A Surgeon Should Know Better to Fly With His Pregnant Wife on Spirit

Tony Woodlief brings us the story of a pregnant woman being refused water by Spirit Airlines during a two-hour tarmac delay.

I agree with the standard fare outrage in this story, sometimes you just need water, pregnant woman, blah blah. It’s pretty indecent to refuse the request, even if the flight attendants couldn’t be moving around the cabin a great deal at that time, even if they weren’t in a position to provide water service to everyone. There would have been a reasonable way to handle the issue and this wasn’t it.

The only thing I suppose that’s worth adding here is that a bit of personal responsibility is in order here. The person ejected from the aircraft was the woman’s husband, and he’s the Chief of Obesity Surgery at Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital. No doubt an intelligent man, and in choosing his travel providers I would expect him to be a little more discerning than to choose to fly Spirit. He ought to both know better and be expected to feel that his family deserves better.

The President of the airline declared publicly (while working at US Airways) that he doesn’t value his customers (because in buying tickets at the prices the airline offers to sell them for, they aren’t spending enough money). So it was no surprise to the more than casual observer when as President of Spirit, Ben Baldanza became famous accidentally hitting reply-all when instructing subordinates to tell a complaining customer,

[W]e owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.

I recognize that not everyone may be aware of Spirit’s corporate culture. And that Spirit, which as far as I’ve seen so far hasn’t commented on this story, might well disavow the outcome. But it appears to me an airline that is focused on lowest possible costs, not investing in service, as a way to offer low fares and attract customers. But in this case at least there really is a difference in travel providers, there is a difference, and I do rather expect a surgeon of this man’s stature to care about who he’s doing business with and make intelligent choices.

Call me sexist, perhaps, for assuming that the surgeon made the decision to buy the tickets (perhaps it was the doctor’s pregnant wife, the critique applies equally), this is a logical leap, but he was taking the lead in aggressively seeking the water — I would have expect him to be equally aggressive prior to the trip in ensuring he was with a travel provider equipped to handle his needs.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. He should have thought ahead and purchased a bottle of water or soda at the airport for the trip. If at FLL there is a coke machine by the gate. I fly Spirit, and if I am on a $9 ticket, I expect $9 service. It gets me from A to B, that is all I want. Yes they suck, but they get you there, and alot of other airlines these days are not much different.

  2. I don’t understand why people continually bash Spirit. I’ve flown with them a bunch of times, and their service is roughly on par with coach on every other domestic airline. They are almost always cheaper than the competition, and in cases where they’re charging $9, they are cheaper than any other means of transportation.

    They have been pretty upfront with what they offer: a cheap seat. That’s it. If you care about more than a cheap seat then fly, well, um, I’m not sure, because domestic coach service is no better than what Spirit offers. I’ll take their $78 no advance purchase tix from LGA-FLL any day. Or their $118 no advance purchase “big front seat” on the same flight. Bring your own water and people should stop complaining.

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