Live and Learn

June 24, 2016
Hearing about the good and the bad is one thing, but living through it gains perspective.

One of the best things about working in journalism is getting to see things first hand.

I’m a firm believer in experiencing the news, not just reporting it, so when I needed to find travel arrangement to the AAAE Expo in Houston, I decided it was time to try something new. I took the plunge into the ultra-low cost airlines pool by booking a flight on Spirit Airlines and opted to take it out of O’Hare during the worst of the TSA backups.

I’m still learning the industry, so I figured why not go through one of the world’s busiest airports during a mass crunch on TSA while taking the airline with the lowest score on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

It was, well, interesting to say the least.

After arriving at O’Hare to greet a 2-plus hour security line in Terminal 3, I waded through the zigzagging line to get inside. I hustled to my gate and stood there for a few minutes before noticing it had been changed despite the flight information board not being updated.

Three sudden gate changes later, I found myself at a Frontier gate waiting for a Spirit flight with no indication the plane was even supposed to load there. Some people were upset, some were concerned they’d miss their flight and some of us were just along for the experience.

Sure it was annoying and it was a little nerve-wracking, but honestly, it was worth the experience.

While the TSA line was long, O’Hare offers WiFi, so I was able to connect and zone out before it was my turn in line, so it didn’t seem as long as it really took.

And trying to find the right gate was irksome, but it actually gave me a chance to befriend a few fellow passengers. And with an abundance of shops at O’Hare, it was easy to buy a soda before my trip.

The experience was eye-opening, but definitely something I’d do again. Most of us tend to stick to our favorite airlines, but if we want to build a better industry, you need to experience the rough patches firsthand to find the solutions.

When you live these experiences it shows you what improvements could be made to make a more pleasurable experience for passengers.

And it’s more important than ever as more people take to the skies. People are demanding more service from airlines like Spirit, so the only way airports and airlines can make sure experiences improve is to live the challenges.