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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Podcast: Traveling on Spirit Airlines’ ‘Men’s Club’

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Imagine boarding an airplane, having your luggage swept aside and put in a special trash bin — all the better to get a view of the empty seats. Welcome to the “men’s club,” a space on either side of the full-size deck, where men’s wear — suits, ties, accessories — is both kept separate from the women’s section and kept secret.

This setup was a fixture on the same Spirit Airlines jet that took CNN crews to see the final scenes of Dazed and Confused, where Matthew McConaughey has a man’s club meeting to discuss the rules that must be followed at gatherings of people who are coming of age in the late-1970s.

Another Spirit Flight 300 took a group of HuffPost reporters from Dallas/Fort Worth to Love Field for the end of the Black Lives Matter movement, and back — a day in the life of America’s third-largest city.

A fourth flight takes a group of millennials from New York to try their hand at traveling in domestic commercial planes, on one of the 12 new Boeing 737 MAX 9s that have been built but have yet to be delivered, so that Spirit can expand its fleet.

Also part of the journey: a tour of an alternative gym that was a favorite hangout of punk rockers in Texas and has since become a commercial fitness center, and a visit to a used-car lot that has become a spot for weekend rave parties.

We began our mission one early morning at Business Bay in Dubai, where we met up with Vinnie Malarkey, one of the few stars of the LA punk movement of the late 1970s, and subsequently known as “the black sheep of punk rock.” He was planning to surprise us by telling us his whole life story, as he had not done so since he was 13 years old.

For nearly 12 hours, on multiple occasions, we flew across the world — on Spirit Airlines jets that were designed specifically for entertaining travelers. Much of what you find on these flights could never make it onto a commercial plane.

This is our final entry of the trip, which took us from Mexico to the Texas panhandle — a process that would last about two months and cover about 4,500 miles.

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