I just flew in from Ft. Lauderdale to New York, and, boy, am I tired! No, seriously though, I am. Because Spirit Airways has decided to change out their old seats for a new “lightweight, leather” model that doesn’t recline at all, I didn’t doze one bit on my 7 a.m. jaunt up the coast.
Just last week, Spirit released an absurd statement (one rivaled in ridiculous spin only by the airline’s own proud announcement in March that it would begin charging for carry-ons) that touted its new paralyzed seatbacks as a positive development for passengers. The claim:
1. The seats offer comfort throughout the entire flight, since you don’t need to put them in their full upright position during take-off and landing (right, because the lean-forward, lean-back thing is such an exhausting part of travel).
2. Customers appreciate that “there is no longer interference from the seat in front of you moving up and down throughout the flight.”
Yes, the inconsiderate gent in 14B sprawling back just as you dig into your chicken-flavored Cup-O’-Noodles is annoying. But not being able to recline at all? That’s plain infuriating. And, on any flight over two hours, as I can attest, terribly uncomfortable.
So yesterday, after I got into Laguardia—cramped, weary, and late for work thanks to a missed connection (we won’t even discuss Spirit’s habit of scheduling 25-minute layovers)—I called Misty Pinson, Spirit’s director of communications. My question: why does the airline insist on spinning cutbacks as customer service?
Pinson’s initial response was more nuanced than her press release: “The lighter seats are one of many cost-saving initiatives, and part of our efforts to be a greener airline,” she said. “Less fuel is better for the environment and it lowers expenses, meaning lower fares for passengers.”
Well, now, a green airline. That’s harder to argue with. Why not just go with that? It’s a better excuse for cheapness than “you're gonna love being stuck in one position the entire flight.”
Pinson also says Spirit customers send her “tons of emails on a whole slew of topics,” but that the non-reclinable seats haven’t elicited much of a reaction—probably, she added, because the three-inch permanent pitch of the new seats is still one inch deeper than the reclined pitch of the older model.
To that all I can say is: your normal seats only recline two inches? Seriously? That is almost more embarrassing than not reclining at all. Spirit—the most uncomfortable airline ever…no matter how you spin it.
Catesby Holmes is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure.