60 Seconds with Free Spirit's #1 Flyer

60 Seconds with Free Spirit's #1 Flyer

We recently were able to catch the #1 member of the Spirit Airlines Free Spirit program at the airport in Atlantic City before he flew back to his winter home in Captiva, Florida (near Ft. Myers). Tom Markle owns a summer resort retail business in Stone Harbor, New Jersey and sells just about everything from sportswear to sunglasses. We asked him a few questions about his experience being #1 — the person who had earned the most number of miles in the Free Spirit program. As #1, he gets a plane named after him, a Spirit Vacations trip for two, limo service to and from the airport when traveling with Spirit, the opportunity to earn up to 400 percent of actual miles flown when booking refundable business-class tickets, and more.

InsideFlyer
How were you able to earn so many miles with Free Spirit?
Tom Markle
Well, I use the Free Spirit MasterCard to manage my business. I purchase merchandise for the store with the card so that’s how I was able to run up so many miles. I fly about 5,000 miles a month because I go back and forth from my Florida home to my home in New Jersey where my business is.

IF
How did you hear that you were #1 in the program?
Markle
I received a call from Cameron Trant. He called me the last week in October to make me aware that I was the one with the most miles. I really had not known until he called me and said that I had to file this affidavit by the end of the month or I would be disqualified, so of course I did, right away! (laughs)

IF
What were your first thoughts when you found out?
Markle
I was pleasantly surprised. I knew I would probably be a contender because I knew I had put about 750,000 on the credit card, but I didn’t know if there was anybody else out there using the card in that capacity. So I was pleased. I fly all the time on Spirit anyhow and so to be able to fly first class all the time is nice.

IF
Have you been treated any differently since becoming #1?
Markle
Not really, I’ve always been treated very nicely. For the last six years my wife and I have flown a lot on Spirit and I’ve always been treated really nice, in fact, there’s a couple of people I’d like to mention in Ft. Myers. Madeline and Trevor who work in the Ft. Myers terminal have really gone out of their way to be accommodating to my wife and I. There’s a gal up here in Atlantic City named Shirley and she’s also been helpful. Last year, my wife came down with colon cancer and she was on chemotherapy and we had to do a lot of changing of our flights. They were really accommodating in helping me to juggle our schedule when I had no idea what it would be.

IF
What is the best benefit to being #1?
Markle
There’s a couple of things — the limo service I think will be very convenient for me because we live about 45 minutes from the airport in Florida so to have limo service down there will be great. They also have companion flights and actually, I’m trying to see if they will change that — my wife has a pet bird that flies with us every time we go — so I’m hoping I can convince them to make that a bird flight (laughs) rather than a companion person flight. So that’s nice. Flying first class is nice, other than that, I guess I’ll name the plane after my business, Suncatcher.

IF
Is there anything else about the experience of being #1 that you’d like to share?
Markle
Well, there’s not really a lot to say. I’ve always been treated well here and it’s always nice to have a little extra treatment — I think we all like that. But other than that, after what my wife and I have been through with her health issues the last few years, everything else, other than good health, really doesn’t seem all that important anymore, you know what I mean? I’m just grateful that she has good health and God has spared her life — and so everything else doesn’t really matter, you know? But I do appreciate the little extra treatment I’ll be getting for the next year.

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