
It is here that I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what we consider a bare necessity. It is also here that I’d like to recognize that assuming we need/deserve/require more than the bare necessities can cause much of the frustration, anger, and disappointment that we feel in our lives. Happiness stems from gratefulness in our ability to have a choice in this world. I am so happy I flew with Spirit Airlines. I am grateful that they gave me a chance to save money. I like that they gave me freedom of choice. I was able to travel without costing us an arm and a leg. I was able to re-connect with my best friend, which is what really matters at the end of the day. I wasn’t STARVING on this four hour flight to Nawlins, and even if I was, could a bag of pretzels save me? The seats were comfortable enough, I had leg room, access to a working bathroom on the plane, and they got me SAFELY to a destination 1894 miles away in under four hours. I’ll fly Spirit Airlines again, any day.