You don't deserve an
airline version of this.
Myrtle Beach - but at THIS cost?
By Torleif Sorenson on 1/24/13
Even if you are relatively new to golf, chances are that you've seen a magazine or online advertisement for golf packages and specials in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area. This writer refuses to dissuade you from going to Myrtle, but it *is* worth a cautionary tale.

We certainly would not want to be responsible for a Myrtle Beach-golf trip-version of oobgolf co-founder Andrew's U-Save rental car nightmare.

Here's the story: Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, a very well-known (darned-near ubiquitous) advertiser in golf magazines and web sites, has announced new non-stop seasonal air service to Myrtle Beach International Airport from Baltimore-Washington and from Philadelphia.

The potential problem is that those flights are on Spirit Airlines.

In case you aren't already aware of this ultra low-cost air carrier's checkered history (a good deal of which is documented in their Wikipedia article), Spirit Airlines began operating under that name in 1992, but in 2007 transitioned into a low-cost carrier. Originally, this meant charging a fee for every checked bag and charging for beverages and snacks in-flight. Then the drop-down tray tables, overhead compartments, and even the aircraft fuselages became flying billboards for advertisers willing to pony up the dough.

In 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration fined Spirit Airlines $375,000 for violating various consumer protection regulations.

The trouble got worse in 2010, when pilots went on strike, forcing the airline to forge a contract commensurate with those at other carriers. The very next month, Spirit Airlines began charging $45 for carry-on bags stored in the overhead bins when they're too big to fit under the seat. That drew a humorous comment from Brandon M. Macsata, executive director of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights:
"It begs the question, what is next? Are airlines such as Spirit Airlines going to begin charging its customers for seat belts?"
Almost, apparently. In 2011, Spirit Airlines began charging customers another $5 to have a boarding pass printed at the airport, drawing more outrage from customers and consumer groups.

The New York Times' David Segal authored a less-than-flattering picture of CEO Ben Baldanza, whom Segal characterized as relishing his well-publicized battles with customers and signing off on controversial advertisement campaigns that a variety of consumers and groups have found offensive.

But Spirit Airlines' ugliest episode to date might be their treatment of a dying former U.S. Marine, Jerry Meekins, who had purchased a ticket from the company, but was later advised by his doctor not to fly. The airline refused to refund the dying veteran's money. After another round of predictable outrage, Baldanza finally relented, refunding Meekins' money and also donating to the Wounded Warrior Project.

But that doesn't seem to have changed the corporate culture at Spirit Airlines; earlier this month, the UK-based aviation research group Skytrax downgraded Spirit from three to two stars:
"We do not allow our analysis or assessment to be impacted by customer feedback, which has been very negative for Spirit Airlines through much of last year, but when there is such a trend we do bring forward inspections to have confidence that we have the correct Quality ratings. As a result of these inspections, we found that standards were not delivering to the previous 3-Star ranking level that was awarded to Spirit Airlines."
We don't want you to *not* play golf in Myrtle; with dozens of courses in the area - some very highly regarded - it's a trip that even I deserve to take someday.

But if an airline charges $45 for bags going into overhead bins, what would they charge for checking your golf clubs? In getting anywhere on commercial airlines, the old adage is true: Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware. Do your homework first.

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Image via Andrew Brown

[ comments ]
mjaber says:
I would never fly Spirit. I've done alot of flying, and there is nothing more irritating than the nickel-and-diming by the airline industry, in general, and Spirit, in particular. I even avoided Southwest whenever I could, due to their "pick your own seat at boarding" practice. My prefernce when flying was to have a window seat, so in order to insure that I got my preference, I would have to pay Southwest for that priveledge. The "major" airlines at that time, still allowed you to pick a seat. I'm not sure if they still do, as it has been a couple years since I last travelled extensively.
bkuehn1952 says:
My Spirit story: Our group was flying Spirit to Myrtle from Detroit early Friday. We would play 18 in the afternoon, 36 each day Sat/Sun and 18 Monday morning before flying back. After everyone was aboard, the pilot announced that the plane had too much fuel loaded. The plane was overweight. They were going to try to burn off fuel by sitting at the gate and running the engines. After a few minutes, they realized the futility of that exercise. Then they announced that it would take several hours to get a truck over to pump the fuel out. Solution?? They randomly off-loaded passenger's luggage. Two of the guys had their golf shoes in their luggage and it turned out their bags got left behind in Detroit, along with several dozen other people. Fortunately for me, I had a carry-on with golf shoes and the essentials and my golf bag made it to Myrtle. Our two buddies had to play in street shoes or buy a new pair of golf shoes at the first course we played. Their luggage was delivered Saturday night.
DougE says:
Geez, and I just checked into their prices last week for a prospective buddy trip in the spring to MB from New York's LaGuardia and they seemed so good. Found fares of $150 RT. I guess if my golf bag is another $30 or $40 each way and my carry on is another $45, that price ain't so hot. I'll prolly drive anyway.
jfurr says:
Aren't all airlines charging for checked and large/heavy items these days?

More direct flights sounds good to me.
Duke of Hazards says:
yelp when in doubt
jfurr says:
I looked it up $30 to check golf bag on Spirit. $25 on the other airlines I searched. I would have no problem flying Spirit - someone is going to have a bad experience somewhere if you fly enough IMO
falcon50driver says:
I'll be flying commercial to Orlando soon, not looking forward to that. I prefer for my seat to be in the pointy end of the plane.
srogers13 says:
You could fly a cheap airline and ship your clubs FedEx :)
Torleif Sorenson says:
Southwest didn't charge extra when I took my clubs with me to Jackson, Mississippi back in September - nor did they lose my clubs along the way, so kudos to them!

And 1000 points to SRogers13 for reminding us of an alternative for getting clubs and clothes to a destination.
mjaber says:
When I travelled with my clubs, there was no additional charge over the normal checked bag fee... unless it was overweight.
jerrymac2 says:
I would say...unless I can't possibly avoid it.....I will NEVER fly Spirit airlines again...and it's for one simple reason....and it's not even the fees and money. The last time I flew to myrtle beach....I found that they added rows of seats to cram more people into each flight. I'm not that big a guy (5'9" 200 lbs, not huge by any means) I could barely get into the seat because the row in front of me was so close.....I could not get my backpack under the seat in front of me because my head was hitting the back of the seat in front of me.....and my tray table hit me in the chest when I tried to put it down. anyone taller than 5'10" would feel like their knees were hitting them in the throat. My girlfriend is 6'0" tall and she could barely get in the seat. So...therefore I will never fly them again after that experience.
cherreynolds says:
At least if your flight is pricey, your trip will be cheap. The best place I have found for cheap Myrtle Beach golf packages is but they can't help with flights.
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