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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.