The Ten Best Things About Flying Spirit Airlines

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Much to the shock, amazement, or disbelief of many in the miles and points world, I redeemed (my dad’s) points to fly Spirit Airlines yesterday.  Sure I have miles to fly on a variety of carriers, but this was only 2,500 miles for a non-stop flight from Las Vegas to Houston at the time I wanted to fly.  Flights on airlines like United were selling for $300+ each way, so this seemed like basically flying for free.  Spirit Airlines is the airline everyone loves to hate, and many have a horror story or two to back that up.  The stories are usually something like my cousin’s boyfriend was once stuck for three days in Florida because of that ^$@#$ airline, or something along those lines.

Given the horror stories, I was a little worried about how Spirit would handle irregular operation situations such as maintenance or weather delays, but because I have a variety of other miles and points, I knew I could get out on another airline if it came to that.  Otherwise, I was ready to be a bit more cramped than normal and see what all the Spirit fuss was about.  I may love leveraging miles, points, and upgrades for fancy lie-flat seats and hotel suites, but at my heart I am a “cheap” traveler who mainly cares about getting from Point A to Point B.  It was time to put my points where my mouth was and fly Spirit.

My parents had blazed the trail on Spirit a year or so before I did, and shared their experiences here and here.  So, instead of writing another report similar to theirs, I wanted to share the Ten Best Things about flying Spirit Airlines.

10.  Everyone is admitted to the Spirit Airlines Party Lounge. 

If you have ever felt left out because you didn’t have the elite status, credit card, or membership necessary to get you in the airline lounge?  Fear not when flying Spirit Airlines, because everyone is admitted to the Spirit Party Lounge (er, gate area).  There is even complimentary entertainment in the form of musical chairs.  Don’t worry if you lose and don’t get a chair on the first go ’round, just wait until someone lines up for cheese steaks and steal their seat!  At least that is what everyone else seemed to do…

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If that still doesn’t work, then simply sit on the carry-on baggage measurement contraption.  It may not look comfortable at first, but it is the perfect way to prepare for your seat on-board the aircraft!

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9.  Free entertainment at boarding if anyone gets busted with a $100 whammie trying to smuggle on a carry-on that is larger than a “personal item”!  If they get busted you get to watch them get nailed with a $100 bonus carry-on fee.  I’m sure that could result in a very made-for-reality-TV exchange.  I was a little worried this guy in front of me was going to get whammied with a $100 bag fee, but he sailed right on-board without being thrown in the dreaded carry-on measurement penalty box!  In fact, everyone somehow sailed right by without any carry-on whammies despite some pretty large “personal items”.  I was too terrified to push the limits, so I just packed for my overnight trip in a large purse.   Clearly I’m the Spirit novice!

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8.  Save calories!  Spirit Airlines is fighting the national obesity epidemic by reducing the calorie consumption of those on-board by not providing complimentary sugary sodas!  In fact, even water comes with a fee.  This calorie-saving move is pretty smart since it will help folks fit into the teeny tiny seats.  Interestingly, everyone I saw on the plane was of average size or smaller.  Their strategy must be working to improve the health of our country!

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7.  Splurge on “fun wine” from a can!  If you happen to have a few calories (and dollars) to spare, you can drink a can of fun wine!  Yes, drink a can of “fun wine”.  That sentence is almost too good to be true, but I assure you it is real!

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6.  Get in an eco-friendly mood by serving as clean-up crew on the plane.  When boarding the plane I noticed some food on the floor and empty wrappers on the seats.  I thought that perhaps the cleaning crew had forgotten to clean this plane, but I later realized the previous passengers simply didn’t fully understand that they were the cleaning crew.  When the flight attendant passed by with the trash bag for the 18th time and made an announcement that in order to save time and money, we needed to pick-up after ourselves I got it.  The passengers are also the cleaning crew!  Save the environment airplane!

