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Commercials of YesterYear: Spirit Airlines

"Catch the spirit... on Spirit Airlines!"

As a pilot, I don't fly for Spirit.  I've never flown on them and likely never will have a reason to, but if you know anything about air travel, you've heard of Spirit.  Perhaps you've even seen the viral videos on World Star Hip Hop.  Back in the day, though, Spirit was nothing like the no-frills, nickel and dime, budget airline they are today.  

Don't get me wrong, they were certainly an economy class carrier. Still, they had a niche market of leisure destinations in Florida and the Caribbean, primarily from the northeast United States states, for dirt cheap.  Today, they are a national airline with 157 planes and 77 destinations (as of the time of writing.)  

Back when I was growing up there was three commercials that would repeatedly air on FOX 5 (WNYW), UPN 9 (WWOR), and Pix 11 (WPIX).  The first was for "Beautiful" Mount Airy Lodge (which you can read about HERE!!!)  The second was a short-lived budget startup airline called Kiwi International Airlines.  The last was Spirit.

Spirit had fun little commercials that advertised cheap fares to fun-sounding places like Orlando and Las Vegas or the Caribbean with a catchy little jingle that still stays with me today.  Every time I see a Spirit plane, even now in 2021, my mind reaches back to this commercial and its catchy little tune.

Believe it or not, Spirit started as a trucking company in 1964 as Clippert Trucking and eventually changed names to Ground Air Transfer in '74.  In 1983 they launched charter air service from Detroit, selling vacation packages to entertainment destinations such as Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and the Bahamas.

In 1990, as "Charter One," they began scheduled service from Boston to Atlantic City.  In '92, after purchasing their first jet aircraft, they changed the name to Spirit Airlines with scheduled flights from Detroit and Atlantic City to Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.  

In 1993, they would begin adding Florida destinations such as Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Fort Myers.  Over the next few years, they would expand to bigger markets like Los Angeles and New York City using older DC-9 and MD-80 series of aircraft painted in white with bright blues and red striping along with the popular catchphrase, "Catch the Spirit... on Spirit Airlines!"

In 2006, Spirit ordered 30 new Airbus A320 aircraft to replace their tired old fleet of MD80's and used this opportunity to refresh the airline.  Painting their airplanes silver and black, they made moves into new markets seeking out the business-oriented customers rather than the traditional leisure passenger.  They even created a business class, a big move away from their high-density airplanes, and branded it "Spirit Plus."

This change only lasted two years when during the financial crisis of 2008, they rebranded again with an all-white livery (paint scheme) with red, green, and blue colors, giving it a more "tropical" and "fun" feel again in hopes of attracting more leisure clientele as business travel dried up.  They also began posting advertisements on the aircraft's side, the overhead bins, tray tables, and bulkheads to raise revenue.  Due to the recession and business travel evaporating, they would also rebrand "Business Class" to "The Big Front Seat," where the person could choose to sit in a roomy seat at the front of the airplane for an additional fee.  In 2010, they became famous for being the first airline in the United States to charge for a carry on bag.  

In 2014, Spirit would rebrand one more time into an "Ultra-Low-Cost Carrier."  Painting their airplanes in bright yellow with black lettering, they began charging for nearly everything customers were used to getting included in their fare.  This is the version of Spirit we all know today.  

The commercial I remember so vividly was probably from 1994 or 1995, and I have spent hundreds of hours over the years trying to find it online.  Unfortunately, the only commercial that contains the old jingle that I can find ANYWHERE is from 1999.  

Thankfully, like the old ads from the mid to early 90s that I remember, it has the airline's famous jingle and the white MD80 zooming past several times in the short ad.  It's quite similar to the ones used earlier in the 90s.  Complete with stock "vacation" shots of golf, beaches, and swimming, and the closing shot of a Spirit flight crew is pretty close to how I remember it.  

It even has the official "Captain nod" that I've somehow learned through osmosis when I say goodbye to customers after a flight.

If you are from the New York Metro area and saw these commercials practically on a loop as a child of the 90s, please share in my glee of hearing it once again!  If you weren't so lucky, please enjoy this nostalgia blast from 1999!