I flew Spirit Airlines, Saved $300 And Didn’t Die!

This seemed like an appropriate title for my quick foray into Spirit Airlines.  It’s pretty much the same position I took when I flew Frontier Airlines.  Spirit Airlines consistently offers ridiculously low fares to places you actually want to go.  You’ll hear plenty of horror stories about flying Spirit.  But, how bad is the actual experience?  I took a 2-hour flight on Spirit to answer just that question.

My flight on Spirit Airlines was roughly 2 hours, going from Las Vegas to Denver.  When I went to purchase the one-way flight on United Airlines, they wanted almost $400.  Spirit offered a similar option that was way less than $100.  With an add-on for a Big Front Seat (more on that later), I was in for about $100.  If Spirit could actually get me there without any issues, I’d save $300 for the company.

The Big Front Seat

I boarded my Spirit flight on-time and found my way to my second row seat.  An additional fee of roughly $35 had purchased me a seat that resembled a domestic first class seat you might find on American, Delta or United Airlines.  Decidedly an older generation seat, it still had plenty of legroom and ample cushion.

To be clear, that’s all my extra fee got me.  A big seat.  Near the front of the plane.  Drinks and snacks cost extra.  And, that was just fine with me.  I grabbed a snack and a bottle of water before I boarded the plane.

The flight attendant handling the announcements had a great sense of humor, similar to a Southwest Airlines flight attendants.  She cracked jokes while everyone was boarding and during the safety briefing.  Other than the large advertisements on the overhead bins, there wasn’t a whole lot different from any other domestic airline I’ve flown in the US.

I took a 30-minute power nap, worked on my laptop for a bit over an hour and then we were starting our descent into Denver.  A fairly uneventful flight, all things considered.  Did I have the “true” Spirit experience?

The Tale Of Two Spirits

I’ve spoken with a number of who had flown Spirit Airlines and came away shaking their head.  Sure, the flight was cheap, they noted.  But, it wasn’t worth it.  They were cramped, and fellow passengers weren’t respectful of personal space.  One person told me a story about a bunch of rowdy folks on their flight to Las Vegas, screaming and partying that made it impossible for them to work or sleep.

Unsurprisingly, all of the bad experiences I heard about happened to folks sitting further back in the plane.  Cheap flights democratize air travel.  Everyone can afford it.  So, the mix of inexperienced travelers should be higher on an airline like Spirit Airlines.  Business travelers I talk to avoid airlines like Spirit and Frontier at all costs.

For me, the Tale of Two Spirits is the difference between sitting in a Big Front seat versus in a coach seat further back.  Slap on a pair of noise-canceling headphones in a Big Front Seat and I’d challenge you to tell the difference between Spirit and United.

Should You Fly Spirit Airlines?

Great question.  As with many subject covers, the answer is an unequivocal “it depends”.  I strategically chose my first Frontier Airlines flight like my Spirit Airlines one.  In both cases, there were backup options on United Airlines that would take me a bit longer and cost a lot more.  But, since those fares were already about as expensive as they would likely get, there wasn’t a lot of risk in trying to fly a low-cost carrier.

If You’re A Business Traveler

For a business traveler, that’s the biggest rub.  Spirit only has one frequency a day on many of the routes they serve.  In some cases, they don’t offer service 7 days a week.  If there’s a weather or mechanical problem, you are royally screwed.  I’ve heard horror stories of folks waiting days to get another flight on Spirit.  To my knowledge, they don’t have any interline agreements.  That means you won’t be able to ask them to move you to another airline when things go sideways.

Another reason not to fly Spirit is if you’re likely to purchase a bunch of add-ons.  A checked bag or two plus a seat assignment will eat up a lot of your savings versus one of the “Big 3” carriers or Southwest.  Especially so with Southwest offering free checked bags.

Finally, as a business traveler, in-flight connectivity is a big deal to me.  You won’t find any Wi-Fi on any Spirit flights.  That’s a deal-breaker for me on longer flights, but I’d sacrifice that on a shorter flight to save a bunch of money.

If you have to be there THEN

Spirit has improved their on-time percentage but it’s still pretty abysmal.  If you’re flying to Florida to board a cruise, I’d avoid Spirit Airlines.  At the very least, I’d fly into town the night before.  If you land late, neither your cruise line or Spirit are paying to get you to your cruise ship at another port.

However, if you’re planning a family vacation for 4 and have a week to hang around a resort, Spirit can be a great way to minimize travel costs.  That extra cash can go towards hotel expenses or maybe a nice dinner.

The Final Two Pennies

Spirit Airlines won’t kill you.  It didn’t kill me, and I’m a sissy.  Sure, you may end up with some rowdy folks on your flight.  Or, your flight may be delayed.  A bunch.  That’s part of managing expectations.

If you have a collection of miles or points, they can help save you in the disaster scenario where your flight is canceled.

With Spirit, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get).  Venture into your buying experience with open eyes and an open mind.  Don’t expect too much (anything) in the way of luxury.  Do expect to save some money, and maybe laugh when the flight attendant makes announcements.

The post I flew Spirit Airlines, Saved $300 And Didn’t Die! was published first on Pizza in Motion

12 Comments

  1. I told you it wasn’t that bad! LOL. Lots of brandy new planes painted with funny comments. Just need to pick and chose your flights and print your boarding passes early so you don’t get stuck…..
    As for rowdy people you’ve heard about in coach there is no extra charge (shocking for Spirit!) for that kind of entertainment and I don’t think I’ve seen any video of Doctors being dragged off Spirit flights yet! Just make sure you print your boarding pass ahead or time or they nickel and dime you for that too!

      1. They will try to bump you if you are last to print your boarding pass if the flight is over sold. They allow you to print the pass 24 hours before. Also if you know the flight isn’t oversold then wait until closer to takeoff to print your boarding pass if you want a seat closer to the front and are letting the system choose a random seat for no extra charge. They “usually” assign the random seats from back to front.

  2. Similar experience here. Booked Spirit for a short trip with my son to visit family in Chicago.

    Went for the Big Front Seat, still saved a ton over American or United. Took a “personal item” for each of us, no bags. The front was pleasant, FAs had a sense of humor. Most importantly, the inbound flight was late but they turned it around in under 30 minutes!

    We did walk back to use the restroom, and it was pretty cramped and quite loud.

    On the return, our flight was first delayed and then cancelled. I had to be back in NY the next day, but I am one of those people you referred to with a stash of miles and points, so I booked the next flight out on American for 7500K miles pp and got a refund from Spirit.

  3. Wait, so what happened with your bags, etc? You weren’t carrying anything other than a personal item? I didn’t see that factored in the cost you mentioned.

  4. Of course it didn’t kill you and the Big Front Seat is one of air travel’s greatest bargains. I have friends who work for Spirit who are fanatical in their devotion to the carrier, something you don’t see with the Big 3. If you understand how Spirit and Frontier “work” they can be a great deal.

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