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Flying Spirit Airlines Is Not as Hard as You Think

Published on January 24, 2017 by Jennifer Dubose

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While I would consider myself well traveled (at least within the US), I had never lived anywhere other than the Midwest. And here I was, leaving everything I knew behind for a grand adventure. I was beyond excited.

I was wrapped up in the newness of married life and never considered what the cost might be to travel home to see my family. Flying in general can get expensive, and a trip from Florida to Minnesota can be exorbitant. That’s when I began seriously considering Spirit as my go-to not only for short jaunts, but also for longer three- to four-hour flights.

With the tagline “Less Money. More Go.” Spirit Airlines claims to be a step above the rest when it comes to affordable flights with their “bare fare” mantra. But you’ve probably heard flying Spirit is more hassle than it’s worth, and that added fees could make the cost skyrocket.

My most recent airplane selfie, taken on a Spirit flight to Minnesota.

It’s true that costs can mount quickly if you are not careful. However, flying with Spirit can be an effective way to travel on a tight budget.

The following is my step-by-step guide to navigating Spirit hassle-free without getting hit with costly upgrade fees.

Allow a little flexibility in your travel itinerary to score the lowest flight prices.

While you may prefer to travel out on a Friday evening or Sunday morning, consider flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Flight prices tend to be considerably lower on low-demand travel days. While this is true for most carriers, the discounts for less popular days can be significant with Spirit.

The airline is currently offering a one-way flight from Tampa, FL to Minneapolis, MN on Tuesday Feb. 14 for $44.19.

I've finally boarded the plane and I'm ready to go home! Los Angeles, here I come. #collectmemoriesnotthings #SpiritAirlines

A post shared by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Giovanny Panginda (@gogiogo) on

Pack light.

Spirit allows one carry-on bag per person for $35 USD. This means your best cost-saving option is to bring only a “personal item,” which Spirit allows for free.

Spirit gives you the EXACT dimensions of what is allowed for a personal item on a flight: 16” x 14” x 12” (including wheels & handles). This is the size of a large purse, small backpack, or briefcase. So, if you want to avoid the upcharge of your personal item suddenly becoming a carry-on, measure your bag.

I tested this out on a short weekend trip to Chicago, and glided onto the plane hassle-free. The benefit of packing small bags? I didn’t have to lug heavy luggage around the streets of Chicago.

You may not think so, but it is possible to pack only the essentials. Here’s BoardingBlue’s handy guide:

Spirit also has fun videos on their website demonstrating how to pack personal items effectively with separate — and quite hilarious — videos for men and women. You could also choose to wear a few more layers than normal to sneak through extra clothing.

If you know you’ll need to pack a little more, the best cost-saving option is to check your bag for $30 USD when you book your flight. When you check in for your flight, you get a second chance to check your bag for $40 USD, and again at the airport reservation center for $50 USD.

If you fail to measure the size of your bags (which are clearly listed when booking your flight) you could get hit with a $100 USD upgrade fee if they have to check your bag at the gate.

Note: Spirit prefers to keep their planes as light as possible — the more bags you check, the higher the cost per bag. Two bags are $70 USD, and three bags are $155 USD total. This is a common practice with most airlines, but Spirit tends to charge $5-10 USD more per extra bag than other carriers.

Plan to be a little uncomfortable.

If you’re flying Spirit, you have to pay to choose a seat. And with the smallest seat pitch out of any other major airline in the United States, the seats don’t offer much space to begin with.

If you’re traveling alone and don’t care about an aisle, middle, window, or more legroom, you’re good to go. You get an assigned seat at the gate and are on your merry way with no extra fees.

Choosing your seat costs on average around $9 USD per person for the back of the plane, $15-20 USD for the front, or $25 USD for an exit row (exact parameters listed here).

You can also choose one of the “Big Front Seat” options in the first row. These offer more legroom, a wider seat, and no middle seat next to you. This upgrade can cost anywhere from $12 USD up to $199 USD per flight. I’m a fairly average-sized woman and I find that the seats are just fine for a few hours. If you prefer a little more wiggle room, definitely consider the upgrades.

🛩#Howdy #Flights #wintersky #spiritairlines #GK #Flow

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Print your boarding pass at home.

Use your own ink and avoid the $2 fee to print at a kiosk (per ticket) or the $10 USD fee Spirit charges to print your boarding pass with an agent. Spirit does not offer an option to text or email your boarding pass, nor do they have a mobile app. So you must print your own boarding pass to avoid the fees.

Pack your own snacks.

