Why I’m Not Too Good For Spirit Airlines: 2,500 Mile Flights

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I know that Spirit Airlines is a four letter word in the miles and points community.  It is basically the antitheses of everything that many people who earn miles and points typically want.  However, last time I checked, they still fly airplanes that get from Point A to Point B at very low fares and even lower mileage prices.  Many people may be too good for Spirit, but I’m not.  Here’s why.

How did my family get involved with Spirit?

My parents (without my knowledge) got the Spirit Airlines credit card about a year ago on a Spirit Airlines flight.  I don’t remember exactly how many miles they got from the sign-up, but I do know that having the card enables them to book Spirit Airlines flights for 2,500 miles each way.  Not 25,000 each way.  Just 2,500 each way on certain routes during off-peak times.  That is a crazy deal that is unmatched by any other type of airline mile I know of.

They started off with some Spirit miles when they were giving them away for free in Houston, and then added to it with the credit card.  They wrote a trip report for me after their first Spirit experience, and haven’t looked back.  Honestly, they have been using the heck out of this 2,500 miles each-way deal by taking many trips out west, including a current trip all around Utah.

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My sister having a great time in Utah on Spirit miles!

They are on a fixed budget, don’t care at all if flights aren’t fancy, and have a flexible enough schedule to work around availability issues.  Their one Spirit Airlines credit card sign-up bonus plus the free miles given away in Houston have resulted in many free trips.  The current sign-up bonus is 15,000 miles which would be enough for 3 round trip off-peak tickets.  As a bonus, this card is issued by Bank of America, so you may be able to get it more than once.

Why I would fly Spirit

My husband has a work conference coming up in Vegas, and we got the idea of me joining him for one night.  A quick check of other airlines showed that nonstop flights were pricing at around $700 round trip.  I love my husband, and I love Vegas, but I’m not going for anywhere near $700.  Some flights with less desirable times could have been had for $400-$500 RT.  That wasn’t going to happen either.  However, I remember all of the massive success my parents have had in redeeming Spirit miles from Houston to Vegas.  I asked if they could spare some miles, and since my dad is a Spirit credit card holder, we were able to book my ticket back from Vegas for just 2,500 Spirit miles for a direct flight at a desirable time from their account.  The outbound flight time didn’t work for me, so I did purchase that ticket on another carrier.

I am well aware that there are some risks in flying Spirit in the event of irregular operations since they don’t really operate many other flights to change you to, and aren’t keen on putting you on another carrier.  However, I am willing to take a little risk in that regard in order to save a substantial amount of cash for this particular trip.  Worst case scenario I’m sure I could use United miles or Southwest points to get home.

Spirit award chart

Spirit does have an award chart that is a bit confusing since there are Off-Peak, Standard, and Peak pricing times.  There are also Premium awards available at all times that cost even more.  There are also four different zones in terms of pricing awards.  You can look at their award chart here.  You have to have and use their co-branded credit card in order to have access to the off-peak pricing option.

spirit award chartFrom Houston, we could fly to places like Las Vegas, Orlando, and Chicago, and Denver for as low as 2,500 miles each way during the off-peak dates as they are all in “Region 1”.  Obviously that isn’t going to get you everywhere, but if those were locations on your travel wish list, you have date flexibility, and you are okay without any on-board frills, then this really can be a very solid opportunity.  The card earns 2 miles per dollar spent, so for every $1,250 you charge you are getting a free one-way flight.  Again, that is a return that is virtually unmatched.

The flights with the blue triangle in the corner are dates that have off-peak availability for 2,500 miles for this Zone 1 route (Houston – Las Vegas).

Spirit Availability

Fees, fees, fees

Be aware that Spirit charges extra for virtually everything.  You want a seat assignment?  That’ll cost.  You want to carry-on a roller bag?  That’ll cost.  You didn’t know that until you got to the gate?  That’ll really cost you.  You want a Coke on-board?  That’ll cost.  However, if you travel with a backpack, are okay with the seat lottery (my parents have always been assigned seats together), and bring your own soda then you are good to go and can avoid those fees.  They do allow you to check one stroller and one car seat per child at no extra cost to you at the ticket counter.  Do be aware that most award tickets will be hit with a $15 fee for requesting the award ticket between 21 and 179 days prior to departure.  You have to book more than 180 days out to avoid that fee, and the fee gets higher within 21 days.

