I Flew Spirit Airlines & Survived – My Observations, Likes & Dislikes

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Flying Spirit Airlines Is Not That Bad

Flying Spirit Airlines Is Not That Bad, But It Is Different

I had not flown Spirit Airlines in over ten years.  Once I got into miles and points there wasn’t really a reason to fly budget carriers, except for Southwest (they are kind of in between).  As fate would have it I had to fly Spirit home last week from Orlando because of a death in the family. At the end of it all I came away thinking flying Spirit Airlines is not that bad.

Spirit happened to be half the cost of everyone else last minute, even with all of the additional fees.  There were no real points options for four people that I could make work so I ended up paying a little over $400 (including fees) for the four of us to get home on Spirit.  For some reason the flight I wanted did not show up in Chase’s or Citi’s travel portal to book it with points. This was the first flight I had paid full price for in ages and it killed me a little bit inside.

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Observations, Likes & Dislikes

I figured I would share some things I noticed on my flight.  I think that most people run into issues with Spirit because they don’t know how they operate or get caught in a nasty delay.  Our flight was the first flight out so I figured that would lessen our chances of having a delay.  And I know all of their fees etc. so I was prepared for that.  Knowing those two factors had me better prepared and left me thinking flying Spirit Airlines is not that bad with proper planning and awareness.

Flying Spirit Airlines Is Not That Bad
Bin Space After I Boarded With Group 3 Of 4

Likes

I will start with the good stuff. The boarding process was probably the most enjoyable I have had on any airline.  There was no grouping by the gate, pushing to get on, fighting for overhead space.  This is the genius in the Spirit system.  They charge less for checked luggage versus carry on luggage so more than half the plane walked on with nothing.  There was no fighting for overhead space because there were multiple empty bins.  The deplaning process was as quick as I have seen it for the same reason, no one is grabbing bags from overhead.

They also give priority boarding to people that paid for bags.  That is a nice twist that had me chuckling to myself when my family boarded with group one and I boarded with group three since I only had a backpack.

The drink service lasted about five minutes too. Since you have to pay for everything most people skipped it.  We knew this ahead of time and picked up snacks and drinks before boarding.  This kept the aisles clear for people to use the bathroom etc.

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Dislikes

If I am being honest the seats were not the best.  The padding was a little weak but I never got too uncomfortable so it couldn’t have been too bad.  The width of the seat felt about normal but the gap between the seats did feel tighter.  My daughter could barely fit her arm in between the seats where I could do it myself on our Delta flight down.  So it is a little bit tighter than normal I would say.  I didn’t notice a huge difference in leg room.

Flying Spirit Airlines Is Not That Bad

I expected to see skimping on the plane but some of it was in weird areas.  The backs of the seats are not covered which makes sense.  It looks more like a bus than a plane but no big deal.  The one that drove me crazy was the lack of a seat back pocket.  They only had elastic straps holding in the safety cards.  This is probably to ensure trash isn’t left behind and to save on the seat cost.  But come on, it is a real PIA to strap your drink into those things much less anything else.  I can’t imagine a mesh pocket would be that much of an increase in cost.

Flying Spirit Airlines Is Not That Bad

The tray tables were almost comically small.  I couldn’t even see putting a drink and snack on there comfortably.  If you have a child that likes to color bring a clipboard or something for them.  It fit my dirt cheap Fire tablet so it was fine with me.

Flying Spirit Airlines Is Not That Bad

Observations

Overall I left somewhat impressed.  When Spirit is actually running on time I don’t have a problem flying them again.  I think they are best situated for solo flying for a quick weekend trip etc.  If you can get by with just a back pack and don’t care where you sit you can get round trip flights for around $100.  Even if you pick seats that will only run you around $6-10 each way.

I was so surprised by how easy boarding and deplaning was that it left me thinking of flying them again.  Especially if I am able to find a flight via the Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou points portal.  It could work out perfect for quick trips to see my parents in Atlanta etc.

