What it Takes to Get Me to Book Spirit Airlines

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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?

Head here to learn more about available rewards credit cards and their bonuses.

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

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  1. I’ve flown Spirit for weekend trips to the beach because it’s nonstop and find it perfect for those kinds of trips where I don’t need much of a bag. Some of their schedules much better compared to the legacies.

    Would I fly on their trans-con from my east coast airport to LAX or LAS? Absolutely not. To MYR for $15 each way? In a heartbeat.

  2. I can tell you why their on-time percentage is 87%. It’s because they do NOT hold their plane for customers on connecting flights, when said connecting flight is one which you booked directly through them. I was IN THE AIRPORT trying to make my connecting flight and was told they would not hold the plane for me, nor would they even tell me when I could get on another flight. I ended up shelling out $100 for a rental car and drove the distance. Nightmare. Direct flights may be fine, but NEVER fly Spirit if you have a layover. Ever.

    • Great question. Their price was about $110 for a nonstop flight around that time but I would have to get through Houston at morning rush hour to get to Hobby so that’s a no go. Goal was to help see kids off to school then fly out and I’d have to leave way too early if I flew HOU rather than IAH. But….solid option otherwise!

  3. You’re lucky you have an option. In CLT AA just gouges us and DL and UA get away charging the same insane prices for a connecting flight.

  4. Hi Summer,

    Were you able to book the Big Front Seat through the Chase Travel Portal? I’m looking to do the same thing and save by flying Spirit and want to use my 100k+ Chase points but am not certain on the Chase Travel portal process for redeeming and seat selection.

    – Kevin

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