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5.  Check out the latest trends in advertizing.  Everything from tray tables, to luggage bins, to flight attendant aprons has advertizing space available, so be sure to see what’s hot these days in advertizing!  Seems to be Fremont street hotels and Mexican resorts are the rage for Spirit customers.

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4. Do research for your sociology paper while you fly.  I thought people watching was good in Vegas, but a Spirit Airlines flight leaving from Vegas is amazing for getting to see all types of folks and hear all kinds of conversations!  They were kind enough to not put on a movie or offer any in-flight entertainment distractions so that you can hear some very good conversations at close-range.  There has to be plenty of material ripe for some Sociology 101 papers on these flights.

3.  Have hours of work-free enjoyment.  On some airlines your flight-time is still pretty protected from work because of the lack of WiFi, but Spirit Airlines thinks that isn’t good enough.  They want you to be totally free from work responsibilities, so they made sure that a laptop cannot really fit between you and the seat in front of you.  Start and end your trip work-free with no guilt!

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2.  Put your yoga skills to good use.  Since the seats are absolutely the smallest and most crammed together I have ever seen, you will get to put your yoga skills to good use when you get in or out of the seats…or even just sit still.  You can use expert yoga skills if you happen to be blessed with the middle seat!

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1.  Feel much, much better about the cleanliness of your bathroom at home!  Sometimes I feel bad that my bathrooms may not always be in tip-top five star hotel shape, but feel much better about how well you take care of your bathrooms by visiting one of the lavoratories on Spirit Airlines!  If you think the previous passengers did a bad job keeping the cabin clean, then wait until you see how many loads of passengers skipped cleaning the bathroom.

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I’m pretty sure the dust on the walls was an inch thick in some parts, and I’m doing everyone a favor by not showing anything lower than the walls.

So How Bad Was It?

While those top ten favorite things about Spirit Airlines all were more or less true on my flight, it honestly wasn’t terrible.  It just wasn’t very good.  The plane was on-time, my seat appeared clean, my seatmates were nice, and the flight only cost 2,500 Spirit miles (since my dad has the Spirit credit card).  I wanted the full experience this time, so I didn’t pay extra for a seat assignment, but if I did this again I would “cheat” and pay the $49-ish to sit in the “big front seat” which is exactly the same as many domestic first class seats.  This would eliminate all the space-related issues, and could still be a good deal at 2,500 miles + $49 for basically the same seat you would get in first class on many airlines.

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The exit row seats also looked to be pretty roomy, so that may be a less expensive way to gain some extra legroom.  I knew I would be pretty cramped on the flight, and I am glad it only lasted 2.5 hours.  I wouldn’t want to be that cramped for much longer than that.  The only thing I didn’t realize in advance was how dirty the plane would be.  I think it is pretty inexcusable that things like food wrappers are left out on seats between flights, and the bathroom had clearly not been really cleaned in a very long time.  It was not a mess that was created in a day, or even a week.  It would not surprise me if the walls in the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned since the plane went into service.  Seriously.

As you may have guessed, I’m not exactly itching to fly Spirit again in the near future, but I would fly them again if it turned out to be the best way to get from Point A to Point B…I just would spend an extra $49 and would be sure to not use the restroom.

If you’ve had the exciting opportunity to fly Spirit, I’d love to hear if my experiences line up with yours.  If you haven’t yet flown Spirit, are you now more or less likely to give them a try after having a peek at some of top ten reasons to give them a try!

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Comments

  1. Thank you! I actually really enjoy your coverage of Spirit. I’m going to cave in buy one of their cheapie flights eventually, and it’s good to know what I’ll get myself into.

  2. Great post! We flew Airtran (booked through SW) a few weeks ago and had similar experiences. We were in the middle seats on the last two rows. Luckily, I never had to use the restrooms! It will have to be really cheap to fly them again.

