Did My Parents Survive Their Second Spirit Airlines Flight?

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Last fall my parents put on their backpacks, packed lightly, took a shot of whiskey (or Coke), and bravely went were no Mommy Points family member had gone before…on a Spirit Airlines flight.  Since there is a (understandable) shortage of reviews of Spirit within the miles and points community, I had them share their experiences here.  The short story is, it wasn’t great, but it was very cheap, and wasn’t that bad.  Now they are again braving the skies via Spirit thanks to a promo in Houston where Spirit gave away 25,000 miles to anyone who took the time to show up and wait in line.

Here they are with their Spirit approved back packs!

Naturally I wanted to know if their first decent experience was a fluke, so they were nice enough to share their thoughts on their second trip using the airline everyone loves to hate, Spirit.

You survived once without any major setbacks, what made you brave enough to try your luck with Spirit a second time?

Our second flight on Spirit was again a roundtrip Houston to Las Vegas trip.  The trip was based primarily on seeing Elton John at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace. We are mid sixty-somethings that appreciate live entertainment, but had never seen nor heard Sir Elton in concert (a.k.a., a “Bucket List” item). We looked on his concert date calendar and chose a date that would work and booked the concert and the flight. We go to Vegas with some frequency so we did not need much extra sightseeing, strip-walking, sport-booking and slot-playing time on this 48 hour whirlwind.  Look, I’m not the only crazy one in the family who does these turn-around trips!

Okay, so you wanted to go back to Vegas.  You have plenty of miles in plenty of programs, why did you chose Spirit again?

We chose Spirit because we had some miles/points with them that we needed to use before they expired, and because of the nature of our trip, we could fly during some of Spirit’s non-peak hours. Since I have the Spirit credit card, the two of us were able to fly round trip for 10,000 total miles plus about $85.00.  Let me re-emphasize that.  They got two round trip tickets for a total of 10,000 points + $85 for two…that is why you fly Spirit.

How were the flights?

Because of Spirit’s limited presence, most all flights leaving from Houston Intercontinental use the same gate. This can make for a crowded waiting area when Spirit has back to back flights scheduled. Spirit has a quick turn around on their flights, and consequently you can have two sets of aircraft passengers waiting almost simultaneously at the same gate. In Las Vegas it seems as though there were a couple of active gates, but the crowd was pretty extensive there, too.

Our outbound flight boarded a little late, but quickly, as it was only 60-70% of capacity and very few items go into the overhead bin due to the carry on baggage fee of $35 – $100 (depending on when you pay for your carry-on).  As a result, the flow of traffic was good. We did not pay to pre-select seats or have any baggage fees. Even still, our seats were together in the rear of the aircraft. We packed using back packs that fit under the seats in front of us.  Because the flight was not full, passengers were advised they could move to the empty seats in the cabin if they so desired. The flight was uneventful and arrived in Vegas a little early.

The return flight boarded and left on time and also arrived a little early. This flight seemed to be slightly over half full so there were plenty of seating options available. Once again, we did not preselect/pay for seat assignments, and our seats were together. My biggest complaint about either leg of our journey was the trash that littered the gate waiting area at McCarren Airport in Las Vegas. I contacted Spirit about this situation, and they responded that the appropriate personnel would be notified.

Where did you stay in Vegas?  Did you score any great deals on your hotel room?

We stayed at Harrah’s in an updated room for about $50.00 a night all-in. We booked before the mandatory resort fees went into effect, so we saved about $20.00 per night. Resort fees are very strange creatures and are very widespread. I do not know of any real tangible consumer value received for this extra add-on fee. I hope some hotel/casinos eventually kick this fee to the curb as an enticement to lure disgruntled tourists to their property.

What about transportation – did you rent a car?

We rented a Toyota Corolla from Advantage for our excursions. It is normally our pattern to book the lowest available rate 4-6 weeks before our scheduled trips. We then recheck rates weekly for better deals (I need to teach them about AutoSlash, though they seem to do well on their own). The day before our departure the base rates dropped to $10 a day, so we re-booked at the lower rate. In my experience, Advantage and Payless have become consistent lowest cost car rental outlets since Hertz sold Advantage to buy out Dollar and Thrifty.

How was the short Vegas trip and Sir Elton?

Our trip was fun and worthwhile. Elton John was outstanding, as was the venue. We were in the upper mezzanine and our tickets were about $100 each. The seats offered a good visual and audio experience.

We always try to include some side trips to our Vegas stays. This year we revisited the Neon Boneyard Museum. It has been updated and refined since we first toured it five years ago. It is a unique historical salute to Vegas signage. The entrance fee was less than $20 a person for about a 45 minute guided tour.

We also drove out to Mt. Charleston and the Las Vegas Ski Area. This is about a 40 minute drive to the west of the city. It is somewhat of a contradictory juxtaposition to have The Strip and ski runs in the same geographic area. What a contrast and pleasant diversion! The drive is easy on a new freeway and good roads from the valley floor at 2000 ft., through the high desert to the 9000 ft. mountains environment, and ultimately to the almost 12,000 ft. mountain peaks. On the way back to Vegas, we stopped to take a few pictures of the desert showing its springtime flowers. The colors, as usual, are subtle but impressive.

