I recently purchased a ticket for my mother-in-law on Spirit, and booked it at the airport to save the passenger usage charge, which on this ticket was $18.99. So I paid $24.10 for the ticket, instead of $44 which is what it would have cost online. I got lucky and arrived during a lull so there was literally no one else in line while I was there.
The process truly couldn’t have been easier as I was in and out in under five minutes.
Spirit ticket counter at the Denver Airport
The part that I was a little unsure about was the bag fees. She’s not really into wearing a week’s worth of clothes at once — nor does she own one of those cool travel vests — so she’ll need to bring a real bag, either carry-on or checked.
I asked the Spirit agent that day about adding a bag to the reservation, and he said I could do it online later. I momentarily remembered something about Spirit charging more for bags depending on when you purchase them, but I couldn’t remember when the price went up — whether you paid more anytime after the original booking, or only if you waited until check-in. I decided it must be the latter, otherwise he would have offered to let me add the bag right then and there.
Well, I just went back to add a checked bag via the website. And sure enough, Spirit wants to charge me $45 for a carry-on or $40 for a checked bag since I’m adding it to an existing reservation.
According to this table, had I added the bag at the time of booking on the spirit.com website, I would have paid $35 for a carry-on or $30 for a checked bag, a savings of $10.
The cheapest bag fees seem to only be available during spirit.com booking
So I didn’t really save $18.99 after all. By the time I paid the $10 more to check a bag, I’m actually only saving $8.99. That feels pretty deceptive to me and, at least for passengers needing to check a bag, negates most of the savings associated with buying a Spirit ticket at the airport. Heck, if you need to pay for parking, you might be left with saving $5 or less. Probably not worth it.
And kind of crappy. Then again: Spirit.
When does it still make sense to buy Spirit tickets at the airport?
I think it probably still make sense to buy Spirit tickets at the airport if you are traveling with your family.
At least for us, we usually only check two bags for our family of five. In that case, we’d save $18.99 for five tickets, but would then paying $10 more for each of two bags. That’s a net savings of $74.95 for just one-way tickets. If we were flying round trip, that’s a savings of about $150. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to justify a trip to the airport for me, even when I factor in the cost of gas, parking, and my time.
It could also be worthwhile if you’re ticketing multiple trips at once. Then the savings per trip might not be so great on each trip, but the total amount will be significant, and hopefully enough to offset the hassle.
Spirit ticket counter at the Detroit Airport
There seems to be a hidden gotcha with buying Spirit tickets at the airport. Although you can save $18.99 on the cost of the ticket since you don’t have to pay the passenger usage charge, it seems that you end up paying $10 more to check a bag since the cheapest bag fees are only available during Spirit.com booking. For those needing to bring a real bag with them, that brings the savings down to $8.99 on a one-way ticket, or about $18 for a round-trip.
That said, I still think it makes sense to buy Spirit tickets at the airport if you are traveling with a family where not everyone needs to check a bag. Or if you are at least ticketing multiple trips at once. Otherwise, this may not be such a great deal.
This whole thing kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth since it feels really shady and deceptive.
Have you been able to add a bag when buying a Spirit ticket at the airport?