For short flights, not having the delight of salted peanuts or a cute little bag of pretzels isn’t a big deal (at least to me). For the longer ones, pack a few small snacks and you’re good to go. I like to pack something sweet and something salty to satisfy whatever I’m craving in the moment.

Alternatively, Spirit offers a limited selection of snacks and drinks, but at an inflated cost. For example, a King Size bag of Peanut M&Ms is approximately $1.50 USD retail, but Spirit charges around $3.50 USD.

Spirit on deck #spiritairlines #airbus #jetset #fortlauderdale #vacation #a320 #pilot

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Sign up for the free rewards program, and receive emails notifying you of sales.

Give Spirit your email and pertinent info to earn points every time you fly, redeemable for future flights. I love seeing emails from Spirit in my inbox. Not only do they have cheeky taglines (“Get out while you can!”) but every email notifies you of a great deal.

Sometimes Spirit offers discount codes for $10 USD off a flight, or even $60 USD for round trips.

My favorite? Seeing the email that says “99% off.”

That’s right, sometimes Spirit offers 99% off flights to certain destinations. If you’re located in Tampa, for example, 99% off flights are typically offered to Atlanta, Miami, Houston, and Dallas with some outliers such as Baltimore and even Minneapolis. From Minneapolis, you can get deals on flights to Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and even Houston.

Sign up for the $9 Fare Club.

If you plan on flying Spirit consistently, look into this membership. I love it.

For $59.95 USD per year, you get discounted rates on flights as well as an average savings of $9 USD off bag costs. The Minneapolis flight mentioned above is currently just $23.10 USD for Fare Club members. Score! The closest comparable flight on Delta is $103.20 USD one-way.

Is the $80 USD in your pocket for a “bare” flight worth it? I think so! You could purchase 3 more flights on Spirit with that extra money, just sayin’.

While I’ve covered the basics, Spirit does a wonderful job of listing every possible upgrade fee or extra charges on their website.

So read up and be prepared. The discount airline may have a negative reputation for causing hassles, but if you follow my advice, you can navigate Spirit’s fares and fees like an expert.


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A Guide to Flying Spirit Airlines like a Pro | Flying with the budget airline Spirit isn't as hard as you think. We break down everything you need to know before boarding your flight! | Wanderful

 

Have you ever flown Spirit Airlines before? How’d it go? Share in the comments!

Header photo courtesy of Tpdwkouaa.

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10 thoughts on “Flying Spirit Airlines Is Not as Hard as You Think

  • on March 3, 2017

    Hi Jennifer,
    I’m glad to have found this article, thanks! Hope it’s ok if I share it to my FB page… I fly Spirit quite often these days or at least as often as I go between Nicaragua and Ohio. My son and I come to Granada, Nicaragua often, 1-2x year lately and they often have the best price from Detroit to Florrida to Managua…so we go with them. I’ve certainly been caught once with the high fee bag, but learned my lesson quick and now pay close attention to the baggage details.
    I actually just finished writing an email compliment about two of their flight attendants who helped my son and I on our first flight after he got sick mid-air….not a pretty picture but they did everything they could to help us manage, get cleaned up, and have a comfortable remainder of the flight. Some people scrap them bc of the upcharges so I think it’s helpful to have articles like yours that help folks navigate, because they really can make for a big savings. Many thanks and happy travels!
    Martha

    Reply
    • Jen Dubose
      on April 20, 2017

      Thank you so much Martha! Certainly feel free to share my article!
      Spirit airlines may be tricky, but well worth the savings! I’m happy they were helpful despite the unfortunate experience.

      ~Jen

      Reply
  • on April 11, 2017

    I agree with your comments… but got into a minor tiff with Spirit when I overpaid for my luggage and they wouldn’t refund me.

    The problem is that they’re now charging extra for hand luggage but it was hard to establish what was acceptable online (couldn’t find the sizes)… so I thought I better pay up front (~$25) so I wasn’t slugged at the airport (a lot more). There is no number you can ring and ask if you’re unsure… and an email is not fast enough for this kind of query.

    It turned out that my hand luggage was under the size which needs to be paid for… so it was free.

    …but there was no way to get a refund.

    Despite the fact that it was a clear overpayment they refused to refund.

    Given that if Spirit overpaid for a service to a provider they would expect a refund… and this seems like a very basic principle… they continued to refuse.

    They had my goodwill at the beginning of the process. They lost it along the way.

    They did offer me free points as compensation… but this didn’t do any good as I’m not a US resident so I never got quite enough points to be useful as I was only in the US for a month.

