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Spirit Airlines is the butt of lots of jokes in the travel community, but let’s be real, it can also be a really good option when budgets are tight and other airlines want an insane amount of money to get from Point A to B. I’ve flown Spirit before and lived to tell the tale, and my parents are darn near Spirit regulars. While I don’t love the Spirit experience of small seats, no included luggage larger than a small backpack, and no WIFI, things aren’t as bad as they always were. Sure there’s still the small seats, very little included luggage, and no WIFI (yet), but their operations have become more reliable and they do now participate in TSA PreCheck.
Spirit used to have a relatively unreliable operation which really was the biggest barrier to choosing them, but in October 2017, Spirit actually had the third best on-time percentage in the US at 87.1% coming in behind Hawaiian and Delta, with the national average being about 84%. If they can get me where I need to be safe and on-time, I can deal with the rest on occasion if the price is right.
Saving hundreds by flying Spirit
Today I was pricing flights as I need to head to Vegas for a meeting in a couple weeks and United wants $371 for a one-way Houston to Las Vegas flight on the time and date I need to travel. If I wanted to use miles that would cost 25,000 United miles for that one segment. Yuck and yuck. I wanted to find a Plan B.
Knowing they also operate a nonstop flight on this route, I checked Spirit and there it was, the $46.20 nonstop alternative on the same date at virtually the same time.
I don’t know exactly what the price savings has to be there for me to choose Spirit over United, but I know at about $325 in savings on this one flight, I’ll take it. It’s a one-night trip, so Spirit’s bag rules aren’t a huge deal and I did splurge an extra $35 to have what essentially amounts to a domestic first class seat via the Spirit “Big Front Seat”. In total that means I saved about $290 over United and got a bigger and better seat in the process.
For the flight home, United was basically the same price as Spirit at $40 for Basic Economy and $60 for a normal economy ticket, so I’ll be flying United home for a very solid price. However, for my ride to Vegas, I’m plenty pleased with an $81 ride in Spirit’s Big Front Seat.
Using points to pay for Spirit Airlines
To pay for the flight I used some of my hot-off-the-presses Sapphire Reserve 2018 $300 Travel Credit to cover the ticket purchase, but if I had wanted to use Chase Ultimate Reward points, the flight was available in the Chase travel portal for 3,480 Ultimate Reward points via my Sapphire Reserve that lets you use points at a fixed 1.5 cents in value each. For those with the Spirit credit card, the flight could be had for as low as 2,500 Spirit miles + about $20 in taxes and fees (less if you book in person at the airport).
It may be fun to laugh a little at Spirit Airlines, but I’m more than happy to chuckle while saving hundreds of dollars on this one flight. Of course, I’m also more than happy to share a report of my first time actually flying in Spirit’s Big Front Seat come January.
How big does the savings have to be for you to choose Spirit over a ‘full service’ air carrier?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.