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.
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.
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
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.
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?