What to Know Before Flying Spirit Airlines, According to Passenger Reviews
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 their patented Ultra Low Fare. 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 an inexpensive ticket and given the option to pay only for what you need.
Spirit operates about 500 flights every day and covers more than 60 destinations within the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean. The airline has expanded their offerings to include a Free Spirit Mastercard, a Spirit Savers Club, and Free Spirit points.
Here's what you need to know before flying, according to Spirit Airlines reviews.
Related: More airlines and airports
There are only two types of seats on Spirit Airlines: standard seats and the Big Front Seat. With a standard ticket, travelers are allowed to bring on one carry-on bag. That bag must be 18" x 14" x 8". When purchasing your seat, it's best to pay for any checked bags you intend to bring. While you do not have to pay for your checked luggage in advance, it will help save you money if you've covered the checked bag cost before arriving to the airport. If you check bags at the check-in counter, the cost goes up.
The Big Front Seat comes with more space and extra legroom — and there are no middle seats, so you're guaranteed an aisle or window. The same luggage rules (one carry on free, all checked bags cost extra) apply for Big Front Seat ticket holders.
While these are the only two seating classes in Spirit Airlines' cabins, there is one more fare class. Spirit Savers Club members benefit from lower rates on their tickets. While the Spirit Savers Club fares aren't available on every Spirit Airlines flight, when you can cash in on these deals, the savings can be pretty sizable. Savers Club members also get up to 50% off checked bags (for you and any of your guests, up to eight people). Seat selection is also less expensive for Savers Club members and anyone in their party — plus, you can change your flights without succumbing to change fees.
Flight Change and Cancellation Policies
If a passenger makes changes to their flight — or cancels it altogether — 60 days prior to their flight, they will not be charged a change or cancellation fee. If you want to cancel or change your flight between 15 and 59 days before your flight, the fee is $39. Cancellations or changes made seven to 14 days before will be subject to a $59 fee. And finally, changes or cancellations made six days before your flight up to just hours before your flight will incur a $79 fee.
Baggage Policies and Fees
Let's get into the nitty-gritty of Spirit Airlines baggage fees. First, you get one personal item (carry on) included in the price of your ticket. It must be 18" x 14"x 8" or smaller. Checked bags should weigh no more than 40 pounds, and their length should be no longer than 62 inches. If you're adding a checked bag at the time of booking, it costs $26 for your first and $36 for your second. However, if you add a checked bag at the airport, it's $36 for your first checked bag and $46 for your second.
Overweight checked bags that are 41 to 50 pounds cost an additional $35. Checked bags that are 51 to 70 pounds cost an additional $60. Checked bags 71 to 100 pounds cost an additional $100. And finally, oversized checked bags that are between 63 and 80 linear inches cost $100 extra, and special items over 80 linear inches incur an additional charge of $150.
Spirit Airlines reviews tend to encourage travelers to pay for all baggage-related expenses in advance. "Yes, they nickel pick everything and you have to pay for basically everything but if you buy your ticket online through their website and purchase everything you need in advance, there will be no issues," wrote Lily R. on TripAdvisor.
Often travelers assume that boarding on a budget airline is something of a free for all. Not so — there's method to the madness. Spirit Airlines has four numbered zones, as well as pre-boarding and family boarding. As budget airline boarding processes go, Spirit Airlines has one of the clearest and easiest to follow. Here's the boarding line-up:
- Any passenger with a disability or who might need special assistance or additional time boarding
- Any passenger who paid for an additional carry-on bag (remember, one is included with the price of your ticket, but bringing more than one personal item costs extra)
- Any passenger who paid for Shortcut Boarding
- Free Spirit passengers with silver or gold status
- Any passenger with a Spirit Airlines credit card
- Reserved for families with small children (typically, kids ages 3 and under)
Zone 3 and Zone 4
- General boarding
Amenities and Entertainment
Spirit Airlines charges for all food and drink. They absolutely offer snacks and beverages, but they are only available for credit or debit card purchase. To give you a sense of the prices, a bottle of water is $3, tea is $2, cans of soda or juice are $3, and coffee is $3. Cocktail combinations (i.e., a nip of gin and a can of tonic water) are $11, and beer and wine is $8.
Spirit Airlines does not have TVs or any sort of in-flight entertainment. However, they do now offer WiFi onboard. It is only available on select aircrafts right now. There are no amenity kits, pillows or blankets, outlets, or any accoutrements you'd expect from a higher-end airline.
Seats and Legroom
The classic Spirit Airlines seats have 28 inches of seat pitch. To offer a comparison, most airlines' economy class seats have 30 inches of seat pitch. Spirit Airlines standard seats have tiny tray tables — you wouldn't be able to fit a laptop on them. However, Spirit's Big Front Seats guarantee an additional six inches of legroom. The Big Front Seats come with 36 inches of pitch, and the width of the superior leather seats is 18.5 inches.
"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," said David Landsel on Airfare Watchdog.
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.
As for seat assignments, the default, standard ticket does not give you the opportunity to select your seat. Instead, Spirit Airlines will randomly assign you a seat. That means you may not get to sit with everyone in your travel party. However, if you'd like to choose where you sit, you can pay extra at check out to purchase a specific seat assignment. Alternately, you can opt for the Big Front Seat, thereby allowing you to choose your seat.
Spirit Airlines Credit Cards and Status
There are two co-branded Spirit Airlines credit cards: Free Spirit Travel More World Elite Mastercard and Free Spirit Travel Mastercard. The elite card waives the annual fee for the first year, and then the fee goes up to $79 a year. The Free Spirit Travel Mastercard has no annual fee. These cards come with a 25% rebate on inflight food and beverage purchased on Spirit Airlines, more opportunities to accrue Free Spirit points, and Zone 2 boarding, among other perks.
Looking for other ways to gain perks? Spirit Airlines also runs a Saver$ Club (formerly the $9 Fare Club). Savers Club members enjoy deals like reduced fares on certain flights, 50% off checked or additional carry-on bags for their entire party, and reduced prices on seat selection for their travel group. There are plenty of restrictions that come along with the Savers Club — your party cannot be more than eight people, for example — and Spirit Airlines reviewers aren't always convinced it's a good deal.
"Beware of their so-called 'super saver club' - you don't really save and the $64 charge for it renews every year despite your attempt to cancel. Cancel online and later check to see that they've done so. Trying to do it at the airport gate is a fool's errand," said Thomas S. on TripAdvisor.
Finally, you can accrue points to earn elite status on Spirit Airlines, just like you'd earn medallion status on American or Delta flights. For every dollar spent on Spirit Airlines tickets and Á La Smarte offerings (think: ancillary fees for baggage, boarding, food, etc.), you earn 1 Status Qualifying Point (SQP). To earn Free Spirit Silver Status, you need 2,000 SQPs. To earn Free Spirit Gold Status, you need 5,000 SQPs. Silver and gold status get travelers perks like early boarding and advanced seat selection.