Tips for Flying Spirit Airlines

Let’s be honest, everybody THINKS they are too good to fly Spirit. But nobody (unless rich, wealthy, or otherwise financially free-spirited) is above flying Spirit.

The first time I flew Spirit was on a flight to Miami (I mean ummmm, Fort Lauderdale). The flight costs $60 round-trip (yes, you read that right)! It was during the week, a Thursday until Saturday. At that time I was working in a role where you could “work from home” pretty much when you wanted to unless you were new to the organization. I’d had a lot of goodwill built up with my boss so I decided I would work from what was then, my “home away from home” because I went to South Beach pretty often back then.

My plan was to go down on Thursday night, hang out that night, work Friday until I was done every that “had to be done” on Friday (aka “as soon as that last meeting was over”) and come back Saturday morning. And yes, I know what you’re thinking, “Who the hell leaves Miami on Saturday morning to come home?!” And the answer is, ME. And YOU TOO if you were in Miami trying to ball on a budget lol.

That context is important, especially the ballin’ on a budget part. Spirit Airlines is 100% for people trying to ball on a budget. Or at least get somewhere for the low and then ball out. I actually think that’s one of the GREAT things about Spirit Airlines, they have enabled thousands of people who probably wouldn’t otherwise have been able to fit a Caribbean or cross-country flight into their budget, the ability to travel to and enjoy some really amazing destinations both inside and outside of the country! I know you’re probably thinking “Who, if they saved money, couldn’t afford to go to Miami or one of the cheaper Caribbean islands?” And that’s a GREAT and valid point. But consider this:

  • Not everyone is disciplined enough to save. Some people just spend when they get the impetus/inspiration. Think about your friend that is always traveling, posting pics on Instagram, telling you about people they met on vacation and what they did, and you have been itching to go with them just once. You might say screw it, I’m gonna just buy this flight to Montego Bay so I can go with him/her and see what it’s like.
  • Not everyone has as much money as you think they do and not everybody manages money as well as you may think (see the last bullet point for an example of the latter). Some people have more bills than Kevin Hart has jokes and can’t fathom trying to squeeze in a vacation let alone the flight. Others may have money but simply don’t value travel as much as some of us do! If you’re like me, you have friends that would rather stay in their hometown area, hit their usual bar/lounge/whatever spot, and they don’t put an emphasis on making sure they travel. To each his/her own, right?

I say all that to say, for those that fall into one of those categories above or straddle both, Spirit can help them save money on flight costs that they might not be able to afford if they went with another major and more established carrier. I mean think about it, even Southwest has been nudging their prices up over the past few years after they implemented no baggage fees. Nowadays, comparing prices on Southwest vs Spirit for the same dates and destination can shock you because Southwest might be $100+ more.

With all that said and because I have flown Spirit many times, I put together a couple lists for those considering or about to fly Spirit:

Things to know BEFORE you book:

  • The price you see online is ultimately not the price you will pay unless you can pack everything you need into that designer backpack you are about to carry on a BUDGET. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a fake (or authentic) designer backpack or luggage on a Spirit flight I might actually be able to afford one.
  • The $9 Fare Club is a complete joke. They pitch it hard on their website but don’t fall for it. I honestly cannot think of a scenario in which it’s worth the annual fee. You’re paying for an annual membership on an airline that you may not use every time you fly that saves you $9 per bag on baggage fees and $9 on the litany of other fees they charge or “add-ons” they offer. I’m sure there have to be other ways this is pitched to seem like a great value but for me, I haven’t seen the benefit. I usually just assume I’m going to pay an extra $100 round-trip for my baggage on top of whatever the price is.
  • You are going to be charged amounts that seem high and for things that you didn’t realize would even be tossed out there. The baggage fees are high and carry-ons actually cost more than checked bags. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind the pricing logic here but I’m sure there has to be one, right? Paying to board the plane quicker when you will have an assigned seat also seems like a bit of a money grab. Nobody is rushing onto a flight to make sure there’s enough overhead bin space, they can check that bag at the gate if you can’t fit it anywhere on the flight.
  • If you want a good seat, you’re going to have to pay for it! This isn’t Southwest where you can have a companion/friend that’s boarding high in the A group save you that exit row seat even if you are C59. Nope, you can’t do that. You have to pay for that seat you want or you will be auto-assigned, which sometimes isn’t bad but oftentimes it’s the middle seat of course. They actually try to offset the crappiness of being auto-assigned a middle seat by having a sweepstakes on their flights for all middle seat passengers where one lucky person wins 5,000 Free Spirit miles. Which can get you a roundtrip ticket, sort of. The 5,000 miles you win allegedly cover a roundtrip ticket but only if it’s an off-peak route on select days between two cities that are pretty darn close to one-another. Glad you sat in that middle seat, aren’t ya?
  • Be careful with flights with connections! Almost all of the nonstop flights I have taken on Spirit have gone just fine. I get on, order my double rum and coke, complain to myself again about booking a flight with no wifi, then I put on some music and try to sleep a little. But connections with Spirit can get dangerous! If you can avoid them (as with any airline really), make sure you do!
  • No WIFI. That’s self-explanatory. Just plan for it.
  • If anything goes wrong you are going to be mad. After you talk to the Spirit staff, you are going be PISSED! Not because they don’t want to help but mainly because they all seem NOT TO understand how to empathize with someone in your position. In my experience they tend to just follow whatever handbook for fucked-up customer service Spirit leadership hands out at orientation. Don’t get me wrong, there are a LOT of pleasant and wonderful Spirit employees across the country and in other countries but whatever internal protocols and policies they have for accommodating stranded passengers is really horrible.

Things to know AFTER you book:

  • Make sure you keep your checked baggage under 40lbs unless you want to pay a fee. And note, if you’re traveling somewhere for more than 3 days (or you’re just a heavy packer) 40 lbs may pretty low.
  • Pay for your bags (if you haven’t already) before you get to the airport! Paying for bags at the airport during check-in means you’ll pay exorbitant prices.
  • If you are flying internationally, this is one airline where you probably do need to arrive at the airport 3 hours early. Take my word for it.
  • If you’re flying domestically, an hour and a half is sufficient. Their bag tagging process is pretty straightforward but the lines to drop your bag off can be maddening!
  • Make sure you check-in online beforehand. There’s a Spirit app too but it’s janky at best, don’t waste your time.
  • Remember, THERE IS NO WIFI! I cannot stress this enough.

Things to know AT THE AIRPORT:

  • Self-tag your bag and print your boarding pass. Yes, I realize you may have used the app for your boarding pass or gotten your boarding pass via email but don’t trust it. I was turned around at security returning home from Las Vegas once to return and get a paper boarding pass from Spirit. I still don’t know why!
  • There’s a damn good chance your flight might board a lil late. Just accept it.
  • There’s a solid chance you might need to wear your Yeezys to run to that connecting flight. I’m not saying it’s a guarantee but I am saying you might want to wear something a lil easier to sprint in than those Gucci flip flips!
  • You are going to see a lot of expensive carry-on bags and wonder: “If you can afford that… Why you flying on this airline?”

At the end of the day, flying is not about the journey it’s about the destination! When you’re traveling for vacation (or mostly any other scenario) you usually aren’t concerned with the most lavish and luxurious experience getting there. You obviously don’t want a crappy experience and you want to arrive safely but remember that paying more for your transportation doesn’t get you there any earlier! So when you’re flying on an airline like Spirit just remember that you need to plan ahead based on the list above and set your expectations accordingly. If you do that, you might not hate the idea (or experience) of flying Spirit so much!