Save Money By Booking Spirit Airlines Tickets at the Airport

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The economics of buying airfare for a family of four people is a sobering reality. When you multiply almost anything by four (or more) people, you get a big number in a real hurry. Buying a $325 airline ticket for myself may sting, but not be a huge hit to the budget. If I purchase four of those, that is $1,300 and roughly the same amount as our monthly mortgage payment for just one round of flights. However, there is often another way to get from Point A to Point B without even hauling through your stash of miles and points. That economical air transportation solution comes in the form of low-cost carriers such as Spirit and Frontier.


Spirit’s myth is worse than the reality

In frequent traveling circles, or heck in almost any circles, there is a tremendous amount of stigma against flying low-cost carriers, specifically Spirit Airlines. I get it – they have cheeky ads, yellow planes, tiny seats, everything costs extra, and their on-time percentage and customer service used to be pretty bad. However, I think the reality now is a little different than the myth. While they do charge extra for almost everything, their on-time stats are actually beating other US carriers in some recent months.

Their focus on being on-time and with decent customer service seems to be paying off, though it is true that in irregular operations you may have fewer options when flying Spirit. However, that is where paying with a credit card with good built-in trip delay coverage and having miles as a last ditch back-up plan is key. Otherwise, if the plane is safe and on time, I can deal with being a little squished and pack my own drinks and snacks every now and then.

From my friends, to neighbors, to the fanciest frequent travelers, just about everyone I know who has begrudgingly flown Spirit when the price savings was undeniable has come off of the flight saying, “that wasn’t so bad”, at least for a relatively short flight. If they got the Big Front Seat, odds are they might have even liked the flight.

Spirit Big Front Seat

Why my family is flying Spirit Airlines

The reason to give Spirit a try is simple, when the other airlines want $300 – $400 per round trip, Spirit may want just 1/3 of that price…or less. Not only that, but the price you see for Spirit tickets online isn’t even the best price you can get. You can save money on Spirit airline tickets by going to the airport to purchase them in person. We aren’t even talking about saving a couple bucks, but instead, we are talking about saving almost $40 per round trip per person!

Before I get into that, let me walk you through why my family is flying Spirit even though we have elite status with other airlines and miles and points to burn.

We plan to take a family trip to Orlando this summer for a few nights to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and spend a few days Disney World right before my youngest daughter turns three and is no longer free at those two theme parks. This will serve as her third birthday party, and actually will sub in for a big party for my oldest daughter this year, too. She is dying to visit the Harry Potter attractions at Universal Orlando, which none of us have ever been to, and agreed to trade a big party for a day with Harry. Skipping throwing big parties this year will mostly offset the cost of the theme park tickets (especially since the littlest is still free), but of course, we want to keep our transportation costs as low as we can.

I’ve been watching flight prices for a while, United wants roughly $380 per round trip ticket for the July week we plan to travel. Saver awards are available on some of the dates, but not our ideal dates, and at very non-ideal travel times. I thought about spending 15,000 Citi ThankYou points transferred to LifeMiles to book each United operated round trip saver award, but that would still come to 60,000 points + well over $100 in fees to get flight times and dates we didn’t really want.

However, Spirit was selling tickets online for our perfect travel dates at the ideal travel times for about $167 per round trip. At a total of $666 for the four of us, that is a better deal than spending 60,000 – 100,000 points plus fees to fly non-ideal flight times with United on awards. It is also certainly better than the $1,520 it would cost us to book our flights with cash directly with United.

Save money on Spirit Airlines tickets by purchasing at the airport

Paying $666 for four peak travel time round trip tickets on Spirit from Houston to Orlando is certainly fair, but I wanted to do better than fair. A couple of days ago, I drove to the Houston airport and walked up to the Spirit Airlines ticket desk to see how much we could really save by purchasing our Spirit tickets in person.

My understanding was that you can avoid paying the $19.99 per way passenger usage charge by booking at the airport, though usually Spirit charges more for everything you do in person at the airport, so I had to see it to believe it.

I was almost nervous walking up to the Spirit ticket counter, but that trepidation quickly melted away as the Spirit staff couldn’t have been nicer and said they sell tickets to people at the counter all day every day. They were thrilled I knew exactly what I wanted as apparently many customers who come to the airport to purchase their tickets are very unprepared and unsure of what they want.

Buying Spirit Airlines tickets in person at the airport to save

We bought our four tickets from Houston to Orlando and back for the same exact prices shown online, minus the $19.99 each way per person. For a family of four, that is about a $160 savings on our Spirit Airlines tickets just by purchasing them at the airport! Sometimes that avoidable fee makes up the bulk of the Spirit Airlines ticket price!

Saving money by buying Spirit tickets at the airport

In the end, our total for four round-trip tickets dropped from $666 to $506 by purchasing our Spirit Airlines tickets in person. That was well worth the detour to the airport, and is something I would absolutely do again for a similar trip for all of us in the future.

Our total to fly will be at least somewhat higher than $506 since we will need to bring at least one big checked bag with our stuff. Since we can all bring a free backpack and we won’t need bulky clothes in the summer, we won’t need to pay for that many bags. Spirit does permit you to check a free car seat and stroller if needed, so there are no extra costs for those items. We will also likely pay for seat assignments, just to avoid any potential seating problems since we have little kiddos.

To say I’m excited about flying Spirit Airlines with my family would be an exaggeration, but I am excited about how we saved money by booking our Spirit tickets at the airport. I am also excited that we made the decision to spend as little as possible while getting the flight times and dates that we wanted to head to the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’!

Has your family ever saved money by booking Spirit Airlines tickets at the airport?



