Among those people who love to hate Spirit Airlines, one of the biggest complaints is that you have to pay for literally everything — check bags, carry-on bags, choose seats, have a boarding pass printed by an airport agent, snacks, drinks and even water.
But a quick online search of “people who love Spirit Airlines” results in a long list of articles written by the likes of BuzzFeed, USA Today and The Points Guy. Glowing headlines proclaim strong feelings such as “I Love Spirit Airlines And I’m Not Ashamed To Admit It,” “10 completely serious (and not at all sarcastic) reasons to love Spirit Airlines,” and “Yes, I Love Spirit Airlines — Here’s Why.”
Based in Miramar, Florida, in the Miami metropolitan area, Spirit is one of the largest ultra-low-cost carriers in the U.S.
“And personally it’s my favorite (I far prefer Spirit to Frontier, for example),” wrote One Mile at a Time founder Ben Schlappig. “While Spirit often gets a bad rap, I think that largely comes down to people having unrealistic expectations.”
The biggest thing that frustrates people about Spirit is not understanding the rules, Schlappig wrote.
In exchange for low base fares, Spirit is sometimes accused of cramming its planes full of seats to maximize the number of people it can carry, limiting legroom in the process.
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Spirit Airlines are “explorers of the frontiers of misery in the friendly skies,” said John Paul Rollert, a Spirit customer who chronicles the airline’s business practices and teaches classes in leadership and ethics at the University of Chicago.
Not a nice thing to say by any stretch, and yet Rollert simultaneously claims that “Spirit will always have a place in my heart.”
Spirit is a good backup option if the destination to a city like Charlotte or Phoenix is prohibitively expensive, say $200 per ticket difference for each passenger and more for groups and families. If you travel quite a bit, not flying Spirit can end up costing you thousands of dollars a year.
The key is subscribing to the Spirit Saver$ Club to save money on baggage and upgraded seating and knowing the rules. Too many travelers who badmouth Spirit airlines expect everything Delta or American gives you for a price that can be 70 percent cheaper. Business and life don’t work that way.
For a membership price of $69.95 a year, the Spirit Saver$ Club gives access to some of the lowest fares available and discounted prices on bags, seats, and other options such as shortcut security and shortcut boarding. It typically discounts flights by $10 to $30 each way with benefits such as free flights for children but membership is not for everyone, according to The Points Guy. It’s more appealing for family or group travelers than those traveling on their own.
The passenger needs to know the luggage rules and be precise in understanding the different Spirit Airlines landscape. Some routes on the Spirit roundtrip nonstop option could be $300 to $1000 cheaper, depending on individual vs. family/group fares. There are also potential savings with baggage considerations.
BuzzFeed staffer Rebecca Khera, a frequent traveler, debunked these common complaints against Spirit Airlines:
It’s cheap for a reason: “Just because it’s affordable for a wide range of people, doesn’t mean it’s cutting corners when it comes to safety,” Khera wrote. “Spirit Airlines is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration — just like the more expensive airlines. So, it’s obvious they’ve passed all the necessary safety standards.”
But the fare doesn’t include bags!: “How else is a low-cost airline supposed to stay in business? They have to make money somehow. It’s like dollar movie theaters — the movie ticket itself may be cheap, but their popcorn sure as hell ain’t.”
The teeny tiny personal item, that’s all that’s included? “When you book a flight with Spirit you get two things: 1. A random seat (picking your seat is extra $$$) 2. A personal item, like a backpack or purse (a carry-on is $$ and a checked bag is $$$) But the trick to traveling as affordably as possible is packing light. I have my personal item down to a science and am able to maximize the generous 18″x14″x8″ of under-the-seat space.”
They nickel and dime for you everything! “I prefer the term ‘à la carte’. You only pay for what you want. No more paying for stale pretzels you won’t eat and flat soda you’ll only take three sips of. If you don’t care where you sit (you’re all going to the same place) and don’t need to bring your entire closet, then you’ll be the one saving the most money. Before you book the ticket, calculate all your add-ons and see if it’s still the best price. Sometimes flying Southwest or Alaskan ends up being the lowest cost option, and that’s okay. But don’t blame Spirit for allowing you to pay for what you want, no more and no less.”
The Moguldom Nation did an informal Google search for “price of nonstop roundtrip flights Fort Lauderdale to Charlotte” for the dates March 24 to April 1. We compared prices for an individual and for a family of five on Spirit Airlines vs. American Airlines. Airline ticket prices can change from minute to minute when searching online. The search was done at 4:15 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. Here’s what we found:
Spirit individual flight: $324
Spirit group flight: $1,657
American Airlines individual flight: $415
American Airlines group flight: $2,072