Spirit Airlines: 9 Tips For Having A Good Experience

Spirit Airlines: 9 Tips For Having A Good Experience

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Spirit Airlines is one of the largest ultra low cost carriers in the United States, and personally it’s my favorite (I far prefer Spirit to Frontier, for example). While Spirit often gets a bad rap, I think that largely comes down to people having unrealistic expectations. So in this post I wanted to share my top tips for making the best of the Spirit Airlines experience, as it doesn’t have to be bad.

Note that Spirit is in the process of being acquired by JetBlue, and the plan is for the combined airline to look a lot more like JetBlue in the future. That being said, for the time being Spirit is continuing to operate independently, and nothing has changed for passengers. For that matter, if the merger does get approval, it’ll be interesting to see how the two fleets are harmonized.

With that out of the way, let me share my top tips for making the most of a Spirit Airlines experience.

Make sure you understand the rules

Spirit Airlines is an ultra low cost carrier, which means the airline generally has pretty low fares, but then charges extra for just about everything, ranging from seats, to carry-on bags, to checked bags, to snacks and drinks.

I think the biggest thing that frustrates people about Spirit is not understanding the rules. And I have to say, I don’t think Spirit is at fault there — the airline is incredibly transparent during the booking process regarding what is and isn’t included. So I think the issue largely comes down to people reading what they want to read, and then acting shocked and outraged when they realize that their wishful thinking doesn’t actually reflect reality.

With that in mind, when booking a ticket on Spirit:

  • Understand that just about everything is going to cost you extra
  • Don’t expect you’ll be able to get away with sneaking anything onto the plane (like a full size carry-on, if you didn’t pay for it)
  • Understand that you’ll pay more for extras the longer you wait; it’s cheapest to add bags at the time of booking, and it’s most expensive to add bags at the airport
Spirit Airlines is incredibly transparent

Pay for a carry-on rather than a checked bag

While all Spirit Airlines passengers can take a free personal item with them onto the plane, you need to pay extra for full size carry-on bags and checked bags. Interestingly Spirit charges more to carry-on a bag than to check a bag. For example, take the below flight from Tampa to Baltimore, where a carry-on bag costs $65, while a checked bag costs $55.

Spirit Airlines bag fees

While the natural thought might be to pay for a checked bag rather than a carry-on, personally I think it’s worth paying extra for the carry-on. That way you can avoid the lines at check-in, which can be really long at times. You also shouldn’t have any issues finding overhead bin space for your bag, since not that many people pay for carry-ons.

Also, anyone who pays for a carry-on bag automatically gets to board with the first zone, meaning you’ll be among the first to board (if that matters to you). So when you pay for a carry-on you’re not only saving yourself a lot of time, but also getting pre-boarding. Of course all of this assumes that you’re not just taking a personal item, which is the real way to score a deal flying Spirit.

Meanwhile if you’re traveling with more stuff than you can reasonably fit in a carry-on, checking a bag is your best bet.

Consider reserving a Big Front Seat

One of the things that makes Spirit Airlines unique among ultra low cost carriers is that the airline has the Big Front Seat concept. These are essentially first class seats at the front of the cabin, except they don’t come with any extra service.

Given how tight Spirit Airlines’ seats otherwise are, reserving one of these seats is guaranteed to make your flight a lot more comfortable. Back in the day this was the deal of the century, as a Big Front Seat consistently cost maybe $30-50 extra. Nowadays the cat is out of the bag, and the price premium has increased significantly for the Big Front Seat.

Anyway, if you care about comfort and can swing it, I can’t recommend the Big Front Seat enough. I understand a lot of people fly Spirit because they’re looking to save as much as possible, so this isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re in a position where you can spend the extra money, do it.

Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat

Plan for how you’re going to entertain yourself

Don’t expect that you’ll find any seatback entertainment on Spirit Airlines, so make sure you have a plan for how you’re going to entertain yourself. Nowadays it’s easy enough to bring your own personal device with TV shows or movies pre-loaded, so I recommend doing that.

