If You Didn’t Consider Spirit Airlines For Your Most Recent Domestic Trip, You Made A Mistake

Cue pitchforks and loud, heavy metal as everyone says Ed has gone crazy!  Spirit Airlines is the airline everyone loves to hate.  Honorable mention to Frontier as another airline that people think is uncomfortable and charges too many fees.  For many years, I was on the bandwagon that said you should avoid airlines like this at all costs.

As a business traveler, I’ve actually had good experiences on both.  I flew Frontier Airlines, saved a bunch of money and didn’t die.  I flew them more recently in a regular seat and lived to tell the tale as well.  Spirit helped get me from point A to point B and saved me a bunch of money.  Their Big Front Seat helped make me comfortable for a few bucks more.  So, why are so many folks afraid to fly Spirit?  We hear horror stories in the news about tiny seats with no legroom and delays for days.  What’s the real story?

This great post by Brett Snyder (aka Cranky Flier) details Spirit’s massive improvements in on-time reliability and operational efficiency.  Did you know that Spirit’s on-time performance for much of 2018 has been better than the industry average?

Another point that Brett makes is about carry-on bags, and it’s one that I hadn’t considered.  Spirit charges a fee to bring a carry-on bag onboard.  Now, that doesn’t bother me personally.  I’m just adding up the total cost for my ticket and weighing it against what United or some other big carrier is charging.  A fee is just an increase in my ticket price.  Brett brings up an obvious point.  I’ve written about Basic Economy a bunch, but haven’t emphasized the fact that American and United’s rule won’t even allow you to bring a carry-on bag on the plane.

One of the other big hurdles for me is lack of Wi-Fi.  For longer flights, it’s too long for me to be disconnected during a work day.  If there’s an alternative with Wi-Fi for a reasonable amount of extra cash, I lean that way. You’d think I’d learn my lesson since United’s Wi-Fi is horribly inconsistent.  Those days of no Wi-Fi on Spirit are coming to an end soon.  And, that means you’re running out of excuses.

If the cramped seat is your concern, the bad news is that you’re going to find that seat on more flights with the big carriers soon.  Here’s a look at what American Airlines plans to roll out fleet-wide for economy cabins. Spoiler alert, you aren’t going to like it.

My One Last Hurdle

As a business traveler, timeliness is important to me.  While Spirit has improved dramatically here, there’s still an area of concern for me.  And, that’s when a plane breaks (or weather causes an issue).  I reached out to Brett on this point and he noted that Spirit has improved, finding themselves in the middle of the pack on cancellations nowadays.  That’s covered in an interview he had with Spirit’s CEO.

You’ll definitely have a lack of alternative flights on Spirit if your plane breaks.  They just don’t run the frequency on most routes that carriers like United do.  For at least the time being, that will limit the number of times I choose Spirit or Frontier.  But, there are still opportunities.  When the ticket prices are cheap enough, I’ll give Spirit or Frontier a nod on a route where the big boys have frequency.  Las Vegas to Denver was the route the last time I flew Spirit.  United has plenty of frequency on that route.  Sure, I’ll pay a lot of money for a last-minute ticket.  I’ll fade that risk for the chance to save hundreds of dollars.

The Final Two Pennies

The Big 3 airlines felt like they needed to build a product to compete with airlines like Spirit.  They decided on this path instead of touting the benefits they offered, like legroom and customer-friendly(er) baggage policies.  They now find themselves in a cat fight with airlines who have improving service levels.  Customers expect things to be bad on Spirit.  They may be surprised when they book on American or United and get treated like they’re flying Spirit.

As Spirit continues to improve, the gap between the airlines shrinks noticeably.  When the post-mortem on this period of aviation history is written, I think we’ll find that the Big 3 made a bit of a mistake deciding to compete in this fashion.  What’s the saying?  Never wrestle with the pig.  You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

That line fit right up until the point Spirit wasn’t a pig.  They’re not exactly a princess, but they’re certainly better than they used to be.  Spirit doesn’t fly everywhere.  But, if they fly a route you need to take, it’s worth consideration.  As Brett says, you’re running out of excuses.

The post If You Didn’t Consider Spirit Airlines For Your Most Recent Domestic Trip, You Made A Mistake was published first on Pizza in Motion

12 Comments

  1. Spirit must be on time so often because they don’t clean anything on their planes. Their planes are disgustingly filfthy. Yeah, I guess they are on option in a bind, but otherwise, no thank you.

  2. It’s interesting if the big 3 adding basic economy has actually caused more people to try Spirit and Frontier. Because once you’ve done Basic Economy, what’s the difference?

  3. My main problem is not with their seating, cleanliness, or nickle and dime you for everything policy. It’s that there’s a high probability that they will reschedule/cancel your flight. It has happened more times than I can count on one hand to my friends that they even ended up canceling their entire weekend vacation. 🙁

    1. t, that’s been my opinion of Spirit for a long time. But, the data bears out another story. Their on-time performance is actually better than industry average with a drastic drop in cancellations. Just saying….

      1. Thx. I guess ultimately I will never say no to good value. I will make sure to re evaluate the opportunity to take Spirit in the future on a case by case basis

  4. I recently flew on Spirit to Cancún and my flights were on time , the plane was clean and the seat pitch was fine (and I am 6 feet tall). My only concern was the lack of tray table to work on. I think they are going places (no pun intended).

  5. Edward,
    I must say that the Spirit Airlines you describe is not the one that I am experiencing. My wife’s flight from Myrtle Beach to Boston was cancelled tonight along with most of their flights out today. Other carriers had no issues but Spirit blamed the weather. They say it has nothing to do with the work slowdown by the pilots – which you probably can ascertain my skepticism. The earliest “available” flight isn’t for 2 days. They do not offer refunds, hotel or even a bus for the multitude of displaced passengers because it is a “weather” issue and they (Spirit) tells you when the next flight is. They just pocket the money from customers that can’t wait for the rescheduling. I really am starting to think that airlines need more regulation not less as the airline industry is turning into an oligarchy and customer input matters little.

    1. Delvish, really sorry to hear about your wife’s experience. I agree this is the primary risk of flying Spirit. Their on-time performance and cancellation rate have improved immensely. But, when you’re stuck, you’re stuck. This is why I keep a stash of miles, just in case I get stuck in a jam. Still, I wish Spirit handled your wife’s situation better.

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