Hell Flight: Spirit Airlines' 19-Hour Trip

Nothing went right on Spirit Airlines flight 310 from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale last Saturday.

First, an elderly man allegedly threw a tantrum during the flight – fellow passengers described him as “kicking and screaming” – so the plane diverted to Houston. As a result, the four-and-a-half hour flight to Florida stretched into a 19-hour ordeal.

Spirit: How Cheap is Too Cheap

Long Delay on Tarmac, in Airport

Upon landing in Houston, the elderly man was taken off the plane but the other passengers sat onboard for hours, which made them angry – but that was nothing compared to the screaming that erupted when the airline told them they’d be put on a bus for a five-hour ride to Dallas to catch a flight to Florida (Spirit does not fly from Houston to Ft. Lauderdale). Ultimately, the passengers deplaned then boarded a new flight, arriving at their destination about 19 hours after they started.

The 8 Lies of Air Travel

Where You Can Fly in Less than 19 Hours

FareCompare checked flight time data and found several far-flung, exotic locations the Spirit passengers could have flown to – in less than 19 hours:

  • Los Angeles – Singapore: 17 hours, 34 minutes
  • Los Angeles – Mumbai: 17 hours, 25 minutes
  • Los Angeles – Dubai: 16 hours, 40 minutes
  • Los Angeles – Sydney: 15 hours
  • Los Angeles – Punta Arenas: 13 hours, 17 minutes
  • Los Angeles – Moscow: 12 hours, 10 minutes

Spirit Apologizes – Offers Refund, Credit

Why so long a delay? Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson told FareCompare the airline is handing out refunds plus a voucher good for future flights¬†then explained what happened this way: “When we are forced to divert to an airport that Spirit does not currently serve, it takes additional time to secure a gate and assist customers in safely deplaning. We apologize for the inconvenience this caused our customers.”

But it was much more than an inconvenience, according to one passenger quoted in a news story, who said, “It was terrible. It was unreal. It was painful.” It was also not the first time Spirit has gotten bad press.

Spirit Passenger: ‘Worst Airline in America’

Longer-than-scheduled flights are nothing new for Spirit. International Business Times columnist Benjamin Reeves wrote a column about his own debacle – “Why Spirit is the Worst Airline in America” – in which a two-hour long Chicago to New York flight stretched into a 24-hour long saga. As Reeves told FareCompare, “Spirit’s treatment of its customers generally indicates that the bottom-line is the company’s only priority.” By the way, Reeves’¬†article about his airline adventure began with this line: “I will never, ever, ever fly on Spirit Airlines again.”

Spirit and the Dying Vet

In April of this year, a dying veteran tried to get Spirit to refund his ticket, since he did not expect to live to use it. Only after an avalanche of bad publicity, complete with Facebook condemnations, did the airline relent.

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Published: July 10, 2012