  3. Was thinking of signing up for the spirit credit card after reading your earlier post stating only 2500 miles were needed for the trip. Guess I’ll pass. 🙂

  4. Flown Spirit a few times and don’t want to again…

    Your analysis is perfect. On Spirit, you get what you pay for. They are really good at offering very cheap fares and reducing cost, and if you are in a pinch or extremely budget conscious, they are a great choice.

  5. “…my seat appeared clean…”?
    Based on that nasty/mold pic I highly doubt it.
    Spirit is the lowest common denominator in the aviation world.
    No thanks.

  6. Back in 2007-2009 I flew Spirit a number of times back and forth between DCA-FLL. Kind of like you said, it was…fine. Nothing special, but not awful. The FA’s weren’t exactly friendly and the advertising was kind of shocking to the eyes (lots of Carribbean ads with bright colors), but I think with one exception the flights were always on time. I won’t go as far as to say I’ll never fly them again, but they’ll never be my first (or even 4th choice)for a flight.

  7. Michael, glad to make you laugh!
    Katie, always good to be prepared. 😉
    Mary, I bet AirTran’s bathrooms were cleaner!
    KP, still not a terrible deal…just know what you are getting yourself into and plan accordingly.
    Noah, rarely is my analysis perfect, so thank! 😉
    Geoff, I didn’t say it was clean – it just appeared clean since it didn’t have trash piled on it.
    Tracy, totally agree.
    Alan, I’m sure I will one day…but hopefully not soon. 😉

  8. I´m glad you wrote this post. I actually used spirit miles and flew to Colombia for only 7500 miles each way. Prices were high on other carriers, and it worked out just fine. Sure, I´m not itching to get back on Spirit, but won´t hesitate to do so.

  9. Thanks for this informative and amusing report! Since the flight was just yesterday, might it take a few days before you really know if you survived unscathed? What if you caught something (like from that lavatory) and it’s not yet symptomatic?

  10. This is the best trip report I’ve ever seen for Spirit.

    Thank you, Summer! This was an unusually informative and entertaining post. Now I have a better idea of what to expect when I’m looking at a four hour flight on Spirit. 🙂

    Worth it? For me, probably (I’ll reserve final judgement for after my first flight). Should everyone be forewarned? Absolutely.

    If only Spirit took the same fun approach to educating customers as you did to writing this report…

  11. Diego, glad to hear your flight worked out okay. Sometimes the low price is just irresistible!
    Claire, ha ha. Well, there would be no way to trace it squarely to that flight anyway. I think there are germs all over Vegas. 😉
    james, glad you liked it! I approached the flight the same way as this post, just have fun with it and laugh at the bad parts.

  12. Thanks for the great report. Spirit is not usually an option for me so I am feeling very grateful. Because if the price is right…….

  13. considering the bugs I might get after the flight due to the horrible hygienic condition, I refuse to take spirit even if it’s free… oh, actually NO NO even if it pays me

  14. I recently flew Spirit to Colombia from Florida, since it was cheap, even after prepaying for my carryon. You get what you pay for. I lucked into an aisle seat from FLL to Colombia, but I don’t think the seat had any padding! I refused to pay for water out of principle and arrived in sweltering Colombia totally dehydrated- I splurged for the $4 combo of water and Pringles on the way back. What I overheard most on my changeover in FLL on the way home was “I’ll never fly Spirit again”.

    I’ve flown RyanAir multiple times and would rank Spirit below them, only because with RyanAir, if you follow their Draconian rules, at least your carryon is free. I’d fly either again, if the fare was sufficiently rock bottom and well below other airlines.

  15. Nice report. Makes for great entertainment. In a few weeks, I’m flying Allegiant Air, Austin-Las Vegas. Allegiant is similar to Spirit. My first time flying such an “ultra-low-cost” airline. In order to avoid carry on fees, I’m only taking my backpack.

  16. How funny! You know what they say..go into a restaurant bathroom and you can tell how the whole operation is run! It’s all about detail.

