Confession: I Am Really Starting to Like Spirit Airlines

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spirit airlines review

My Growing Love for Spirit Airlines

I live in Las Vegas and lately there is no escaping Spirit Airlines. They are growing here like the plague and it seems every time I want to travel to a city, my choices for a direct flight are a legacy carrier or Southwest at 2-4X the price or Spirit at a bargain. While I have resisted Spirit recently on a couple of trips, I had a very nice flight with them to Detroit in July and traveled a roundtrip to San Diego this past week as well.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Aren’t you the one who wrote about the uncomfortable bare metal plane seats?” Why, yes I am. There are certainly aspects of the company and their product that I don’t like. For example I am not a fan of their carry-on policy, but I generally travel light anyway and have a couple of backpacks that qualify as free and give me plenty of space. Problem solved (for me).

As a bigger guy who is 6’2″, I am also not a fan of their pre-reclined seats and 28″ pitch. With that said, I can normally buy the Big Front Seat (pretty much the equivalent to a legacy domestic first class seat) and still come out cheaper than the other carriers in a lot of cases. On shorter flights. I can sit in a normal seat and deal with some pain for a 75% savings. In other words I either save a ton of money, get a better seat or both.

What Spirit Does Right

But none of those things are reasons why Spirit Airlines is growing on me. Would you believe they are winning me over with their service?!? Well let me backup. Everything on the plane costs money including water. I generally don’t order anything so I am actually not even being served, but other people are and the quality of the flight attendants is noticeable.

I have noticed that the Spirit flight attendants are consistently fun, friendly and treat customers with respect. That doesn’t happen with the surly legacy FAs in most cases. They also do fun things like sing songs and hold random activities. Yes, activities! For example, on my flight back from San Diego the crew held a 10 minute trivia game where nearly the entire plane of 228 passengers (yes they squeeze that many people on an A321) participated.

I have also noticed that the airline communicates better than say…..American Airlines. American is now famous for not announcing a delay until boarding time. The other day my flight back from San Diego was delayed due to weather in Las Vegas (not Spirit’s fault), but they emailed me hours ahead of time to let me know. It was a pleasant surprise and one that allowed me to plan my afternoon better.

Not Perfect

Sure, Spirit does have huge issues and I am not ignoring them. If they have delays and/or cancellations you can be out of luck trying to find alternative transportation and they have more fees than you can shake a stick at. But I have taken nearly a dozen flights with them without a single issue. I haven’t been charged a fee I didn’t know about and the planes have always been new, clean and on-time. (This week’s weather delay aside.)

Conclusion

Spirit probably won’t ever be my airline of choice, but with a Big Front Seat, a nonstop flight and a cheaper overall fare, I won’t hesitate to fly them in the right scenario. I know it is popular to dump on Spirit, but if you have never experienced the airline and if the cost/convenience makes sense, then you might want to give them a try. You might just find a friendly airline making travel possible at a fraction of the cost, back pain and friendly smiles included.


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27 COMMENTS

  1. I totally agree. Spirit often offers a great value and I’ve found the same quality of flight attendants. I’ve found the gate agents to be a little more abrupt, but at least at LAS they’re contracted rather than Spirit employees, and have to put up with the bag enforcement. Its hard to beat the value of a $50 flight to San Diego in a BFS.

  2. I appreciate your honesty. I flew on that cattle car a week ago DFW-PHX. TSA took forever, even at 10PM at night. There is no pre-check. The TSA agent at the front literally told me “Spirit can’t afford it.”
    Didn’t pay for any extra bags as I knew the drill. Sat in an aisle seat next to a really big dude in the middle seat, and a FA kept hitting me as she walked down the aisle.
    But it was a direct flight – it was cheap, and I survived. At the end of the day though – I would rather fly Southwest in a heartbeat.

  3. What backpacks do you use that give you the space needed, and qualify for zero bag fees on Spirit? I’m in search of “the bag” that can do that

    • I have a couple of REI backpacks (don’t know the models of the top of my head and I’m not at home right now.) Just look at the overall dimensions, but you can fit quite a lot if you get a pack close to the max size.

    • Any regular school-style backpack is fine. You can even get away with being bigger than their technical size limit as long as your bag is “squishy” . I’ve been on dozens of spirit flights and they only stop you if you have a giant carry-on with wheels.

    • I usually have 30L backpack. Never had a problem. I fly Chicago to Denver 5 times a year for skiing. All equipment is in locker near Frisco ($300/year for 4 skis, 4 ski boots sets). That’s the cheapest option for frequent ski flyer.

  4. Thanks for this article. I feel Spirit gets a unnecessary bad reputation from people who expect the airline and flying experience to be that of legacy carrier. If you go into flying them understanding there unique rules and fees, tons of savings could be had. I respect there business model (profitable one at that). I also understand it isn’t for everyone.

    In my mind, flying coach these days is comparable to public transportation on any carrier and I’m OK with that at Spirits low rates. I’d even argue I’m happy with these low rates making travel accessible to more individuals previous priced out but that is a whole other post.

    Those in the mileage game should look at the Spirit Credit Card and possibly add them to your arsenal of miles. By no means stockpile but keep some on hand if your schedule is flexible and your able to fly during low season dates. 5,000 miles RT ($2,500 CC spend) ORD-LGA or 10,000 miles ORD-HAV RT ($5,000 CC spend) is hard to beat and just an example of the great offers there distance based chart offers. In the rare case that an issue/odd cancelation arises, use other miles on another airline as a backup plan. You in the mileage game are better prepared to react to issue.

    While I do sing all this praise, I think it’s only fair to mention that you should hope to never have to call the outsourced customer service- the worst.