Conclusion

Spirit Airlines gets a bad rap for on time flights and poor customer service, and rightfully so.  But they do have a place in domestic travel if you are willing to plan ahead.  I am a heck of a lot more likely to fly them again after my latest experience.  More airlines may want to consider pushing people towards checked luggage in order to improve boarding and on time departure times.


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20 COMMENTS

  1. I agree. Spirit is a know-before-you-go airline, I try to avoid them due to the rise in post flight chiropractic bills but recently flew round trip with them and paid to select exit row seats, brought seat pillows and tried to have a good attitude. Overall I feel their flight crews are some of the nicest in the business, probably to compensate for their sub par gate agents.. Sometimes its worth the mild discomfort due to schedule and budgets. My last-min round trip with carry ons and exit seats was $200 vrs American at $320

    • Totally agree. I will be more willing to book them for direct flights going forward when the price is right.

    • Interesting – thanks Bill. I think they run into issues when they have bigger delays happen since they have less of a route map and they won’t put you on another airline to get you to where you need to go. It is still impressive to see them climbing the rankings and my crew was very nice as well. I have had the worse luck with American so the article doesn’t surprise me much in that respect 🙂

  2. Considering AA no longer takes care of their own passengers on delays and the fact that Spirit tends to be at the top of on-time performance day after day, week after week, month after month, I gotta give them a good looking at. Basic for sure, but if they are reliable, at least worth a look.

  3. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I’m glad you were able to get home in a relatively cost effective way. I really hope that your family was able to enjoy a good portion of your time in Orlando before you had to leave. It must have been difficult to tell your children… Hopefully, your family will be able to get back there soon to do all of the things you were unable to do.

    • Pauline thanks for the kind words. We had to cut it a day short but they were able to see the Magic Kingdom and hang out in the pool (their favorite part) so it worked out pretty well.

  4. My biggest problem with Spirit is that they’re usually not so cheap. If I’m going to fly an “ultra low cost carrier,” I’m looking for dirt cheap. And, these days, that generally means Frontier. They have almost daily sales where certain flights (usually off-peak) are sold for ridiculous prices. I average less than $30 each way for my Frontier tickets. It’s a similar experience to Spirit: not great, but if you know the rules (especially the rule to bring the largest possible free “personal item”), you’re fine as long as there aren’t irregular ops.
    You can find decent fares on Spirit but, in most cases (probably not last minute tickets like yours) the savings are rarely good enough to choose them over a “regular” carrier. I will say that under their new management team (post-Ben Baldanza) Spirit has worked to improve their operation and make their airline more humane. They have generally succeeded in that effort. But, again, there’s usually not enough savings on Spirit to make me a regular customer.

    • Frontier has been having some amazing sales. I have not flown them in a while – since before they were a ultra low cost carrier. I remember they were one of the first (maybe the first) airline I flew with IFE in the seat backs.

  5. Flights are not too bad when they actually fly. However, when they don’t have enough paying customers, they cancel flights. Big risk.

    • That is the worry. American did this to my sister recently and then said it was because of non existent weather.

  6. One of my neighbors has used Spirit recently. He pays for the “Big Seat” and says it’s just fine.

    • I need to try the big seat…Shawn has done it before and said it is comparable to other first class seats.

  7. Probably the most offensive thing about Spirit is their chip-on-the-shoulder attitude towards everybody (government, other airlines, their own customers, and reportedly the hotels that they try to stiff when they are forced to provide vouchers to stranded customers). If you know the risks and rules and play the game, you can certainly get good deals. But it can be a lot of work. My husband and I got one-way flights from Minneapolis to Chicago (in 2016) for $25 each! Hidden on an interior page of the website I discovered that the $43 so-called “bare fare” listed on the search page included an $18 fee for booking online! So I drove to the airport the week before our flight and purchased the tickets there. I studied the website and came up with carry-on luggage that barely fit within their ever-changing dimensions for “personal item,” which was sufficient for a weekend trip. The trip worked out fine. Like you, we found the employees we interacted with to be pleasant enough. But it’s hard to trust an airline that is trying so aggressively to annoy and deceive you.

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