Category: Travel Tips
Author: Michael DeFranceschi • Published

A Frequent Traveler Shares His Experience Flying Spirit Airlines [2024]

A traveler who normally flies Delta shares some perks of flying Spirit...
Mural of author in front of a cafe in Brooklyn, New York City.

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Before December 2023, I flew Delta Airlines almost exclusively.

In September 2023, Delta Airlines pissed off a lot of its customers with some controversial changes to their Skymiles program. I used to be a Silver medallion member. Following the changes, I was demoted to just a standard Skymiles member.

In addition to having used most of my Delta points and Delta being a generally more expensive airline, I decided to give Spirit Airlines a try.

Spirit Airlines is an ultra low cost carrier, known for their low and very affordable airfares. The airline is popular among demographics like college students, young married couples with kids, and single travelers with not a lot of disposable income.

Like Frontier Airlines and JetBlue Airlines, Spirit Airlines is also referred to as a 'budget airline'.

I feel many travelers and people in general speak ill of Spirit but here is something that may surprise you, like it did me: in 2023, the website WalletHub ranked Spirit Airlines #2 in their annual Best Airlines review! The only airline above Spirit Airlines was... Delta!

What was my overall experience with Spirit? Overall, I was honestly impressed! For some of my upcoming adventures, I will fly Spirit Airlines again in 2024!

For you, I will go over ticket prices, the booking process, rewards programs, comfort of the seats, availability of nonstop flights, and other miscellaneous thoughts about flying Spirit Airlines!

IN THIS ARTICLE...

A Frequent Traveler Shares His Experience Flying Spirit Airlines in 2024...

Rewards programs

I fly frequently, and as a result, I'm a huge advocate of saving money through rewards programs.

Spirit Airlines, like any other airline, has a frequent flier program where, once enough points are accumulated, you can earn yourself some free flights! They are all free to sign up. Also, you can sign up for these programs without having flown with the airline before!

Spirit Airlines's frequent flier program is entitled Free Spirit®. For every dollar you spend on airfare for Spirit, you earn 6 points! This is higher than most other airlines, like Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines, who give you 5 points.

The airfare on Spirit is known to be low, but what if it could be even lower? Let me introduce you to the Spirit Saver$ Club! For $69.95 a year, you will receive Spirit's absolute lowest prices on any flight when booking.

Passengers who flew Spirit before 2021 may recall the $9 Fare Club. The $9 Fare Club converted to the Spirit Saver$ Club. And, no, despite its name, you were not guaranteed roundtrip tickets for only $9.

If you do not want to pay the $69.95 up front, Spirit will allow you to pay monthly starting at $17.81 per month through Uplift. This is contingent upon credit approval. They do a soft credit check.

College students enrolling in the Spirit Saver$ Club get a really cool perk! If you are a college student, you and up to 8 additional guests (wow!!) will receive a 30% discount when booking flights! Verification of student status is done through Student Beans.

If you have a decent credit score and want to accelerate the process of getting some free flights on Spirit, sign up for their Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard. At the time of this writing, you'll earn 50,000 points if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening the credit card.

Finally, one more perk of racking up points with Spirit Airlines is the opportunity to obtain either silver or gold status. Aside from the 6 points per dollar spent, Spirit also gives you what they call 'Spirit Qualifying Points' (SQPs).

You earn one SQP per one dollar spent on airfare. 2,000 SQPs will earn you silver status and 5,000 SQPs will earn you gold status! Each status comes with some real cool perks, like getting Zone 1 boarding, a free carry on bag, and a pet fee waiver.

For an airline that already offers low-cost flights, Spirit Airlines's opportunities to save and fly for free are incredible and unrivaled by most other bigger airlines (like you, Delta).

Step-by-step booking process

Through the Spirit Airlines app, I am going to walk you through the whole flight booking process, explaining some things along the way. Pay attention regarding seats and baggage fees, for sure!

I found the booking process for Spirit to be easy and straightforward. I liked it. I'd like to prove it to you showing you step by step.

Let's select a roundtrip flight from Detroit (DTW) to LaGuardia in New York City (LGA) for the dates January 19-21, 2024. I have Round Trip selected.

Screenshot from the Spirit Airlines app showing the initial trip price for a roundtrip from DTW to LGA. Author walks through the process of flying Spirit Airlines and buying a ticket online.
That price looks super cheap but...

