By Maya Kachroo-Levine
December 25, 2018
A Spirit Airlines Airbus A320 passenger jet taxis at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Credit: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

When searching for flights on sites like Kayak or Expedia and sorting by lowest price, you'll likely spot some options from Spirit Airlines. But is flying with the budget carrier worth it?

Spirit is headquartered out of Miramar, Florida and they’re committed to offering you the lowest possible price, which they offer by starting you out with a “BareFare.” It’s a bare-bones ticket, and all add-ons including seat assignments, bags, and extra legroom will cost you. The idea is that if you cut out all the extras most airlines charge for automatically, you’ll be left with a cheap ticket and given the option to pay only for what you need.

Spirit operates about 400 flights every day, and covers 60 destinations within the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean. They’re also considering expanding to offer more international flights.

When sorting through the internet’s thoughts on Spirit Airlines, one thing is clear: People appreciate the fact that they’re upfront about all the things they don’t provide. You tend to get into trouble with Spirit when you don’t realize they’re going to charge you for things like carry-on bags.

Here are all the questions you have about flying Spirit, answered:

Can I carry on a bag?

It better be small. One personal item, "something like a laptop bag or purse" is included with Bare Fare, and it must be smaller than 18" x 14" x 8". To bring a more substantial carry-on that needs to go into the overhead bin, you will be charged an extra fee. Lance Ulanoff says on Medium, “They were happy to accommodate a satchel or backpack (provided it was small enough) to slide under the seat in front of me, but I’d have to pay $45 to bring on my suitcase. If I didn’t pay for my carry-on in advance, it would cost me more at the airport.”

How is check-in?

Spirit has an app, and Ulanoff said he was able to use the app to add his boarding pass to his digital wallet. But if you’re not prepared, Spirit sometimes isn't the most helpful when you show up at the airport, according to Jonelle F. on Yelp.

“The check-in wasn't easy. You can't go up to the counter to check-in if you choose. You must check-in at the automated station, weigh your own bags and tag your own cases,” Jonelle wrote. “There was a long line, but we got to the airport in time, so that wasn't a problem. This was the problem, the fact that bag check is $50 PER CHECKED BAG!!!!!”

Are there any amenities?

“They offer no Wi-Fi on any flights. They have no TVs and no entertainment what so ever. They have no power, even in their upfront seats,” Brittany F. wrote on Yelp.

In terms of other amenities, it sounds like no beverage service means no beverage service; They even charge for water, Jonelle pointed out. Beyond that, your personal space is pretty compact, and your seats are unlikely to recline.

“Inside my Spirit Airlines airplane, I found clean, spare looking blue leather-covered seats. Sure enough, mine did not recline. In place of a seat pocket, there was what looked like a crisscrossed bungy cord. The fold-down tray table was the size of an iPad mini. There was no screen or technology of any sort on the clean, curved back of the seat in front of me,” Ulanoff said.

Can you sit together?

Yes, but you have to buy a block of seats. “Spirit makes no guarantees that you'll be able to sit with your tribe unless you reserve a block of seats in advance at a cost ranging from $1 to $50 per seat,” David Landsel said on Airfare Watchdog.

What’s the legroom like?

You can stretch your legs, but it’ll cost you. (Are you sensing a pattern here?) The nice thing is that at least Spirit is completely transparent that if you’re interested in not being cramped, you’ll have to pay for it. If you want extra leg room, you can pay for the Big Front Seat. (Yes, that’s really what it’s called.)

“Spirit's Big Front Seat product (a row of larger, comfier seats with a relatively generous 36" pitch at the front of the plane, starting at $12 per flight) is actually terrific value, when seats are available,” Landsel said.

Landsel says the Big Front Seat tends to be worth it because it allows you to book an actual seat, instead of leaving your seat assignment to chance. The only issue is that there might not be Big Front Seats available when you book.

Is the plane clean?

Ulanoff said both his Spirit Air flights were clean and the cabin crew was particularly vigilant about taking passengers' trash. On the flip side, Brittany F. on Yelp said her aircraft was dirty. So you'll probably be OK, but know you're taking your chances.

What’s the overall vibe?

Ulanoff said the in-flight humor was certainly “spirited.” Obviously, we’re not booking flights based on the flight attendants' jokes, but it’s good to know that there will be some sky-high laughing involved. “Right before we deplaned, [the flight attendant] said, ‘If you wish to make any complaints, its ‘,’” Ulanoff noted. Good one.

Ultimately, it sounds like Spirit Airlines is a perfect solution for a cheap, short flight. That’s what Landsel suggests; He flew from San Diego to Las Vegas and said that’s really the best use of a Spirit ticket. With the fact that they’re charging for water and not offering reclining seats, you might not want to trek across the country with Spirit. Similarly, if you’re going somewhere for a long stretch of time, Spirit might not be the way to go, because it costs a lot to carry on or check a substantial bag. But for a short trip where you don’t need a lot of outfit choices, why not put up with the tiny trays and lack of Wi-Fi (for now) for a ticket that’s well under $100?