You also have to really stay on top of your miles as they will expire when an account becomes inactive for a period of 3 months or more. An “inactive” account is one that has no miles credited to it from any source during the preceding 3 months. If you have and use the co-branded Spirit Airlines credit card each month you can prevent this expiration from happening.  This is what my dad has been doing, but that level of diligence likely won’t work for everyone.

Is it for you?

Odds are, no.  There are so many people who have had bad experiences with Spirit, and there are so many rules and potential fees that the odds are against it being for any given reader of this site.  However, it probably is a good thing to consider for a few of you.  You need to spend some time look at the award prices and availability from your city to see if it is even potentially feasible for you to use Spirit miles as the network is limited and award availability varies from route to route.  If there are some available routes from your home city that are interesting to you, and you are okay playing by their rules, then it may be worth considering.

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My Dad enjoying his “Big Seat” free upgrade on Spirit

There is no question having Spirit miles has been a rewarding experience multiple times for my parents, and I am now officially booked for my own first Spirit redemption.  It seems like everyone else in the miles and points world basically laughs at Spirit, and that’s okay, but I’ll be laughing all the way from Vegas as Spirit made that trip possible…I’ll also keep my fingers crossed I get home without incident!

Comments

  1. I took my first ever Spirit flight this summer for a quick day trip for work since they were the only carrier with a non-stop from BWI to Myrtle Beach. The flight only cost $70 roundtrip and I didn’t need any add-ons since I was only there for the day. I was really impressed with the service and would definitely consider flying them in the future, and possibly signing up for their credit card to get lots of free flights if their award travel is available for such few miles!

  2. I wish Spirit would come to CVG – or at least somewhere within a reasonable driving distance! We just got Frontier…maybe Spirit will follow. 🙂

  3. Thanks for posting. Although I don’t live anywhere near a spirit hub, i’m glad you addressed it. Sometimes the points blogs talk too much about getting first class seats. Mostly, I just want to get my family of 5 from point A to point B with as little hard cash as possible. Great post!! I still read the fancy ones and dream!:)

  4. I don’t often fly out of Chicago because it takes 2+ hours to drive there, but I am usually a light packer so I should really give this more consideration than I do. I admit to being the type totally scared off by Spirit horror stories.

    • Spirit is a great airline to fly. Just like any thing you purchase. Know what it includes and does not include. At spirit you have the “option” to choose what you spend. Purchase your ticket and then you decide if you want to check a bag or choose a specific seat. “READ ” the baggage policy and you will not have any surprise fees. It’s al la cart with the seat choice, baggage, drinks, and snacks. You decide how much you want to spend. I like having control on how much I spend and I travel smart.

      • “Spirit is a great airline to fly.” Wow, I’ve never heard that before. They have the most uncomfortable and dirtiest seats of any airline. Sure, they will get you from Point A to B, but “great” is overhyping them.

  5. Thanks MP. I had no idea this option existed (Spirit has never been on my radar, but now it is.) PS-Spirit flies to Lima, Peru…who knew?

  6. I have done very well getting cheap fares on Allegiant and Spirit airlines. PDX-LAS/ EUG-LAS/ EUG-HNL Home is Southern Utah so yes Spirit flights to Vegas are great. I have to carry on my water bottle and not get a free coke. WIN WIN since nobody needs a soda anyway. Couldn’t take advantage of the $88 dollar round trip PDX-LAS the other day. Thinking about getting the credit card, but often their flights are so cheap I have to contain myself so I don’t really have time for free anyway.

  7. I’ve thought about making a Spirit blog – because there are a ton of great things you can do if you can be flexible with your travel.

    What I have found generally is that if your fare (base fare – not including taxes) would be under $75 dollars, and it’s off-peak, you’ll get the 2500 price. Subsequently, if there is a connection, and both parts of the connection individually are under $75 – you’ll get the price as well.

