Spirit Airlines is flying high, expanding their dominance in the Caribbean and routes to South America. Starting out as a no frills airline, they have maintained their niche (in spite of soaring fuel costs) with perhaps the lowest fares of any domestic or International carrier. They maintain on-time departures and arrivals, fly new airbus A319 equipment, and practice the theory "an empty seat is a non revenue seat"; therefore, Spirit wisely and cleverly markets last minute fares as low as $9 on specific flights. They make up revenue by charging $20 to check bags at the airport, $10 when you check in on line, and flight attendants get a commission on the snacks and beverages they sell.  All it takes is a $9 investment to join the Spirit Air Club and receive notice of exclusive offers and special ultra low fares only available to members.

I buckle my seat belt as Spirit Airlines inaugural flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Nunez Airport in Cartagena revs its engines for take-off.  Once in the air, we will land in approximately two and half hours, gaining an hour on arrival during daylight savings time.  My heavily padded gray leather second row "big seat "reclines to a very comfortable pitch, has good back support, and is wide enough to sit in a lotus position or curl up and snooze.

Five Colombian doctors and two administrators  from Miami’s Children’s Hospital are on board along with Victoria Trucco, President of Sharing For Kids, a non profit organization  based in Miami that raises funds for charities dedicated  to helping children in Latin America. This is a humanitarian mission as well as a celebration; they have raised $20,000 to purchase much needed x-ray machines for the Children’s Hospital of Cartagena; boxes of smaller medical equipment being donated are on board, and Spirit Airlines has provided complimentary airline travel. Computers and weighing scales will follow.  Pediatrician Dr. Maria Stella Franco is the spokesperson for the group, and Miami’s Children’s Hospital, as they will also be presenting a free educational seminar to 270 doctors and medical students in Cartagena, visiting Cartagena’s Children’s Hospital, and meeting with city officials to develop an ongoing liaison between  the two hospitals. Miami Children’s Hospital’s mission is to collaborate with other to improve the health status of children.

Its smooth sailing all the way, and when we touch down, there’s much applause; this is an important notch in Spirit Airline’s expansion into South America. In addition to daily non stop service from Ft. Lauderdale to Cartagena, Spirit has non-stop service from Ft. Lauderdale to Bogotá, Trinidad and Tobago,.

Shortly after landing, United States Ambassador to Colombia, William Bromfield, Mayor of Cartagena, Judith Pinedo and Spirit Airline Executives gather for a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a Press conference and luncheon reception. This is a proud day for Spirit Airlines, the medical profession . . .  and the people of Cartagena.

Spirit Airlines offers hard - to - resist advanced and last minute fares to most Central American capitals, and eighteen Caribbean destinations. Upgrades to a "big seat" are available on all flights. There’s an easy connection from New York which makes a weekend or mid week fling in Cartagena a festive and fun alternative to the Hamptons.  

 For Spirit Airline Reservations, the lowest fares, the best hotel promotions and packages, car rentals, travel insurance and to join the $9 Spirit Air Club:
www.spiritair.com For more info on Miami Children’s Hospital: www.mch.com