Since I am enrolled in the Saver$ Club, I automatically get the lowest prices. That $57.10 price looks great, doesn't it? Does that mean that a roundtrip from DTW to LGA is only $57.10!?

No. The app is deceiving you.

Screenshot from the Spirit app showing the price for both flights for a roundtrip from DTW to LGA. Author walks through the process of flying Spirit Airlines.
Price for both flights is on the bottom.

Even though you select "Round Trip", you still are given separate prices for the initial flight and return flight. My total at the bottom of the screen is $114.20. This won't be the first price either... but more on that in a moment!

On the same screen where you see your price for the airfare, you'll enter your information. If you have TSA PreCheck® and this is your first time using the app, be sure to enter your Known Traveler Number!

On the next screen, you'll get offers for bundles. I skip these. My goal, after all, is the lowest dollar amount for my airfare!

Screenshot from the Spirit app showing the price for Big Front Seats on a flight from DTW to LGA. Author walks through the process of flying Spirit Airlines.
Seat prices are not included in the booking.

Next, we come to the screen for seat selection. I will be using two screenshots for this part.

Unlike Delta, the price of your seats for both flights are not included when flying Spirit.

If I select a coach seat for $63 for the flight to LGA and $45 for a coach seat to DTW, my price is now $222.20.

On the screenshot above, you'll see a price of $81 for the "Big Front Seats", which is essentially Spirit's version of "first class". Then, on the screenshot below, you'll see a price of $68 for exit row seats.

Screenshot from the Spirit Airlines app showing the price for exit row seats on a flight from DTW to LGA.
Exit row seat prices may be only a few dollars more!

I'll cover whether these seat upgrades are worth it when I talk about comfort.

That being said, there is sort of a way you could potentially not have to pay for any of your seats! I had a coworker who regularly flies Spirit tell me about this little hack.

If you wait until you arrive at the airport to check in and don't have seats selected, you'll be randomly assigned seats... for free.

For this article, we'll proceed to book the seats now to make a point later about Spirit's final price.

Next, let's look at luggage...

Screenshot from the Spirit Airlines app showing baggage fees for carry on bags on a flight from DTW to LGA
This is why I recommend bringing just a backpack, if you can.

Spirit Airlines gives you one "personal item" for free. If you can pack all your belongings into one backpack, I advise strongly you do so! Otherwise, any additional carry on bags will cost you. The prices vary and the prices are for each flight.

Let's assume you only take a backpack. Practical for a weekend trip. Difficult for a trip lasting more than a week.

Next screen, we look at shortcut boarding and shortcut security.

Screenshot from the Spirit Airlines app showing options for faster boarding.
You can upgrade to zone 2 here.

Feel like boarding the plane a little sooner and ensuring you have space to put your backpack in the overhead storage bin? You can pay an extra $15.98 to be boarded in zone 2.

Shortcut security? There is no point to pay for this if you have TSA PreCheck®.

After selecting the zone 2 boarding, the actual final price of our roundtrip Spirit flight from DTW to LGA is $236.18.

Looking at prices on the Delta app today for the same dates, a roundtrip ticket from DTW to LGA is $245.20. In this instance, looks like our Spirit flight isn't that much cheaper, after all.

The takeaway is, although flying Spirit in many cases will still be less expensive than other airlines, the savings may not be as massive as you may think!

Spirit Airlines airfare in 2024

At the time I'm running this experiment, airfare in June 2024 looks to be quite high!

From Detroit (DTW) to Miami (MIA) for the dates of June 21-23, 2024, the price is $303.09.

From LaGuardia in New York (LGA) to Atlanta (ATL) for the dates of June 21-23, 2024, the lowest price is $330.09.

From O'Hare in Chicago (ORD) to Dallas (DFW) for the dates of June 14-16, 2024, the lowest price is $358.09.

I've had other friends who regularly fly Spirit generally report higher prices in the spring onward for 2024 as well!

Why the higher prices? I believe the real reason is multifaceted but one theory I have is there are lots of people who didn't travel due to the pandemic who are now able to. Increased demand for the same number of seats on a plane will cause the prices to go up.

Of course, if I notice changes throughout the year, I will be sure to update this article immediately!

Comfort of the seats

The coach seats on Spirit were less comfortable than coach seats I've flown on other airlines, like Delta or American.

There is hardly any legroom. It is difficult for you to cross your legs or seat one of your feet on top of your knee. You'll be forced to sit in an upright position, feet flat on the ground, if you sit in a coach seat. At least you'll have proper seating posture!

