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That’s the spirit

I have a love/hate relationship with flying. I love where it takes me and how fast a flight can cover the miles. The other parts I’m not so crazy about, primarily the loss of control (i.e. I’m not in the driver’s seat) and cost.

For price-checkers, there’s good news on the last front. The New Orleans airport is host to Spirit, an airline making a name for itself with ultra-low ticket prices. For example, a few weeks ago, we bought tickets for a non-stop flight from NOLA to Raleigh for a hundred bucks, round-trip. If I’d jumped on the fare offered the night before I made reservations, they would have been $70.   

Yeah, so I learned a lesson about procrastination.

Anyway, we made an early morning drive down to the Crescent City’s airport, maneuvered through all the security stuff, and found ourselves seated in the appropriate boarding area uncharacteristically early. Then, of course, our flight was delayed.

Suddenly we had time to take in the views, like the one of the guy by the window sipping on a coke and munching through a bag of Chex Mix. Oh, the power of suggestion. It wasn’t long before we had secured our own bag of (you guessed it) Chex Mix — at four times the regular price, mind you. And all this before 9 a.m.

We looked around and spotted the couple who was with us on the parking lot shuttle bus. I was confused. The Raleigh-Durham airport is on the way to Michigan? Guess so. That’s where she told me they were going, at least. I knew this because I asked about the jacket on her arm.

And then there was the adorable little girl sitting on her mother’s lap. The Muslim mom was hijabed out, but her daughter, in contrast, was wearing a tiny T-shirt emblazoned with “Girls run the world.”

Hmmm.

A Hindu monk, decked out in the traditional orange garb, made his way down the terminal. Across the aisle, a lady cocooned in a sweatshirt and hood slept on a North Face backpack.

Speaking of backpacks, the deal with Spirit is you’re allowed to carry only one personal item (8x14x18 inches) on board. There’s a charge for anything else, so I tried to travel light. It’s surprising what you can fit in a backpack — hair straighteners, graduation gifts, three changes of clothes. When I placed mine into the airport bin to see if it passed regulations, it cleared with several inches to spare. Wow. I could have brought those flip flops I left behind.

About the time we finished off our Chex Mix, the plane arrived. It was sporting the older Spirit logo on its side: Home of the Bare Fare. My husband couldn’t resist.

“What, are they flying naked on there? Or are they barely flying?”

Spirit’s bright yellow and black design scheme is hard to miss, and it carried through to the staff uniforms. They were cheery enough (the staff, not the uniforms) and even involved us in some games mid-flight. 

“Turn your tray down to see if you’re in the lucky seat,” a stewardess (do they still call them that?) called out over the loudspeaker. The guy in 23B followed instructions and found a card worth 5,000 sky miles taped to his tray. Nice.

Later, staff passed out information to those interested in learning about other ways of earning miles. After flyers filled out the paperwork, staff retrieved the plastic Spirit pens they had offered for use. “We’re trying to save money here,” they smiled.

Most everything with Spirit is a la carte (they call it a la smarte.) You pay extra for checked luggage, assigned seats, bigger seats, refreshments. That’s OK by me. I can do without the frills. Just get me from Point A to Point B, which they did, with no complaints.

So, until the price bubble bursts, I’m glad we have some more airline options in the area. Maybe we can lure them closer, like to Jackson International.

That’s the Spirit.

   

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.