The Last Flight Out Of Orlando
We flew on a Spirit Airlines flight into Greensboro today. Turns out it's the last one EVER.
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Folks, I’m a little behind today on the newsletter because I arrived back from Disney World as the answer to a trivia question:
Q: Who was on the last direct Spirit Airlines flight from Orlando to Greensboro?
I was waiting downstairs at baggage claim a few hours ago when an elderly volunteer strolled up to folks who were otherwise staring at their phones. “Yeppppp,” he said to nobody in particular, “gonna take them a bit to unload that Spirit plane, seeing as how it’s the last one.”
The trap was sprung.
“For today,” someone said, finishing his sentence.
“No!” the volunteer said. “Ever!”
We had no idea that we had just participated in such a momentous, perhaps bittersweet moment. We’d booked the flight somewhat late, since we were shocked to know that it even existed. It turns out it’s only been back for a short time. Spirit only came to Greensboro three years ago, much to the delight of whoever this guy is:
But, like many airlines, Spirit cut routes during the pandemic, and the Orlando flight went away, only to come back in May. Now it appears to be gone for good.
Such is life at a small airport. Spirit cut a Greensboro to Fort Lauderdale flight back in August, but said at the time that it was keeping Orlando. A few years back, when we still had family living in Denver, we were delighted to see a direct flight from Greensboro on Frontier, although that one didn’t last either. Oddly enough, Alaska Airlines parked a bunch of jetliners at Piedmont Triad airport at the beginning of the pandemic, and most of them are still there.
Still, though, I love little airports. On Wednesday morning, I doomscrolled through Twitter during my ride to the terminal and saw zig-zagging lines of miserable passengers in Raleigh and Charlotte. I was worried until we pulled up to the ticket counter in Greensboro and found the place mostly deserted. Hence, we had time to deal with a small snafu: We’d consolidated our family’s stuff into two suitcases, since we were paying by the bag. But we didn’t know that Spirit’s weight limit was 40 pounds per suitcase, which then set us off in a mad scramble to stuff 15 pounds worth of the heaviest non-liquid stuff into our already-full backpacks. The supervisor on duty was really, really friendly. First, she upped our allowance to 42 pounds per bag. “I’m upping it,” she declared. “I can’t do that to you.” Then, when we were literally out of space, she went into the back and found a reusable Spirit grocery bag for us to use as our last personal item. “Just remember to bring this back to me when you return,” she said.
We saw her just hanging out at baggage claim this morning. “Keep it,” she told us about the bag. “We don’t have any flights anymore. It’s a souvenir!”
There’s no experience quite like doing something on the last day of its existence. I can only compare this to being at a bar on the night that it closes for good. Long ago, I walked into a place called Mycroft’s in Huntington, West Virginia during its final moments. At 11 p.m., the beer magically became free. At midnight, the bartenders joyously shot soda water to clear everyone out. Same thing happened to me eleven years ago on the final night at Sir Edmond Halley’s in Charlotte. That experience was a little more mournful, although there was a fair degree of improvisation and DGAF attitude on the part of the staff, who started pouring shots of whatever into whatever glasses they had left. At closing time, they looked the other way as people started prying pictures off of the walls. Sir Ed’s ended up re-opening under new ownership, though, so I didn’t mourn it for long.
It’s hard to have the same feelings at an airport, I guess. After all, nobody’s pining for the good ol’ days of, ahem, SPIRIT AIRLINES. And, technically, this was the penultimate flight out of Greensboro, since our plane turned around and flew back to Orlando about an hour after it arrived. I wonder how those folks are getting home.
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Just Rank The Airports
Okay fine, here’s a ranking of all of the airports in North Carolina with commercial flights:
If you’re wondering, Greenville has three direct flights to Charlotte every day AND NOTHING ELSE.
Every airport saw a drastic drop in passengers in 2020. But yes, Charlotte is still the gorilla in the room on account of that American Airlines hub which, if you’re wondering, could have ended up in Greensboro had things broken differently. Instead, Greensboro has a pretty large FedEx cargo operation, so when it comes to biggest airports by freight, things look a little different:
Also, the presidential plane uses Greensboro’s airport to practice takeoffs and landings quite a bit.
Last thing: Charlotte’s original airport terminal from 1954 is still there, although maybe not for long.
Last last thing: Winston-Salem’s Z. Smith Reynolds Airport no longer has any commercial flights, but it does have stained glass windows in its terminal, as I discovered during a visit this summer.
Thanks for choosing the North Carolina Rabbit Hole, and enjoy this connecting flight to your final internet destination today, wherever that may be.
I love the last flight article. Maybe 10 years ago I was on the last flight from Milwaukee to Flint MI, which was a very convenient flight to a small airport about an hour north of Detroit which was the easiest way to get to my home town from Milwaukee, when I lived there. There was/is a bar in Milwaukee that gives out bumper stickers that say "I closed Wolski's" - you need a bumper sticker than says "I closed Orlando to Greensboro"!
I just love this article so much, Jeremy! Especially the last part about the stained glass windows at INT. I flew for Piedmont Airlines (under Tom Davis) as a flight attendant and trained at the Winston-Salem airport. Piedmont had a scheduled flight from INT-GSO. Hilarious. But those were the glory days! I love small regional airports, too.
Boy, did you ever bring it to life, again. Regional carriers rock! Here's to Spirit, Piedmont and the beauty of great customer service and stained glasses windows.