Unlike Delta, where you may spend several hundreds to upgrade to a Comfort+ or First Class seat, Spirit's upgrades to either an exit row seat or a Big Front seat usually don't cost that much more than a regular seat!

Selfie of author on a Spirit Airlines flight in the big front seat.
Big Front Seat for Spirit Airlines. Look at how much room you get!

A Big Front seat, which is basically Spirit's version of "first class", gives you 11 extra inches of legroom, or only one more inch than an exit row seat, and costs a little more. The Big Front Seats are, like their name suggests, wider and thicker.

An exit row seat is a regular seat with 10 extra inches of legroom. Far more relaxing!

Picture of author sitting in an exit row seat on Spirit Airlines
Plenty of leg room for barely any more cost in an exit row seat! Like my socks?

Given that both seats aren't much more to acquire, I personally suggest upgrading to one or the other, because to get the same level of comfort from a more quality seat on another airline, you'll be paying far more!

Number of nonstop flights

From my home airport of DTW, I noticed that Spirit had way less nonstop flights than Delta. Some cities I saw that Spirit did fly nonstop to from DTW were Minneapolis, Miami, New York City, Atlanta, and Las Vegas.

However, for some lesser known cities in the US that I plan to visit this year and next, like Little Rock, Tulsa, Portland, and Seattle, Spirit did not offer nonstop flights whereas Delta did, except for Tulsa.

If you don't like the idea of having long layovers, there's a good chance that with flying Spirit, you'll encounter this.

Trusted traveler programs

Earlier, when I examined the full booking process for Spirit, I mentioned there is no point to select a quicker security lane if you have TSA PreCheck®.

This is advice I give to pretty much anyone who flies in the US: if you want to drastically cut down the amount of time you spend waiting in airport security, I would get TSA PreCheck®. If you fly a little more frequently, you should also get CLEAR.

CLEAR kiosks with a banner advertising CLEAR NextGen Identity+ at the Evans Terminal in DTW
CLEAR kiosks in the Evans Terminal at DTW.

The links above will go into more in-depth information on both programs but I will provide a synopsis of each here.

TSA PreCheck® is a trusted traveler program provided through the federal government. TSA PreCheck® costs $78 and lasts up to five years. You apply online and then have to show up in person to conduct a background check. It only takes maybe 2-6 weeks to get approved.

Once you've been accepted, you'll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN), which you will then have to enter everytime you book a flight.

CLEAR acts like a trusted traveler program but is not technically one because it is issued through a private company. CLEAR can work hand-in-hand with TSA PreCheck® so they are not competitors. CLEAR costs $189 per year.

You can enroll in CLEAR at an airport and begin using the program the very day you enroll. CLEAR used to use retina scans or fingerprints to verify travelers' identities but moving forward in 2024, CLEAR's NextGen Identity+ program will use facial recognition.

Even for travelers on tighter budgets, I still highly recommend TSA PreCheck®. CLEAR, I understand, is more expensive and may not be financially worth it for some.

Other thoughts about flying Spirit

I had no issues with the staff being unfriendly. From the people at the gates to the flight attendants, Spirit employees were just as friendly as the staff I've dealt with on Delta.

The flights themselves were smooth and no louder than any plane I've been on.

One small difference for me at DTW is the terminal Spirit flies out of versus Delta. At DTW, Spirit Airlines flies out of the Evans Terminal, which is the less luxurious looking terminal. When people talk about how nice DTW is, they're usually referring to the McNamara terminal.

Even though Spirit Airlines is already a cheaper airline, I still love how many opportunities Spirit provides for those flights to be even cheaper!

Conclusion

So, is flying Spirit Airlines worth it in 2024?

Due to noticeably higher demand, Spirit Airlines's prices are looking quite high for the spring and summer months of 2024. There are instances in the summer where I saw it was cheaper to fly Delta than Spirit. That is insane.

If you find routes and times in the year Spirit's prices are what you'd expect and your trip is a short one, then, yes, I would for sure say Spirit is worth flying in 2024!

I am very impressed with the Free Spirit program and the Saver$ Club!

You can even fly very comfortably on Spirit Airlines for hardly any additional cost getting a Big Front Seat or an exit row seat!

However, if your trip is any longer than a week, I'd advise checking out other airlines, as the baggage costs on Spirit will add up and may hardly be any cheaper than a bigger airline like American or Delta.


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