    Not good for last minute, not good for speculative booking – but you can take a family of 4 round trip somewhere for 20k points – why the heck not?! 🙂 In July, DFW to Orlando in September had 2500 point flights 20 of the 30 days!

  8. I’ve always wondered why the Southwest Airlines in-flight mag is still named “Spirit”???. (Luv WN….avoid Spirit at all costs!) 🙂

  9. I am on my 36th free ticket on spirit, the only way my family of 4 can go to Disney twice a year and as long as you read the “fine” print you can avoid most charges.
    Best ff program I’ve ever seen and how many frills do you need for a 2 hour flight? I’ll take that for a 5 day vacation anytime.

  10. Book and pay for everything you and your family need upfront like bags and special seating. That way there are absolutely no fee surprises. Check in and print your boarding pass online. Fly your family of four for literally half the price of any other carrier. We are having to drive from Houston to Dallas, but to save $1300.00 to use for spending money in Cabo this May is awesome. We joined the Spirit credit card and had 22,000 pts on it in no time. We only need 60,000 pts for 4 off peak flights to St Thomas. 20,000 if we return to Cabo one day! We will take the chance of delays etc to be able to vacation more often with our family.

  11. I discovered the greatness of Spirit Airlines 3 years ago. We use the Free Spirit Mastercard to pay for almost all our monthly bills, then pay off the balance each month. We rarely could afford to fly before. We now fly 2 times a year with plenty of miles left over. Using only 20,000 miles to fly 4 of us round trip to Los Angeles in May. Even with the taxes…it was only $105. We have had zero problems with any flight we have taken. We have only paid for a piece of luggage twice. If you are only leaving for 2 or days, the free carry on is all you need. A truly cheap way to get out of town!

  12. I fly to Miami /FLL from San juan Puerto Rico in January 2015 with my daughter for $150 Rt each to my cousins house. I receive 2500 miles certificate and apply for the Spirit Master Card. With the bonus miles 15,000 plus miles earned from purchases I was able to book 3 flights from San Juan Puerto Rico to FLL and to New York (all one way tickets ) and 3 more to come back in September 2015. So we are very happy to fly for free plus taxes. Right now I meet the minimun spending in Chase Sapphire and Freedom. I apply for Hilton H Honors Signature Visa with 75,000 points and Im waiting for the Credit card to arrive but I want to maintain my credit score of 777. So how can I do more points to add to Ultimate Rewards for a total of 3 rt to Europe? Any tips?

    • Veronica, one answer is to look at the Ink cards, but reports are that Chase is stricter than they used to be about the number of new cards you can have open in the last two years. Sounds like with all your recent activity that has the potential to be an issue for you, though you could certainly still give it a shot. A larger question though is what program do you plan to use to book your flights to Europe? You might want to look for a card that earns in that specific program.

  13. Hi flew Spirit in April. I signed up for Free Spirit and got the credit card. It awarded me with 15,000 miles. Good for up to 3 round trip flights. Well problem is that they have very selective “off peak” travel dates. This is not mentioned in their speech to get you to sign up. I spoke with a reprsentative who described “off peak”, “Standard” , and “peak” travel times. My sceduled April 2016 vacation is supposedly during their “off peak” time. BUT they still want 50,000 miles for the round trip. Free Spirit is not impressing me so far.

    • Lisa, the trick with spirit off-peak awards absolutely is flexibility. April is still pretty far out, so I have seen more off-peak awards appear as it gets closer. Whether or not April will be off-season for you likely depends on the route. If it is when spring break is for that region I doubt it will be off-peak. Good luck!!

      • My complaint is that when the people at Sprint are talking you into this they don’t tell you any of this. I work for FedEx and don’t have a lot of choice on vacations. We pick our time off in advance early in the year. Now I have this Mastercard they will want to charge me a yearly cost for if I keep it. And I will possibly never get to use any of this. Just wish they would have some set dates I could work with knowing I could use my miles at that time. Their program is not user friendly and not up front.

        • Lisa, it sounds like for you this won’t be the best rewards card/program. I am happy to recommend others that have more flexible vacation/date options if you want.

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