One awesome thing about Spirit, though, is that the airline now offers high-speed Wi-Fi throughout most of its fleet. It’s fantastic to be able to stay productive when flying with Spirit Airlines, and it’s quite reasonably priced. Streaming Wi-Fi costs $6.99-14.99 per flight, so that’s reasonable whether you’re looking to get some work done, or just want to stream entertainment.

Most Spirit Airlines flights have Wi-Fi

Board your Spirit flight last

For whatever reason, people have a tendency to crowd the gate area before boarding even starts, and feel some pressure to get on the plane as soon as possible. In the case of flying with Spirit, I think it’s worth doing the opposite. Spirit is known for having limited seat pitch (aside from the Big Front Seat), so you don’t really want to spend more time onboard than you have to.

That’s why I recommend trying to board last, rather than first:

  • If you have a personal item, it’s going to go underneath the seat in front of you no matter
  • If you have a carry-on bag, there should be plenty of room for it in the overhead bin, given how few people have carry-on bags (compared to other airlines)
Don’t spend more time in Spirit Airlines seats than you have to

Consider buying your ticket at the airport

The concept of booking a ticket at the airport rather than online is virtually unheard of nowadays, at least in the United States. There’s an exception, though, for ultra low cost carriers. Specifically, you can save $22.99 per ticket by booking in-person at the airport, as it allows you to avoid the “passenger usage charge.”

The catch is that you might not get the same good pricing on add-ons that you’d get if booking online. See this post for more details on when it’s cheaper to buy Spirit tickets at the airport.

The airport can be the best place to buy your Spirit Airlines ticket

Get a Free Spirit elite status match

Free Spirit is Spirit Airlines’ loyalty program, and it’s surprisingly lucrative. The program offers a status match challenge, for those who have status with a competing airline. What’s amazing is that if you have Spirit Airlines Gold status, you can avoid most fees, ranging from seat assignment fees, to carry-on bags fees, to checked bag fees. This truly makes flying with Spirit a heck of a deal.

Get a free drink & snack as a Spirit Gold member

Have a good attitude

This is more general advice for flying, though it’s definitely important at Spirit as well. Spirit Airlines has some really great, happy, fun employees. They come to work with a good attitude, and if you treat them well, they’ll treat you well.

Often I see passengers letting out their frustration on Spirit employees for things that aren’t their fault. So just be polite and kind to them, and you’ll probably have an even better experience.

Enjoy some BuzzBallz

In the same way that I like to taste test the drink selection in international first & business class, the same applies on Spirit. So while Emirates is proud of serving Dom Perignon in first class, Spirit is proud of serving BuzzBallz. They’re kind of delicious, and sort of set the tone for flying with Spirit. As the name suggests, they’ll get you a little buzzed, which makes any flight more enjoyable, right? 😉

Spirit Airlines serves BuzzBallz

Bottom line

Spirit Airlines is my favorite ultra low cost carrier, thanks to the Big Front Seat, high speed Wi-Fi, and great elite status program. There’s no denying that aspects of flying with Spirit aren’t great, though hopefully the above tips make it a bit better for any first timers.

The reality is that you should love Spirit Airlines regardless of whether or not you ever fly with the airline. Spirit has placed a ton of downward pressure on airline pricing, so the airline holds other carriers accountable. Frankly I’m a bit sad about JetBlue potentially taking over Spirit, as the airline brings something unique to the market.

Anyone have any other tips for making the Spirit experience as pleasant as possible?

Conversations (21)
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  1. Laura Hagan Guest

    My son got an error message when he tried to self check his bag, so he had to go to the counter. Employee thought that it was fun to yell at a 12 year old. Not all of them are nice, or reasonable. After he asked me "Did she need to be so mean?", I decided that we would not fly Spirit again.

  2. Vincent Guest

    A well written article regarding a well-run airline. I travel frequently from Chicago to Tampa and have yet to have a complaint even through the covid period. The staff on the ground and in the air are cheerful and helpful and make the time pass quickly while commuting. Had a few glitches with the website but it was probably on my side not theirs. Keep up the great service and I'll keep looking airfares..

