Spirit Airlines has just revealed the details of its new revenue based loyalty program, and I must say that I’m extremely impressed.
Spirit Airlines “Free Spirit” program basics
“Free Spirit” is the name of Spirit Airlines’ loyalty program, and it’s being completely overhauled as of January 21, 2021. Spirit Airlines isn’t an airline that people generally choose because they’re loyal to the brand, but rather because they have really cheap fares.
The concept of running a loyalty program at an airline like this can be challenging. Can there be enough rewards offered so that people might actually choose Spirit over a competitor, all else being equal? Well, I’d say the new program is about as lucrative as it could be.
As Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie describes the new program:
“Loyalty programs should work for travelers whether they fly once a year, or once a week. You should be rewarded either way. We decided to start with a clean sheet of paper and re-imagine what Free Spirit could be. Points don’t mean anything unless you can actually use them. Our new program lets everyone hold onto their points longer, which allows family vacationers, frequent travelers and people visiting loved ones to take advantage of Free Spirit’s new benefits and rewards.”
Earning Spirit Airlines points
The new Spirit Airlines frequent flyer program will be revenue based, and members can earn:
- 6x points per dollar spent on fares
- 12x points per dollar spent on ancillary fees, like seats, bags, and more
This is kind of brilliant — Spirit Airlines is known for its unbundled fares, so if anything the airline should be incentivizing selecting ancillaries, rather than incentivizing bookings in the first place. This structure really helps with that.
Earn bonus points for booking the Big Front Seat
Redeeming Spirit Airlines points
Spirit Airlines will have revenue based redemptions with no blackout dates. The airline hasn’t yet revealed how many points will be needed for tickets, so only time will tell.
It goes without saying that this is a very important detail, so we’ll have to reserve some judgment until the new redemption system goes live.
Spirit Airlines improves points expiration
Historically Spirit Airlines points have expired after just three months of inactivity, which is one of the most aggressive policies of any airline.
With the new loyalty program, Spirit Airlines points will expire after 12 months of inactivity, which is much more reasonable. Furthermore, elite members and those with a co-branded credit card won’t be subjected to this policy.
Spirit Airlines reduces redemption fees
Spirit Airlines has redemption fees that are extremely high. Under the old program:
- There’s a $100 fee when booking an award within six days of departure
- There’s a $75 fee when booking an award within 7-20 days of departure
- There’s a $15 fee when booking an award within 190 days of departure
With the new program:
- Redemption fees will only apply within 90 days of departure, rather than within 180 days
- Even within 90 days, the fees will be lower than in the past (though I haven’t seen any exact numbers yet)
Spirit Airlines is improving its mileage expiration policy
Spirit Airlines introduces points pooling
With the new loyalty program, eligible members can combine Free Spirit points with up to eight friends and family members in order to rack up rewards faster.
This is particularly useful for a program for an ultra low cost carrier, where you may have several occasional flyers who don’t independently rack up enough points for a redemption, but do earn enough when combining points.
Spirit Airlines elite status
Spirit Airlines is introducing two elite tiers — Silver and Gold.
Spirit Airlines Silver status
Spirit Airlines Silver status will require 2,000 SQPs, which can be earned with:
- $2,000 worth of flight spending
- $20,000 worth of purchases on a Spirit Airlines credit card
Spirit Airlines Silver members will receive:
- 8x points per dollar spent on fares, and 16x points per dollar spent on extras
- Free shortcut security (where available) and shortcut boarding (Zone 2)
- Free same-day standby
- Free general seat selection 24 hours before departure with exit row availability three hours prior to departure
- Dedicated elite phone line
- Ability to create a Points Pool
- No reward redemption fees
Spirit Airlines Gold status
Spirit Airlines Gold status will require 5,000 SQPs, which can be earned with:
- $5,000 worth of flight spending
- $50,000 worth of purchases on a Spirit Airlines credit card
Spirit Airlines Gold members will receive the following, in addition to Silver benefits:
- 10x points per dollar spent on fares, and 20x points per dollar spent on extras
- Free carry-on bag
- Free first checked bag
- Priority boarding (Zone 1)
- Free standard seat selection at time of booking (including exit rows)
- Free Flight Flex, which offers a one-time change with no fee prior to 24 hours before departure
- Free inflight beverage and snack
I can taste the BuzzBallz and chardonnay already!
Spirit Airlines’ new program is great
I never thought I’d say this, but Spirit Airlines’ new loyalty program is well thought out. And that’s despite the fact that the airline is going from distance based to a revenue based program.
The reality is that historically Spirit Airlines’ loyalty program has been a bit of a joke. Points expired after just three months of inactivity, and redemption fees were often higher than just outright paying for a ticket.
I’ve flown Spirit before, but I never even bothered signing up for the loyalty program… and that’s despite the fact that I love loyalty programs.
By contrast, the new program seems extremely well thought out:
- The airline is disproportionately rewarding ancillary fees, which seems like a smart approach for Spirit to take
- Points will be valid long enough that members might actually be engaged, rather than not bothering
- Elite members are potentially looking at priority security and boarding, and free seat assignments, flight changes, snacks, drinks, and more; these are perks I never expected to see at Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines will be launching an impressive new loyalty program in January 2021. The program will be going full-on revenue based, but for an airline like Spirit that makes perfect sense. The program will be particularly rewarding for buying extras, and will also have elite perks that rival (and in some cases surpass) what we see at other major airlines.
Now we’ll just have to wait and see what redemption rates are like, but frankly the program is an improvement no matter, in my opinion, given the previous expiration policy and redemption fees. Well done, Spirit Airlines!
Are you as impressed by Spirit Airlines’ new loyalty program as I am?