Let’s get right to the point because I’m sure you are all wondering how bad Spirit was. Well, I hate to disappoint you, but there was nothing eventful about our flights. There was no pilot strike and no angry passengers punching me in the face. I kept waiting for something crazy to happen, but nope. Oh, and I got to try their signature BuzzBallz cocktail in a can. Classy, no?
Aside from that little thrill, the flights were, dare I say, boring. Whatever you’ve heard about Spirit Air, definitely take it with a grain of salt.
Common misconceptions and half-truths
1) Spirit charges a fee for everything, so your cheap flight will turn out to be quite expensive in the end.
It’s true that Spirit has fees galore, but that’s how their business model works. Plus, they state it upfront. As long as you do your homework ahead of time, there won’t be any nasty surprises. Believe it or not, bags don’t actually fly free on Southwest. Say what? Well, technically they do, but the cost is rolled into the fare. Just because you don’t see it highlighted as a separate charge, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Spirit simply unbundles its fares and lets you buy everything “a la carte” style. Some will like it, others won’t, but at least these guys are transparent. In general, comparing Southwest (or other carriers) to Spirit is like comparing apples to oranges. It really depends on when and where you fly, as well as how much luggage you usually check in.
Speaking of luggage, if you prepay it when you book your flight, it costs $30 per bag, which is in line with what other carriers charge. If you wait till check-in, it’s $40, which isn’t that much more. I confess, I ended up checking in one bag. I wasn’t going to originally, but since we were flying to New York in the fall, there were jackets involved.
On top of it, my kids were whining about carrying backpacks on the plane. I could see that it was going to be a nuisance, so I paid $40 X 2. Yes, it was an excruciating decision for a cheapskate such a myself, but I felt it was worth it. Note to parents of small children: car seats (including boosters) can be checked in for free.
Even with that extra expense, Spirit was by far a better deal compared to Southwest or any other airline. I paid 5,000 miles roundtrip per person since it was an off-peak redemption. Flying on American and using BA Avios would cost us 15,000 miles and we would have to fly to NYC instead of Newark (the latter was more convenient).
Southwest does fly from Orlando to Newark, but the flight was running at 15,000 points roundtrip. Yes, the bag would fly free, but… I could redeem those 15,000 points on a $150 Walmart gift card due to having a co-branded Southwest credit card. With four people, it adds up to $600. Yes, our one bag would fly for “free”, but so what? Aside from flights, my Spirit miles weren’t good for anything other than magazine subscriptions. What would you rather have: $600 or $80?
Oh yes, but Southwest gives you drinks for free. See my argument above. Honestly, how much does a drink cost in the airport? Around $3 per bottle, tops. Just get a few for the family, and you will be set. Some airports, like Newark, even have water filling stations, so just bring an empty bottle with you. Boom.
With the money you save, treat yourself to a BuzzBallz cocktail, or maybe two ($8 each). Get the kids to split one. I’m kidding! I recommend the green one, yellow one is nasty. As this online article points out, “They are literally ballz that get you buzzed. Do they taste incredible? Opinions land all over the map. A better question is, “Are you having fun?” Put a few on ice and you will be.” I don’t really think it’s worth $8, but I just had to try a few.
2) Spirit seats have no leg room and planes are dirty.
I honestly expected this one to be true, but was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps this was the case in the past, but nowadays Spirit uses fairly new (and clean) planes that have decent leg room. I actually took a few pictures of our seats, but they somehow got deleted. But I assure you, it’s not that bad. New Spirit planes have slimline seats that are designed to maximize leg room.
My husband (who is 6 feet 4 inches tall) said he was fairly comfortable, so that should tell you something. My father-in-law who is also quite tall, mentioned the same thing. When we were boarding, he actually said the seat is pretty comfy, but was concerned what it would be like when person in front of him decided to recline. Good news, pops! The seats don’t recline, period.
Besides, if you are that concerned about leg room, just pay extra for the “Big Seat” upfront. I decided to treat my husband and father-in-law on the way back. The cost was an extra $38 per person on a 2-hour flight from Newark to Orlando, which isn’t too bad. The seat was much bigger and had tons of legroom:
Spirit “first class.” Hmm, Is my father-in-law guarding his $3 water bottle?
Few months ago, Nancy splurged on a Big Seat for everyone in the family at a cost of only $20 per person from Denver to Dallas. See her write-up here
3) Most Spirit employees are nasty, and people who fly with them are usually “low life.”
This has not been our experience at all. Every single employee was very courteous and eager to help. It reminded me of Southwest in this respect. Obviously, this was one isolated experience, but I truly think Sprit’s nasty reputation is a bit overblown on the web. I admit, I’m not crazy about their juvenile ads. It seems like if there is a sex scandal in Washington DC, Spirit will be all over it. Not really something I care about, to be honest.
Aside from that, Spirit seems like any other company to me. Yes, the Fort Lauderdale pilots strike back in May was something else. If you got caught up in that mess, I seriously doubt there is anything I can say to convince you to give Spirit another chance. And I get it. Still, it’s important to remember that it was an isolated incident, not a common occurrence.
As to the public who regularly flies Spirit, it appeared to be no different than what you will see on other carriers. Perhaps it had to do with the route (MCO-EWR), but I didn’t hear any profanity or witness any offensive behavior. Of course, if you are flying from Vegas on a Sunday night, your experience may be different.
And yes, my cousin-in-law said a couple decided to join a mile-high club on their Spirit flight from St. Thomas. But I would like to think that’s an isolated incident too. I can almost see the appeal of Singapore Air suites, but Spirit bathroom? Yuck. I’m sure this was the case of someone drinking one too many Buzzballz cocktails.
1) If your flight gets cancelled or if you miss a connection, you will be stranded.
Check this thread on Spirit cancellations and potential issues to watch out for. One commenter summed it up nicely: “Spirit doesn’t have enough planes, enough crew, or interline agreements with other airlines. When they cancel your flight due to weather, they don’t have to refund you. If it’s mechanical, they should refund you, but still don’t get you to your destination.”
When you are redeeming Spirit miles on off-peak award, you have to use Spirit co-branded credit card to pay tax on the tickets. Unfortunately, the card doesn’t come with any travel insurance, so you may want to purchases a basic stand-alone travel insurance policy from Insuremytrip.
When buying revenue flights, make sure to use credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige or Chase Sapphire Preferred. Those products have decent travel protection built in. Flying non-stop during summer months also reduces your risk of potential mishaps.
I didn’t buy any travel insurance, and we did just fine. The flights left on time and we had zero issues aside from change in departure time communicated to us a month before the trip. Still, depending on the itinerary, travel insurance may be prudent. Personally, I wouldn’t trust Spirit with positioning flights for an international trip, or if I had to attend an important business meeting.
2) Airport lines at Spirit check-in area are ridiculously long.
This one is true, but I do believe it depends on the day of the week you are flying, as well as airport. We were leaving from Orlando on Saturday, and the line was VERY long. I was actually concerned we would miss our flight. In Newark airport there was almost no line, but we were flying on a Tuesday.
So, to be on a safe side, leave extra early. Honestly, this should be your policy with any flight on any airline because you never know what will happen on the road. We spent an extra hour driving to MCO due to accident on the highway, so I was glad we left home early.
I was very pleased with our flights and wouldn’t hesitate to use Spirit in the future. It was a spectacular deal, all things considered. If you have flexible schedule and live near an airport served by Spirit, I absolutely recommend you look into their co-branded credit card. Flying to St. Thomas from Fort Lauderdale in May for only 5,000 miles roundtrip? Yes please!
Our view on the way to Newark
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.