    I did however appreciate many of the points you mention in your article and agree that if you can avoid problems it’s a pretty decent way to fly.

    🙂
    P.S. This dragged on for 6 months or more at home… but as Spirit couldn’t come up with a good reason for not refunding my bank reversed the credit card transaction. So moral of the story is always pay with a credit card. However this wasted a lot of their time and mine and any independent adjudicator probably would have found in my favour. Spirit presumably assume that customers won’t follow through on their complaints? …and they’re probably right in a large number of cases.

    Reply
    • on April 11, 2017

      I agree with your comments… but got into a minor tiff with Spirit when I overpaid for my luggage and they wouldn’t refund me.

      The problem is that they’re now charging extra for hand luggage but didn’t clearly state that hand luggage under a certain size was OK (I assumed it was but couldn’t find this anywhere)… so I thought I better pay up front (~$25) so I wasn’t slugged at the airport (a lot more). There is no number you can ring and ask if you’re unsure… and an email is not fast enough for this kind of query.

      It turned out that my hand luggage was under the size which needs to be paid for… so it was free.

      …but there was no way to get a refund even though I pointed this out before I boarded.

      Despite the fact that it was a clear overpayment they refused to refund.

      Given that if Spirit overpaid for a service to a provider they would expect a refund… and this seems like a very basic principle… they continued to refuse.

      They had my goodwill at the beginning of the process. They lost it along the way.

      They did offer me free points as compensation… but this didn’t do any good as I’m not a US resident so I never got quite enough points to be useful as I was only in the US for a month.

      I did however appreciate many of the points you mention in your article and agree that if you can avoid problems it’s a pretty decent way to fly.

      🙂
      P.S. This dragged on for 6 months or more at home… but as Spirit couldn’t come up with a good reason for not refunding my bank reversed the credit card transaction. So moral of the story is always pay with a credit card. However this wasted a lot of their time and mine and any independent adjudicator probably would have found in my favour. Spirit presumably assume that customers won’t follow through on their complaints? …and they’re probably right in a large number of cases.

      Reply
    • Jen Dubose
      on April 20, 2017

      I’m so sorry about your unfortunate experience! I know Spirit has changed the sizes for their “personal items” multiple times and it’s better to be safe than sorry! Hopefully, your flight (even with that pesky fee) was still more affordable than other options. Spirit isn’t known for wonderful customer service, especially because their rules are so strict. I hope you have a better experience next time!

      Jen

      Reply
  • Ed
    on June 13, 2017

    Hey Jen – another cost saving tip is to buy the ticket at the counter to avoid the passenger usage fee. This sometimes outweighs the savings you get from the $9 fare club online. I really enjoyed this post thank you for sharing your experience with us!

    Reply
    • Jenn
      on June 15, 2017

      Yes! This is a great savings tip! We bought tickets to Nicaragua for 3 people and decided to do so at a counter and it saved us over $100.
      Spirit is not luxurious but if you are looking to just get somewhere and you don’t care about the bells and whistles, I totally recommend Spirit. We flew with 2 adults, 1 child, and 1 lap child (sorry to the person in front of us!!) to Nicaragua. We survived and will do it again. We only used backpacks, diaper bags are free, they check strollers for free, and we checked only 1 bag. It was SUPER economical to fly there. After all, I don’t want to spend money on fancy pretzel… I want to spend money at my destination!

      Only negative thing was that we missed one of our return flights due to customs taking forever and they do not have many flights with open seats each day. So they were able to get us on another flight but not until the next day in the evening. And they don’t pay for hotel accommodations but did give us a coupon code for some money off the hotel.

      Reply
      • Jennifer Dubose
        on November 10, 2017

        Oh no! So sorry to hear you missed a flight (Oh, Customs…). Unfortunately, those things do happen with any airline. There’s definitely no frills with Spirit–but so affordable for getting from point A to point B!

        Reply
  • Samantha
    on July 20, 2017

    I am flying out of Oakland International airport to Detroit today and I was a little nervous about the flight from hearing all of the bad reviews, You all have put me at ease. I don’t have to worry about my luggage because I work for FedEx and I shipped my luggage to my parents house (they live in Detroit), Only a personal item for me. Thanks for the suggestions about the snacks I am flying a later flight so it will for sure be helpful. All of the comments and the Artical has for sure helped with my anxiety about tonight..,
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Jennifer Dubose
      on November 10, 2017

      Samantha–how did your flight end up going? I hope you had a good experience like I’ve had!

      Reply

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