  3. John Guest

    Thank you for writing this. I love Spirit as well. I agree that the bulk of people's problems with the airline are due to unrealistic expectations that the airline does absolutely nothing to foster. If you prepare well, Spirit is great.

  4. DCharlie Guest

    Tip 1: Don’t even think about flying on Spirit.
    Tip 2: See Tip 1.

  5. Michelle Maher Guest

    I am a ORD based Flight Attendant and I absolutely love my job. I personally love the Ultra low-cost concept and enjoy watching grandparents afford to go visit their grandchildren, college students fly home for holidays, and families be able afford more at their destination.
    Your review was spot on!
    I'd like to add that we are also one of the youngest fleet out there as well as one of the best safety...

    I am a ORD based Flight Attendant and I absolutely love my job. I personally love the Ultra low-cost concept and enjoy watching grandparents afford to go visit their grandchildren, college students fly home for holidays, and families be able afford more at their destination.
    Your review was spot on!
    I'd like to add that we are also one of the youngest fleet out there as well as one of the best safety records.
    As someone else added, you can now bid on those BFS! I had business in FLL and end up purchasing my tix. $111 R/T ORD-FLL. Great right?? I wanted a BFS just in the way back. It was originally $159. I got it for $37!
    And yes. We are human and honestly do care that you have a good experience. Treat us kind and in turn..we will do the same.
    And just remember. Those big dogs may not charge for water or a bag.... but you can bet you paid for it in advance with that hefty tix price. You can't drive to the KIA lot and drive off in a BMW for the same price.
    Bring your empty bottle, fill it up in terminal, and bring on your snacks... and you'll have a better experience than half a cup of soda/water and a mini bag of pretzels.
    Thank you so much for an honest and fair review!
    M

  6. iamhere Guest

    If you pay for the Big seat do you get a bag included? I think that with fewer people bringing on carry-on bags it makes the boarding much faster. If you have a credit card which pays for incidentals then you could certainly do well.

    1. Michelle Maher Guest

      I'm a F/A here. No, the cost of the BFS includes nothing but the seat.

  7. Steve Diamond

    I love flying flying Spirit on quick trips where all i need is a backpack. Pay for the BFS and order their Party Pack on board. 3 minis 2 mixers and any snack on the menu. If you know what you are doing its tough to beat Spirit.

  8. ALLEN C. MEASLEY Guest

    THE WAY TO BEAT ALL OF THE MANY
    HASSLES THAT SPIRIT PUTS YOU THROUGH IS TO STOP FLYING THEM &
    JUST BOYCOTT THEM ....

    1. XPL Diamond

      So what happened, Allen? Did they break your caps lock key?

  9. Matthew Guest

    When there are a lot of big front seats open, consider waiting to get an email to bid on them. On MCO-DTW, they were $127. Spirit does allow really low bidding actually, but we did $51 and got it. Front regular seating was $30 so $51 seemed like a very reasonable price. The A319 has 10 seats I think so your chances are definitely better. Also, sometimes the bidding program offers a confirmed upgrade that’s cheaper than what spirit sells for some reason.

  10. Darren C Diamond

    My daughter and son-in-law are on a Spirit flight BWI-IAH right now. They love Spirit.
    Spirit is great for non-stops.
    Spirit is nightmarish during IRROPS. If your inbound is late, the next connecting flight will probably be the next day.

  11. Bgriff Guest

    How do they keep people who didn't pay for a carry-on from putting their personal items in the overhead bins?

    1. gideyup11 Member

      That is not enforced probably because the overhead bins are rarely if ever full. By charging for carry-on's, the Spirit boarding experience is actually quite pleasant. No need for "gate lice" to push and shove their way to gate as there are plenty of overhead bin space.