What was the grand total for this trip?

Flights: Two people for a total of 10,000 Spirit miles + $85

Hotel: Two nights on the strip in an updated room at Harrah’s for $100 all-in

Rental car: $20 + taxes

Elton John tickets: Two for $100 each

Total: ~$420

A chance to see this legend in person, priceless….or at least extremely affordable by using miles and shopping around for solid hotel and car rental deals.

Any final thoughts now that you are veteran Spirit travelers?

To sum this adventure up, Spirit again worked for us. If you have not flown Spirit, but are a seasoned traveler, you will notice some differences in your normal airline and Spirit. You will see a very diverse cultural and economic representation. There are more families. No doubt most people use Spirit because it can often offer the lowest base airfares. It is certainly not fancy or elite. It is very pedestrian and utilitarian. It is more spartan than comfort. It is more Old Navy than Banana Republic. The rows of seats are a little closer to each other, so your legroom is a little more restricted. There are no complimentary drinks or snacks. You have to be a little tougher mentally and physically.

Any airline can have cancellations, delays and problems. We have all experienced them. It is a risk with Spirit that such an inconvenience might result in a more involved and lengthy wait as it does not have as many backup aircraft and local resources at its disposal. It is important to be an informed and prepared traveler so that you can make the best choices for you and your family.  Spirit is not for every occasion and not for every flyer. It is, however, an option that may allow travel when travel may otherwise not be possible or practical.  Or it might open up a travel adventure that would not have otherwise been taken. It has for us, and hopefully will again in the future.

Comments

  1. A very interesting trip report! I don’t think I could ever fly Spirit due to the legroom issue, but it should work for many, and the low cost will help keep prices on the other airlines down.

  2. Your parents look like they are small people so they wouldnt be as cramped as some others would be on Spirit. Glad they can make it work

  3. Great trip report. I flew Spirit Chicago to myrtle beach a few years ago, before I knew what Spirit Airlines really was. I had flown easy jet several times in Europe, so I was fairly familiar with the LCC model. But honestly I remember almost nothing about the flight, which I’d say is a positive. I think I paid to check one bag, and had a stroller i gate checked and a car seat we used on the plane. (and a couple of cousins on the same flight to help me lug the stuff – plus toddler and baby). I do remember the flight attendants being friendly. Not a bad option for a direct, not too long flight.

  4. I have flown spirit on several occasions and usually it has been fine and saved me a bundle. The big issue is with people who dont know what Spirit Airlines is. Sometimes, thing will go wrong and when they do it is going to be much worse than on Delta or United.

    I had one occasion at FLL when my flight was cancelled and I was gonna be spending 2 days waiting in the airport or buying a one way ticket home on a different airline. I bought the ticket home on Jetblue. Even with this extra outlay, I have still saved plenty of money flying Spirit. I was not that upset buying the extra ticket since I know that occasionally flying the super budget carrier will come back to bite me and I will need to spend some of the savings on a new ticket.

  5. Wow, Mommy Points looks just like Grandmommy Points!

    I had no idea there was skiing near Las Vegas. Is there any snow in June?? It’s hard to tell from the picture.

  6. Although I’m a UA 1K I’ve flown Spirit a few times and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The flights were fine- nothing special but nothing bad, either. As with anything a little different or quirky , you just have to understand how it works before buying a ticket.

  7. Thanks for sharing the experience. I am having my mom fly them on a short trip in july as the tix was almost a quarter of what the other airlines were asking. What I still haven’t figured out is do you need to preprint the boarding pass with them in advance or you just show up at the airport desk? She has very little time to connect between an int’l flight and the Spirit one in Chicago, so I am trying to figure things out in advance.If anyone can help answer, it would be greatly appreciated. Thx!

  8. To Corky – our eating on this trip was very minimal. A trip downtown for breakfast at Main Street Station buffet is a good day starter. It has good food in a pleasant environment for about $8.00. It is busy but not crowded. We only ate 2 meals a day this trip. 2nd meal one day was at In and Out Burger and the other day at Jason’s Deli. Had we planned better we would have had breakfast at Mt. Charleston lodge.
    To Max- there was a little snow still on the slopes in early May. I think they average about 75 inches of snow a year. It is a small ski area but an interesting diversion possibility.

  9. To gottoloveink: The best plan is to check in and print the boarding pass 24 hours before your flight. Boarding passes can be printed at the airport for a $10.00 Agent Printing fee. We also get the feeling that early check in improves the chance of sitting with anyone that you may be flying with.
    To Max: As grandpa said, yes, there was some snow still on the ground in May. If you look hard at the picture, you can see the white patches on what would be the ski runs. We now have a new “Bucket List” item,go to Vegas in the winter and spend a day at the Las Vegas Ski Area. The Strip and the slopes in one day, how unique!

  10. to Corky-
    Eating was very minimal on this trip. We often start with a drive downtown to Main Street Station for their breakfast buffet.They have a pleasant and bright environment and good food. Price is about $8.00. It is usually busy but not crowded. We actually only ate 2 meals a day. One day the 2nd meal was at Inn and Out Burger and the other day was at a Jason’ Deli. Had we planned better we would have eaten breakfast at the Mt. Charleston Inn the morning we drove up into the mountains.

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