  17. I’ve flown on Spirit twice from Dallas to Denver. My family lives in Denver and the tickets are really cheap! We flew my family of 5 there last summer for $119 each round-trip! I’ve actually considered getting the credit card in the future. We all brought regular backpacks on board and had no issue.

  18. For us six footers, who carry “personal items” the size of steamer trunks, life is MUCH too short to fly Spirit Airlines :-).

  19. I’ve sworn off spirit but they are so damn cheap I’d always come crawling back one way flights for 125 from Honduras to atlanta sign me up! Then I discovered the points game…fly for free… why would I ever go on spirit again?! that being said i’m sure ill crawl back again…

  20. Great trip report!

    I did a trial booking on their website, dollars not miles, and was amused / educated by how they divide airfare between what the airline gets and the “Government Cut.” For a flight from Panama to Florida, the ‘Effective Tax Rate’ was a whopping 143%.

  21. MP > so you could use your Dad’s Spirit points to get yourself a 2,500 miles/points ticket? My parents also have the card, but my understanding was that only they (the Spirit cardholder) could get the discounted 2,500 miles ticket.

  22. You where especially brave to do this Spirit flight, because it was a Vegas flight. Even flights on legacy carriers in/out of Vegas get a little wierd…

  23. I’ve read so-called horror stories about Spirit Airlines, when really more often than not it’s on the people who didn’t do their homework or bothered to do basic research on Spirit’s policies before they got to the airport. People really need to take some personal responsibility. and not be shocked when they get to the airport too late to check in are are blindsided by their fees which are clearly spelled out if one does any research at all. You really do need to be at the airport 2 HOURS BEFORE DEPARTURE TIME to ensure that you won’t miss your flight. If the line is too long inside the airport, use a skycap/curbside check-in. People make it harder than it really needs to be. For those of you wondering why anyone would fly on Spirit, it’s because the fares are almost always significantly less, EVEN INCLUDING ALL THEIR FEES in many cases unless you are bringing a ton of bags and don’t bother to research their policies before you get to the airport. I just got a deal flying to LAS for $198/person, including all of these fees that everyone is griping about.

    • Agree with Russ…this month I took my family of 3 from FLL to LAS…$200 including bags and fees with miles…I could cost me at least $1200 cash or thousands and thousand of miles from other Airlines.

  24. You know we used to travel all over this earth with out wifi or in flight movies. I crossed the Atlantic 34 times before my 19th birthday with no wifi and seldom an inflight movie. Often the food was Army C-Rations with a P-38 can opener. Sometimes I had to climb over vehicles to get to a toilet and it was int he open. The seats where webbed like a lawn chair on some. Never mind lack of Windows or even facing the same direction he plane is traveling. Even when it was a Commercial Carrier like Delta it was no bed of roses and again 2/3rd of this was before wifi or the internet had been invented and when only 1st class got an in flight movie. The exception was Luftansa even when doing governmental work they treated you fantastically like everyone was 1st class but that was the exception not the norm. When it comes to creature comforts you sometimes get what you pay for. The minimum safety and maintenance work is not set by the operator the companies that make the aircraft and the FAA set the maintenance requirements in the USA. If you are based out of the USA you have to follow them. Their is no requirement for super clean cabin, in flight movie, posh lazy boy chairs at the ticket gate and lounge or free drinks and such. All of that cost money. I have a son that is going to Culinary School and is going to Apprentice at a 3 Star Michelin restaurant in Germany and you can bet your bottom a nice steak in that sort of restaurant will run a lot more than a trip to Ponderossa Steak House in fly over country USA. Airlines like this use smaller lower cost to operate aircraft often bought used with plenty of life still on the clock. They pay their younger less experienced pilots less. They cut out the “perks” that often double the price of a ticket on other larger more mainstream airlines. You can sleep in a $49 a night Hotel or a $3000 a night Hotel but you do not always get $2551 of extra comfort. Sure it will be a lot nicer but????

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