    • If you are not a Free Spirit MasterCard holder, your miles will expire after 3 months. Get the card, get more go! Its very simple.

  5. hmmmmm….. thanks for the contrarian post. I ordinarily refuse to pay for the oxygen on Spirit. 😉 Likewise, I generally travel light with the spouse, but can’t imagine flying with just a small back-pack… ? By the time we add on the spirit fees for bags, they usually cost as much or more than SWA or JetBlue…. But have been noticing some Spirit deals on international travel that are super tempting — esp. if bought with Chase UR points (and that’s before getting the discounts on the nefarious taxes)…. 😉 And Spirit does routes to Mexico and the Caribbean that are often unique to Spirit…. So maybe we’ll pack our stuff into one big bag for underneath….. and hazard, say the route from Cabo to San Diego…. Anything more than two hours and my claustrophobia might well kick in…… (It’s often pushed to the limits on the SWA cattle cars…. Spirit seems like a nightmare waiting to come back…

  6. You are correct when you say they are not perfect. Far from it. While their prices are good for last minute flights, they are just ok for planned ahead travel.
    Cutomer service is lacking big time. My recent last minute flight (death in the family) was terrible for the connecting flight in Fort Lauderdale. Had to go out of terminal building to next building and through TSA. Guess what we had bought water in Detroit, but since we had to go through TSA again, had to throw $6.00 of water in the trash. No help from customer service. Glad we did not purchase the bottles of liquor from duty free in detroit that would have been $125.

  7. We have been flying MCI-LAS for years. Never a problem with delays (that I always hear them getting the bad rap for).
    And yes, I feel like I’m a sardine, squished in the seats! But, do I love flying round trip from Kansas City to Las Vegas for $46.20 round trip? You bet!!!
    I’ve spent the same money to fly MCI to LAX! Non stop!!! $46.20 !!!!!
    No other airline can come close.
    NO, I do not like packing light or paying the fees. Or sitting on hard seats. But for those prices, I’ll deal with it for a few hours!!!

  8. I really agree about the flight attendants. I was flying Spirit almost exclusively before getting into miles and points. Having gotten a variety of other miles, I was excited to fly “regular” airlines. I was surprised to find the FAs almost universally more unfriendly on other airlines, including supposedly customer-oriented ones like JetBlue. Also haven’t had any unusual lateness.
    The bag thing can be a pain but I’ve never been stopped (google “underseat carryon”, we have a rolling suitcase that meets their criteria).
    I admit, I haven’t flown Southwest, but their prices have never been competitive where I want to go.
    Good news re precheck!
    It’s all about expectation. I fly with my two kids and the number of miles needed for the three of us to fly on a “regular” airline is usually a ton in comparison.

  9. Spirit can rot in hell. If you are willing to fly them fine… i will not. I hate them and do not think their service levels are acceptable. Spirit is not for the buisness travler by any means and they are not for a travler that has an itenerary they need to meet. Spirit is a fast greyhound bus. But they dont always fly for lots of reasons and thats not something I am willing to risk. Maybe you have a more flexable travel window than I do? I do not like being inconvenienced and S-crap airlines is too risky for me. The seats suck, the plane sucks, the rules suck and the flight times for DFW-ORD suck. I read your comments to my Wife who said “what the hell? How much are they paying this guy.”

    Maybe you think S-Crap air is good for the industry but I do not think they are. Now I see the beginning’s of ultra cheap crap service being introduced into the legacy carriers. After taking a flight on AA from DUB-ORD i can tell you services and the seats are already subpar and this whole thing is getting shitty. I recall flying as a kid on 747’s and everything being way better. Now flying is joke and other than Richard Branson nobody wants to bring services for coach fliers back to a nice level.

    All of you are part of the problem. You choose to fly in shit seats with shit services and think its ok. I am not. You can take S-Crap Air and shove where the sun doesnt exist.

    • First off, if Spirit paid me then I would be required to disclose it. In fact I have disclosed the opposite. You and your wife can rest assured that I am not being paid.

      Second, you actually proved my point. The legacy carriers are racing to the bottom themselves, so why not pay a fraction of the price if/when it makes sense? I am an Executive Platinum with American Airlines and like to fly in luxury and comfort, but for short flights, when the price is right and when the timing is better than the legacies, I have no issue with Spirit.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion!

  10. Miles expire in 3 months and you are on your own if you are stranded (Nov 2011 in NYC) especially in an area hit by a natural disaster.
    THe corporate staff is zero help. If you are healtthy and with no kids, it may be OK. Otherwise, other that the 5K deals for cardholders I would avoid Spirit like a plague.

  11. Yet another reason to NOT be loyal to any major airline, especially now that they’ve screwed all their loyalty programs. Just confirms my choice of always be loyal to the CHEAPEST fare airline. Thanks.

  12. I am another big fan of Spirit. There are six in our family and Spirit’s low prices have allowed us to take some great trips at rock-bottom prices. Something to add – although it makes no sense, ticket prices are even LOWER when you buy tickets at the Spirit ticket counter at the airport. Spirit does not advertise this, but the Passenger Usage Fee – which is currently $35.98 per round-trip ticket – can be avoided by buying your ticket at the Spirit counter. I always buy Spirit tickets at the airport – saving our family of six $215.88 off the listed prices…crazy!

    Another tip… Spirit does not count a pillow that you bring with you as an extra piece of luggage. They are okay, too, if you do what our family does- maximize the amount of luggage you bring by pulling the pillow out from the pillow case and wrapping some clothes around the pillow and then putting it all back in the pillow case. By doing this we have never paid baggage fees at Spirit!

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