Is It Cheaper To Buy Spirit Tickets At The Airport?

Is It Cheaper To Buy Spirit Tickets At The Airport?

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Nowadays a vast majority of passengers buy their tickets online, given the practice of electronic ticketing. However, some ultra low cost carriers give you an incentive to book tickets at the airport.

I’ve written about how you can save money on tickets with Allegiant Air, Breeze Airways, and Frontier Airlines, by booking at the airport, and now I wanted to talk a bit about how you can save money on Spirit Airlines tickets by booking them at the airport.

However, there’s one major catch…

Save money buying Spirit tickets at the airport

Spirit Airlines is one of the largest ultra low cost carriers in the United States. While an agreement has been reached for JetBlue to acquire Spirit, for the time being the airline is continuing to operate independently, and with a high-fee business model.

Spirit Airlines has incredibly low base fares, and a significant portion of that amount is the “Passenger Usage Charge.” For example, take the below $44 Spirit Airlines flight from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale.

Spirit Airlines fare

When you get to the final booking page that shows the breakdown of the fare, you’ll see how that $44 breaks down. The base fare is only $5.58, while there’s a “Passenger Usage Charge” of $22.99. It’s explicitly stated that this is a carrier fee, so this isn’t actually a tax.

Spirit Airlines “Passenger Usage Charge”

If you book your ticket through Spirit Airlines’ website, you’re on the hook for paying that fee. However, there’s a way to avoid it — if you instead book at any Spirit Airlines ticket counter, you won’t have to pay the “Passenger Usage Charge.”

You can go to a Spirit Airlines ticket counter at any time that the counter is open, and you can find the locations and hours for all ticket counters here. Now, keep in mind that there’s not a dedicated portion of the counter for ticketing, so you’ll have to get into the standard Spirit Airlines check-in line, which in some cases could be quite long.

While it might not be worth making a special trip to the airport for a one-way ticket for one person to save $22.99, if you’re traveling as a larger group, booking multiple tickets, etc., the savings may add up. There’s one further restriction to be aware of, though.

But, there’s a catch…

There is one major catch if you choose to ticket at the airport. Since Spirit Airlines is an ultra low cost carrier, the airline charges for almost everything, ranging from seat assignments, to carry-on bags, to checked bags. Generally speaking, the airline charges the least when you purchase extras during the initial booking process.

Spirit Airlines intentionally has the lowest pricing while booking at spirit.com. So while you’ll save the “Passenger Usage Charge” by booking at the airport, you won’t have access to the lowest pricing for bags. For example:

  • You’d pay $41 for a carry-on bag if booking online, while you’d pay $55 for a carry-on bag if booking at the airport
  • You’d pay $35 for a checked bag if booking online, while you’d pay $49 for a checked bag if booking at the airport
Spirit Airlines bag fee costs

As you can see, there’s no way to get the lowest cost on your airfare and the lowest cost for ancillaries — it’s one or the other. These higher fees do eat into savings from ticketing at the airport. So airport ticketing is ideal if you’re traveling light, or have Free Spirit elite status, in which case you wouldn’t be on the hook for many fees.

Why Spirit Airlines tickets are cheaper at the airport

Okay, you can save money by booking your Spirit Airlines tickets at the airport, but what’s the logic for this policy? It comes down to taxes.

Airlines have to pay a 7.5% federal excise tax on airfare, but not on optional fees. In order for something to be considered an optional fee, there has to be a way to avoid paying it. So Spirit doesn’t have to pay taxes on the “Passenger Usage Charge” portion of the ticket cost because it’s technically a fee, rather than airfare, since you can avoid it.

Of course Spirit doesn’t want to make it easy or lucrative to avoid paying this fee, which is why the airline only lets you avoid this by booking at the airport, and then also charges you more in other fees for choosing to use this ticketing practice.

Virtually all ultra low cost carriers have similar made up charges that make up a big portion of the airfare, in order to reduce the taxes they have to pay on ticket costs. In this particular case, Spirit is saving 7.5% of $22.99, which is ~$1.72. Those tax savings add up when you consider how many tickets Spirit sells.

Spirit tickets are cheaper when purchased at the airport

Bottom line

The cheapest place to book Spirit Airlines tickets is at the airport, since you won’t be charged the “Passenger Usage Charge” there, which can be pricey. The catch is that you’ll end up paying more for ancillaries (including bags) than you’d pay if you purchased them on spirit.com during the initial booking process.

The logic for this policy is that ultra low cost carriers try to minimize the taxes they have to pay by making as much of the fare as possible fees rather than base fare. That’s because airfare has a federal excise tax of 7.5%, while fees don’t.

A vast majority of people aren’t going to go through the hassle of booking at the airport, though in some situations it could prove to be worthwhile, especially if you’re traveling light.

Have any OMAAT readers ever ticketed a Spirit Airlines reservation at the airport?

Conversations (22)
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  1. Donna Papaycik Guest

    We go to ACY, Atlantic City Airport, and they won't sell you bags at all. They tell you to go on line and get the bags cheaper. That way you get the cheaper airfare and bags

  2. Mike Guest

    I am pretty sure you can pay for the cheapern online baggage option online as long as it is before check in opens (the earlier, the cheaper)

    So, you can take advantage of both low cost options (avoiding usage fee + getting lower online ancillary fee options) by

    1. Book ticket at airport
    2. Go online to buy ancillary options (before the price increases which I believe may increase more than once as the flight date nears)

    Boom -- you have cheapest of both

  3. Jenna allen Guest

    While there prices were a while ago. Spirit now charges $79 for a checked bag at the airport and upon trying to get our plane tickets, they allowed bidding on seats. So when I got my ticket and seat number, my group of 7 were all reassigned to complete different seats separating all of us. I do not recommend spirit as there were a lot more complications that arose and spirit would not do anything...