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

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I have to go to a wedding in May but will be at the Denver airport next week for another trip I have planned. Could I buy my Spirit ticket at that time at the counter for that May flight? Seems weird but will save me what you have highlighted in red on your ticket and would be convenient.

  2. I still wouldn’t pay for seat assignments. We never do and our family of three has always been seated together though usually in one of the last few rows. To increase the odds a bit, we typically check in pretty close to the 24-hour mark, i.e., when things are still mostly wide-open in the back half or so of the cabin.

    And then, as we all know, people are usually willing to seat-trade (assuming you’ve got decent trade bait).

    The only thing we ever pay for is coffee — which, on Spirit, is actually decent.

      • We have flown spirit at least 10 times and not once have we paid to purchase seats. Our family of 4, and up to 5, have always sat together. Our worst seats were the next to last row, but it was still better than paying the $15 per person to select.

  3. Don’t check a bag. That is how they get you with their long lines to check bags. Pay for carry-on. That is the worst part of flying Spirit.

  4. We have a larger bag which we only use on spirit flights. We call it our “Spirit Bag.” It paid for itself in one trip. We buy the tickets at the airport but don’t buy the bags at the airport because it is cheaper if you do the bags online. I don’t like Spirit but sometimes they are the best choice or only choice (TPA-ACY). Try to go buy the ticket when they are not busy at the counter. They cancel so many flights that they may be too busy to help you for an hour. Also don’t worry about Spirit points they expire so fast that its a waste of energy to keep them from expiring. Never thought of using credit card for Spirit cancellations which are not unusual at all.

  5. We also usually only check one large suitcase for 3 of us, especially for a beach vacation that requires lighter clothes…we can squeeze it! The carry-on costs more (and of course are smaller). I’ve never paid for seat assignments and have had no problems with that either. We’ve only flown them when it is absolutely the best deal (price/points), but I’m definitely going to try the airport purchase next time! We are only 20 minutes from our airport and that would be worth the drive. Thanks!!

  6. I’ve never flown Spirit, but I am flying Frontier for the first time this weekend. I got a $58 RT (+$5 each way for seat assignment) LAX/DEN. Frontier does a ton of cheap promotions that I’ve thought about, but never jumped on because I’m not sure I want to travel a cut rate carrier with two kids. Flying solo this weekend will give me an idea if they’ll work for our family.

    I’ll keep an eye out for your post on Spirit and how it works out traveling on them with a family of four.

    • It will be interesting and my first time doing it with kids! I hope your Frontier flight goes well this weekend and leads to more discounted travel with your family.

  7. If you have connecting flights, you can save $19.99 per flight segment if you don’t mind breaking up the reservation. Of course, you have to check in for both reservations separately and don’t check in bags. Flying Spirit has forced us to pack smarter and lighter!

  8. Cant wait for the review of the Spirit Suites :0). Living in South Florida we used Spirit many times for national and international flights. Never have a problem. But you enjoy the flight a lot more if you spend a little of money…like in the Big Front seats or food and drinks. People that dont like Spirit is because they wanna travel for free and are cheap. Spirit is a great way to go to the Caribbean and some central american countries. But if you cant get a big front seat limit your fly time to 3 hours or less….the worst flight that I remember was doing the redeye LAS-FLL….unbearable!

  9. Depending on the type of souvenirs you buy, you might consider visiting the post office and mailing some of them home, rather than having to carry everything back on your return trip. This worked really well for us in a few situations where we knew our bags would be overweight and wanted to avoid those fees.

  10. Good job saving money and getting off of the $666 total, which would be a little scary coupled with flying Spirit! One thing I’d like to add is that Spirit’s maximum weight for “standard” bags is 40 lbs (overweight fees escalate at 41, 51, and 71 lbs), rather than the 50 lbs that most carriers use.

  11. We live 10 min from OAK. I am totally doing this sometime for, like, a Saturday day trip to LA or Vegas. Subtracting out the online fee, it is cheaper than even the Megabus.

  12. Well I went to the Denver Airport Spirit counter and not a soul knew what I was talking about when I referenced your information. They called a supervisor and he couldn’t help either. Sadly this did not work for me….

    • Steve, they didn’t know how to sell you a ticket? That seems beyond unimaginable. The Houston folks said they sell tickets all day every day. I’m kinda baffled.

      • Oh yes they were willing to sell me the ticket….but knew nothing of taking off the passenger usage charge if I were to buy it in person. The ticket I could buy at home was quoted the same as at the counter but they were clueless as to backing out that fee….it was so frustrating because I know it was super easy for you. I had your info that you supplied here memorized but my situation had a different result….

        • Hmmm. Well there was no talk of the fee at the airport. Just the amount quoted was exactly the same minus that amount. You would think it would be automatically programmed. So strange!

          • Summer here is what I see when I do a booking at home….not seeing the passenger usage fee…maybe that’s why no change at airport? Or in this case is it the passenger facility fee? If so not sure a trip to airport is worth it….I was hoping to get what you got.

            Government’s Cut
            Security Fee
            Passenger Facility Fee
            Segment Fee
            Federal Excise Tax

          • Summer last question on this I promise! After you bought the tickets at the counter how did you pay for your bags? I see the best price is adding bags while booking through but that does not apply when purchasing tickets at the airport to save that usage fee. Adding bags with an agent is the most expensive so what did you do? Go back to your reservation and add and at what price?

          • Great question and I haven’t yet. I will pay for at least one bag most likely online before the trip. It may be a few dollars more that way, but I think since it is a summer trip we won’t need a ton of full-size bags and can do a bunch in backpacks.

  13. Never mind…I did find it….
    Regulatory Compliance Charge
    Fuel Charge
    Passenger Usage Charge

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