My family is flying to Orlando in early January for a Star Wars Disney Cruise, and we still haven’t purchased our flights yet. Why not? I’m planning to use a combination of Chase Ultimate Reward points from a Chase Sapphire Reserve card and FlexPoints from a FlexPerks Visa to purchase the flights. The lower the price of flights, the fewer points we need to spend.
With that in mind, I’ve been monitoring flight prices for the past several months. Prices have been quite high for the DFW-MCO route at $380+ for a round-trip ticket during my preferred dates and times. I’m fairly confident they will come down in the next few months since we are flying at an off-peak time.
Finally, last week I saw a significant price break on Google Flights for $143 round-trip. Woot! My heart sank, however, when I saw that the low price was on Spirit Airlines.
I’ve flown Spirit Airlines many times before with no issues. I recommend the airline to friends, with caveats. However for this specific trip, Spirit Airlines is not the right choice.
Quirks of Flying Spirit Airlines
I’ve read a lot of horror stories about Spirit Airlines. In fact, last year Spirit Airlines had the highest number of complaints out of any U.S. airline.
Before I explain why I won’t be booking those flights on Spirit for this trip, it’s helpful to understand some quirks of flying on Spirit Airlines.
Nothing is included with the base fare. And I mean nothing.
Like many other airlines, you must pay baggage fees. The fees are cheaper if you pay for them in advance instead of adding a bag at the airport. Checked bags have a weight limit of 40 pounds, which is 10 pounds lighter than most U.S. airlines. Only small carry-ons that fit under your seat are free. Larger carry-ons cost extra.
If you don’t print your boarding pass at home, that’s a $10 fee at the airport (unless you use the kiosk). If you want to be guaranteed to sit next to your family, you can pay to sit together (or even splurge on the Big Front Seat).
How about a cup of water on the flight? Nope, you have to pay for that, too. No free peanuts or pretzels, either.
Spirit Airlines has no interline agreements with other airlines. This basically means that if my Spirit flight has mechanical issues before takeoff, Spirit can’t book me on another airline to get me there at no extra cost to me. The U.S. legacy airlines have agreements with each other in such situations, and I’ve actually been changed to another airline in a similar circumstance.
With all that said, Spirit can still be a good choice for short flights when you are traveling light.
Missing Our Arrival Time Would Be Catastrophic
The main reason I’m not flying on Spirit Airlines for our next flight is that we are leaving on a cruise the day after our flight, and missing the cruise departure would be catastrophic. No, seriously catastrophic. The cruise ship waits for no one! I feel that flying on Spirit before the cruise is riskier than flying on American or Southwest.
American and Southwest both have more flights out of Dallas. If there is a storm or mechanical problem, I’m more confident that American or Southwest could get us to Orlando faster, even if it’s later than our original flight.
My kids and I flew on Spirit back in June at the start of our 3 ½ week trip to Florida. Based on our more relaxed schedule and summer weather, I felt completely at ease flying on Spirit. I’ve also flown on Spirit to Denver many times as well as New Orleans.
But if I have to be somewhere by a certain time for something very important, like a wedding, a job interview or a cruise, Spirit is not my first choice.
Of course, we will have travel insurance for our cruise trip. But I’d rather not have to use it to fly us to Cozumel because of missing the first two days on the Disney Fantasy. And of course we could choose to fly in two or three days before the cruise instead of just one day, but that requires extra money for hotel nights, pet sitting, etc.
We’re Not Traveling Light
Most of the times I’ve flown on Spirit Airlines in the past have been for shorter trips. A few days in Denver and weekend in New Orleans don’t require much luggage.
But when my family goes on a cruise, we pack a lot of things. We can’t just throw a few swimsuits and shorts in a bag and go. We pack formal night clothes, pirate night costumes, Star Wars costumes, dinner outfits, beach gear, etc. Plus, my family participates in the Fish Extender gift exchange on board, so we have to pack gifts. There’s just no way to pack light for a Disney Cruise.
All of that extra stuff means additional fees on Spirit Airlines. We normally fill our suitcases to almost 50 pounds, but on Spirit we would be charged an additional fee since the limit is only 40 pounds. We would likely bring extra suitcases on Spirit.
If we fly on Southwest, our bags are included. On American Airlines, our baggage fees will be waived since I currently have an AA credit card.
Factoring in the additional risk of Spirit flights plus the extra cost of baggage, it doesn’t make sense for my family to fly Spirit on this next trip.
I’ve had no personal horror stories with Spirit Airlines, and I’m sure I’ll fly Spirit again. But, not for this occasion.
Am I being paranoid? Perhaps. But I’ve been looking forward to this cruise for so long, and there’s no way I’m gonna miss it by choosing the cheaper airline.
Have you flown on Spirit Airlines? Why do you think it gets so many customer complaints? Do you think it’s riskier to fly on Spirit before an important event?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.