I initially intended to use Spirit Airlines to fly to Medellin in 2010, however with the strike that was occurring days before my scheduled departure, I decided to go with the Colombian discount airline, Aires, instead.
After flying from Aires to Cartagena last year, as well as using them for two trips to Cali, I was happy to use them again in 2011.
Unfortunately, their flights out of New York City were sold out at least two months in advance for February. And checking the website now, it appears the route is no longer being offered.
I checked Spirit Air, and found a rate of about $157 one way from Ronald Reagan National airport in northern Virginia to Medellin, via a short layover in Fort Lauderdale.
The price was too good to pass up, and even after adding a $33 charge for one checked bag, it was still cheap at about $190.
In 2010, I’d paid for a return flight on Aires as proof of onward travel should I need it upon arrival in Colombia. I didn’t, and later turned that ticket into a credit I applied toward my return flight last December.
Neither time that I entered Colombia was I asked for proof of onward travel, nor had it ever been a sticking point when renewing my tourist visa. This time, I decided to skip the expense and leave myself flexible.
The Spirit Air flights to Medellin starts with the first departure from DC at 7 am EST, so I made sure to arrive at the airport by 4 am. There was nobody at the Terminal A ticket counter until about 4:30 am.
When it was my turn, I was told I needed to purchase a return flight. I resisted, but the rep was quick to mention they were fined the prior week over this issue.
I asked him to pull up a flight from Medellin to Fort Lauderdale for 6 month’s from that date. He did, and I forked over another $223 for the return flight.
Once my ticket info was squared away, I went through security, and waited to board the flight. It was an orderly process, as the plane was split up into zones.
My seat was the second to last on the plane, and during some turbulence, I felt especially uneasy all the way back there. I’m use to sitting over the wing, which I imagine is a spot that feels more stable.
The legroom on the plane was minimal, but it was only about 2 hours to Florida so you suck it up because that’s part of why the prices are so cheap. I was really tired, and the flight seemed to go by quickly.
When we disembarked in Fort Lauderdale, we emptied into the Spirit Air terminal and it was filled with people coming and going from planes.
Families, kids playing on the floor, a long line to buy snacks and use the bathrooms.
It’s not a terminal I’d want to go through often. Spirit Air flies to several locations in Colombia, besides Medellin, including Bogota, Cartagena, and Barranquilla.
After an hour on the ground, we boarded the second flight in the same orderly manner. This flight was about 3 hours, as we were aided by a tailwind.
We passed pretty blue waters in the Caribbean Sea, and on approach to the Medellin international airport, dropped out of the clouds and zoomed through some large green valleys.
The verdent land was scarred by numerous landslides, leaving tracks of exposed red mud drifting down the mountainsides.
2010 was a record year for rains, and landslides caused many deaths and road closures throughout the country.
And while I thought the final approach through the mountains, with limited visibility due to clouds was a little sketchy (in other words, I imagined us smashing into a mountainside at any moment), the plane landed perfectly, and taxi’d to the gate.
Going through Immigration was a breeze, I collected my bag, and hopped on the shuttle bus back to central Medellin.
Overall, I’d fly Spirit Air again because of their low rates.
The service was friendly too, but the legroom and personal space was severely lacking, especially if the person in the seat in front of you chose to recline it (which most did).
I’m not sure if this is actually the case, but I feel as though there was more space on the Aires flights.