    2. NedsKid Member

      It isn't enforced unless there was a very very rare occasion where bins were filling up. Across a couple hundred Spirit flights over the last decade, I've seen overheads fill maybe once to the point they had to pull bags to check.

      Unlike Southwest where recently I had only a small backpack with me on board for a same day return trip and was chastised for placing it in the (at the time) empty...

      It isn't enforced unless there was a very very rare occasion where bins were filling up. Across a couple hundred Spirit flights over the last decade, I've seen overheads fill maybe once to the point they had to pull bags to check.

      Unlike Southwest where recently I had only a small backpack with me on board for a same day return trip and was chastised for placing it in the (at the time) empty overhead bin because "personal items must go below your seat." I complied but asked the crew member the hypothetical since carry-on bags are free and can go in the overhead bin, don't I have a space equal to that to use in the overhead? The response I got was basically "Because that's the way it is."

    3. Steve Diamond

      Its not enforced so i always put my personal item above. Most people just have backpacks and check their bags you seldom see rollers on Spirit. There is basically unlimited overhead storage for every boarding group. Just another reason why Spirit isnt terrible.

    4. Michelle Maher Guest

      I'm a F/A for them. We always know how many guests to expect on board. If it's half full, there is no reason guests can't put small items up top.
      However, if full, we monitor the cabins and remind guests with small bags to place under seats. We are always adjusting bags during boarding to allow more room. When bags start to fill up we begin to make announcements.
      I also ensure no...

      I'm a F/A for them. We always know how many guests to expect on board. If it's half full, there is no reason guests can't put small items up top.
      However, if full, we monitor the cabins and remind guests with small bags to place under seats. We are always adjusting bags during boarding to allow more room. When bags start to fill up we begin to make announcements.
      I also ensure no one blocks anyone elses bag.
      Worse case scenario....I will pull out small bags and hand them back to guests to put up a carry-on.
      In 7 years I have never had to gate check a bag.

  12. D3kingg Guest

    Rule #1 of Spirit fight club there is no spirit fight club.

  13. gideyup11 Member

    I fly Spirit from time to time and agree that overall if you know the rules then it's a pleasant experience.

    Question for @Ben though: In your baggage fees screenshot, carry-on bags range from $65-$99. Is that a dynamic fee meaning for a different (e.g. shorter) flight, fees are lower? I rarely do carry-on / checked bags on NK but in the rare occasion I've done it in the past, I recall it being less expensive than $65-$99.

    1. Ethan Guest

      BFS upgrade price was more expensive than Lucky's quote as I remember having seen $80 last year for a midcon.

    2. NedsKid Member

      The prices used to be fairly fixed. They are now dynamic like fares, as you've surmised, based on distance and also a demand element. In theory checking a bag to Miami will cost a few dollars more than to Indianapolis if flight distance were equal.

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Michelle Maher Guest

I am a ORD based Flight Attendant and I absolutely love my job. I personally love the Ultra low-cost concept and enjoy watching grandparents afford to go visit their grandchildren, college students fly home for holidays, and families be able afford more at their destination. Your review was spot on! I'd like to add that we are also one of the youngest fleet out there as well as one of the best safety records. As someone else added, you can now bid on those BFS! I had business in FLL and end up purchasing my tix. $111 R/T ORD-FLL. Great right?? I wanted a BFS just in the way back. It was originally $159. I got it for $37! And yes. We are human and honestly do care that you have a good experience. Treat us kind and in turn..we will do the same. And just remember. Those big dogs may not charge for water or a bag.... but you can bet you paid for it in advance with that hefty tix price. You can't drive to the KIA lot and drive off in a BMW for the same price. Bring your empty bottle, fill it up in terminal, and bring on your snacks... and you'll have a better experience than half a cup of soda/water and a mini bag of pretzels. Thank you so much for an honest and fair review! M

3
Michelle Maher Guest

I'm a F/A here. No, the cost of the BFS includes nothing but the seat.

2
DCharlie Guest

Tip 1: Don’t even think about flying on Spirit. Tip 2: See Tip 1.

1
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