    While there prices were a while ago. Spirit now charges $79 for a checked bag at the airport and upon trying to get our plane tickets, they allowed bidding on seats. So when I got my ticket and seat number, my group of 7 were all reassigned to complete different seats separating all of us. I do not recommend spirit as there were a lot more complications that arose and spirit would not do anything about it. While it IS CHEAPER to book online beware of the "extra" charges and changes when you get there

  4. Bob Guest

    Worst airline on the planet !

    1. Eskimo Guest

      LOL, You've never flown airlines in 3rd world countries or even Ryanair.

  5. E kane Guest

    Yes I’ve been doing it for the past four years.

  6. Patricia Guest

    This article is not accurate. The tickets are cheaper at the airport, BUT we tell the guests to purchase their bags online before you check in for your flight and you get a lower price on your bags. Also bags at the airport are around $79 at the ticket counter, so save money purchase on line.!

  7. Doreen Guest

    Stop complaining about Spirit like a bunch of heckling chickens
    It is cheaper at the counter and for those who don't like Spirit
    DON'T FLY SPIRIT!!
    The planes are always packed to capacity
    Go fly Jet Blue lol
    Wished Spirit never agreed to be with them

    1. YONGHEYU Guest

      Hello! I'm curious about your comment. Do you know which airport you can book Spirit at the counter? I am in California
      Looking forward to your reply. Thank you

  8. CMorgan Guest

    It’s better not to buy Spirit tickets at all for any price.

  9. CHKALE Guest

    Yes, purchased 4 Frontier tickets at ORD airport counter and ticket agent booked free seats for us. Saved taxes and seat fees.

  10. Robert Little Guest

    This airlines is the biggest piece of crap ever. Don't buy the cheap because they charge extra for every seat and every bag. It ends up just as expensive as other lines. I flew into Vegas early morning for morning flight to Houston--the plane finally left at freaking midnight. Same crap on way back. Plastic seats that don't recline, the tray table is 6" long and 4" wide and barely big enough for a drink...

    This airlines is the biggest piece of crap ever. Don't buy the cheap because they charge extra for every seat and every bag. It ends up just as expensive as other lines. I flew into Vegas early morning for morning flight to Houston--the plane finally left at freaking midnight. Same crap on way back. Plastic seats that don't recline, the tray table is 6" long and 4" wide and barely big enough for a drink which also costs you extra money. I recommend that you avoid this airline like a plague. I will drive to New York before I fly in this RIP off POS airlines. The lowest of the low!!!

  11. DFWFlyr Guest

    At DFW, there is a counter for Ticketing only by the check in desks. In my experience, agents will refer you to that desk if you want to buy a ticket outside security. They won’t sell you one if you stand in the standard line and ask to buy a ticket.

    1. Janice Ford Guest

      Mother's Day weekend this year my group of five traveled fron DTW to MCO round trip for $39.50 EACH!!! We fly Spirit regularly, and never pay for seat assignments. Our group has never been split up on the plane. We bought the tickets at the airport and carried backpacks. Spirit can be a pain in the butt, but for prices like that I'll put up with a little inconvenience.

    2. John fekett Guest

      Do you know the hours that service if offered? I don't want to go and find out they are closed.

  12. Kbulo Guest

    Are Resort fees at hotels also optional then?

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Are tips at restaurant also optional then?

      Sarcasm or Irony.

  13. James Guest

    I’ve booked flights this way a number of times. When flying as a big group, the savings really add up. Especially if your flying personal item (small backpack) only.

    You can regularly get crazy cheap flights from Midwest to Florida for $50 RT

  14. gideyup11 New Member

    Awesome tip. Thank You!!

    1. Chicago Chris Guest

      There's another big exception to this, though. Some cheap fares, like your example, don't have a $12 fuel surcharge. All tickets purchased at the airport do. This is explained in the T&Cs. I've had a few ultra cheap tickets that only charge a $9.99 PUC and end up being more at the airport.

  15. George Romey Guest

    I think others (if not all domestic US Airlines) don't incur the passenger usage tax if purchased at the airport. However, for example at AA if you buy the ticket from an agent it's going to be much more expensive. But if you're traveling or live near an airport with AA you can put the ticket on hold (free 24 hour hold) and pay for it at the airport and you won't incur the tax....

    I think others (if not all domestic US Airlines) don't incur the passenger usage tax if purchased at the airport. However, for example at AA if you buy the ticket from an agent it's going to be much more expensive. But if you're traveling or live near an airport with AA you can put the ticket on hold (free 24 hour hold) and pay for it at the airport and you won't incur the tax. I've done it with paper vouchers were I've put the ticket on hold the day before I was due to fly and paid for the ticket (using the voucher) the next day at the airport.

    1. James Guest

      The passenger usage charge is specific to Spirit (and similar charges for ULCC). I think you’re talking about the charge for calling an airline agent to book, which I agree most airlines do charge)

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DFWFlyr Guest

At DFW, there is a counter for Ticketing only by the check in desks. In my experience, agents will refer you to that desk if you want to buy a ticket outside security. They won’t sell you one if you stand in the standard line and ask to buy a ticket.

1
Donna Papaycik Guest

We go to ACY, Atlantic City Airport, and they won't sell you bags at all. They tell you to go on line and get the bags cheaper. That way you get the cheaper airfare and bags

0
YONGHEYU Guest

Hello! I'm curious about your comment. Do you know which airport you can book Spirit at the counter? I am in California Looking forward to your reply. Thank you

0
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