Spirit 101 – 10 Things You Should Know Before You Book a Flight with Spirit Airlines

I recently took my first flight on Spirit Airlines. It was Spring Break for my daughters and they had a whole 10 days off. I wanted to do something other than sit around the house for almost 2 weeks. I needed this break more than they did. I decided that I wanted a nice, sunny, warm beach break. 🙂 So after searching for a few weeks and watching prices rise every time I logged in, I decided to take my girls to Jamaica and Spirit Airlines had the best prices by far. I know what you are thinking, “why would you do that”….”it must have been a horrible experience”. Well, on the contrary, my very first flight with Spirit Airlines actually went very well and it was an international flight. Can you believe it? However, when I arrived at the Spirit Airlines ticketing counter, I can tell you, there was a large number of people around us that were angry and/or confused because they were not familiar with Spirit’s rules. Lucky for me and my crew, I am in an online travel group so I had seen all of the complaints and the “what not to do” advice from my fellow group members. So for those parents like me that want to travel on a budget, I think Spirit Airlines can help you see the world for very few coins. However, I will give you a few tips for having a positive experience on this airline.

First and foremost, Spirit is a no-frills, budget airline. They will nickel-and-dime you for everything if you aren’t prepared, but a lot of these costs can be avoided with proper planning.

  1. Give yourself plenty of time for check-in at Spirit’s gate, especially if you are traveling internationally or if you are checking bags. Although tons of people complain about Spirit Airlines, I will tell you that a ton of those same people continue to fly with Spirit Airlines because their prices are the cheapest. With so many confused about Spirit’s rules, fees, and the check-in process in general, there was a mass of confused people trying to check-in when we arrived. So I advise you to give yourself plenty of extra time.
  2. Check-in online and print your boarding pass or have it emailed to you. If you don’t have a copy of your boarding pass when you arrive, Spirit will charge you a fee to print your boarding pass. So save yourself some time and money with online check-in and be sure to have a copy with you upon arrival.
  3. Get yourself a good backpack and pack lite. Yes, Spirit charges for carry-on bags that require overhead bin storage and yes, they charge for checked bags. But if you have a small bag or backpack that can fit under the seat in front of you, then you can take it free of charge. So I purchased 3 multi-compartment backpacks for my daughters and I. We were going to the beach for a few days and only needed shorts, t-shirts and bathing suits, so the backpack was perfect. However, I knew we would have souvenirs upon return, so we did pay for 1 checked bag for our return flight.
  4. Speaking of checked bags, with Spirit Airlines, it is cheaper to pay for your checked bag in advance, like while you are purchasing your tickets or before you check-in for said flight. If you wait until you get to the counter to add and pay for a checked bag, the fee is ridiculous. I prepaid $40 for my checked bag and I think it would have cost us about $80 if we had done it at the gate.
  5. Grab snacks in the airport. Yes, Spirit Airlines does charge for snacks on the plane. They offer individual chips, sodas and candy as well as some larger “snack pack” meals that range in price from $3-$12. You can’t bring snacks from home because unless they are for a small child or if you have more than a bottle of water, it will get confiscated during your security check-in. So grab a few snacks or a quick meal in the airport and take it with you on the plane. Although at those Hudson News counters, you may end up spending the equivalent of what Spirit charges for snacks. 🙂
  6. Spirit Airlines may not be for you if you have long legs. That is, if you want the normal no-extra-fee seats. Spirit does offer seat upgrades for people that want to sit closer or want to have more leg room. These seats incur an extra fee that seems to range from $19-$38. But if you are a shorty like me, then the leg room offered was fine.
  7. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before you take your Spirit Flight because you are not going to be able to recline your seat for good sleep on this flight. Spirit’s seats do not have a recline feature. However, if you are one of those people that hates to have people invade your space with their completely reclined seats, then this may be a feature that you prefer.

  8. If you want to sit together with your group, then you may want to pay the fee and choose your ‘together’ seats ahead of time. If you are a family of 3 and you purchase your tickets at the same time in a single purchase, then Spirit will put your seats together, or so that’s what we experienced and we didn’t have an issue. However, if your party is over 3 people and/or you didn’t purchase all of your tickets at the same time, there’s a chance that your seat may not be near the rest of your party. I watched this situation unfold on my recent flight from Jamaica and this woman was not on the row across from her husband and 2 sons and watching her ask passengers to move their luggage and seats all around to accommodate her was just ridiculous and annoying to watch… especially when she could have just paid an extra $19 to get her seat near their seats. Luckily, it was a good day in the skies and the other passengers honored her request. But why do all of that when you can settle it ahead for less than $20?
  9. It may be worth it to join Spirit’s $9 fare club. I am not sure why it’s called the $9 Fare Club when it actually has a $59.95 annual fee to join, but I think its worth it. Members of their club get access to discounted prices for flights which are often significantly cheaper than a non-club price. Also, the club membership gives you a discount for the other carry-on, check-in and snack fees. Since my first Spirit experience went well, I recently booked another flight to Florida. The regular price was about $105 each way. Well, I got their club membership and the flight only cost me $56/each way. The membership has already paid for itself and I can use it for discounted flights for the next year. If you ask me, I’d say its worth it.
  10. I have heard quite a few people complain about flight delays on Spirit Airlines. I did not experience this. Our departing and return flights from Baltimore to Montego Bay left on the dot of time and we actually arrived a few minutes early on both flights. However, my response to this complaint is “what airlines don’t have delays?” I hear JetBlue, not a budget airline, is one of the worst in the industry when it comes to their on-time arrivals or lack there of. So I cant say for sure if this is a Spirit issue or just a typical issue that all airlines occasionally experience.

Have you used Spirit Airlines? Would you consider patronizing them? Did I miss a tip that you think customers should be aware of on Spirit Airlines? Let me know in the comments!

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