Don’t Get Screwed by Spirit Airlines

Is Spirit Airlines better than other airlines?

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By flying on Spirit Airlines you can save loads of cash on your trip to Costa Rica, Peru, and many other destinations.  Knowing where this stingy but cheap airline excels and where it lacks will help you get the maximum value from your next Spirit flight.

How Spirit Airlines Differs from Other Airlines

  1. The moment you step on a Spirit Airlines flight you can immediately notice the tight seat space with minimal legroom.  Spirit uses modern Airbus jets and since they have different seating arrangements among their planes you may be stuck in a super cramped seat.  To get technical, the seats in the Airbus A320s used by Spirit Airlines have a seat pitch (a legroom measurement) of 28 inches, the lowest of any U.S. based airline.  A 6 foot tall person could not sit in a normal position in this seat due to minimal legroom.  As a comparison, economy seats on Thai Airways have 22% more legroom at 34 inches of seat pitch.
  2. Flights sometimes depart at odd hours in the night.  To keep their costs low, Spirit Airlines aims to have very high plane utilization.  In other words they want to be flying 24/7.  If you want to fly from Plattsburgh, NY to Fort Lauderdale, FL, your flight will leave around 2:30am.
  3. Bad customer service at the call center.  Many Spirit Airlines representatives are located overseas and customers have found them to be particularly unhelpful and frustrating compared to other airlines.

Spirit Baggage Fees

This is something you really got to watch out for.  If you plan to fly with a lot of baggage then Spirit Airlines may end up costing you more than flying on a different airline as excess baggage fees quickly add up.  If you’ll be traveling with extra baggage then it’s best to purchase an extra allowance in advance on spirit.com in advance.  The price for excess baggage on the web stays the same at any time prior to check-in.  (TIP: Spirit Airlines is generally less strict about size and weight of carry-on bags than you might expect given the language on the website.  Obviously, this is not something you can count on.  Your mileage may vary.)  Buying the extra baggage allowance at the airport is a sure way to rack up the cost of your flight very quickly.

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What Not To Expect From Spirit Airlines

  1. Free food or beverage of any kind.  You may be able to score a minuscule amount of free water, but it seems that Spirit Airlines has a policy against giving food/drinks away for free.  The only exception to this is if you were to request water from a flight attendant for the purpose of taking medication. This is an unpublished rule that all Spirit Airlines flight attendants are supposed to follow.  Even in this case they will give you one small glass of water.
  2. Don’t expect to use cash (even U.S. dollars) on-board a flight to buy water or food.  Only debit and credit cards are accepted.  No cash.  No Exceptions.
  3. Any room for negotiation with over weight checked bags.  The counter agents won’t give you any leeway with checked bags over the weight limit.  They may be less strict (and in some cases much less strict) with the exact dimensional size limit (length, width, and height) of your checked bags and less strict with both the weight and size of your carry-on bag(s).  Sometimes the airline staff may not weigh your bags, but this isn’t something you can count on.
  4. Short, efficient check-in queues.  It could be that quarter of all the passengers on your Spirit flight want to argue with the counter agents about excess baggage fees (unfortunately this is not an exaggeration). This often creates long lines at Spirit check-in counters.
  5. If a delayed Spirit Airlines flight causes you to miss a connecting flight on any other air carrier, Spirit is not responsible or liable and will not compensate you. This is especially problematic if you book a flight on a different airline to get to a Spirit hub (like Fort Lauderdale, FL).  It’s best to give yourself at least 4 hours between flights to have some level of security.  You can also purchase travel insurance to make sure you don’t get stuck having to buy a flight last minute.  Sometimes airlines will hook you up with a free re-booking if you missed your flight, but you shouldn’t count on this.

When is Spirit Airlines Better Than Other Airlines?

  1. Even though it’s not always the case, Spirit Airlines generally has lower fares than the competition (like the $110 one-way flight from New York to Peru).
  2. The flight attendants are surprisingly pleasant for a U.S. based airline.  (If you want really pleasant flight attendants catch a flight on a Middle East based airlines like Qatar Airways or Etihad!)
  3. When your flight route is discontinued after you’ve booked your trip, Spirit Airlines can be very lenient in letting you change your flight.  You may even be able to select an entirely new destination at no extra cost.  One traveler was booked to fly from Plattsburgh, NY to Panama City, Panama when the flight was suspended.  Spirit Airlines re-booked the passenger (and his 3 travel companions) to Lima, Peru (a much more expensive flight) at no extra cost.  The airline isn’t obligated to do this, but appear to do so as a customer courtesy.  Props to Spirit Airlines!
  4. Spirit Airlines flies the same modern jet planes that adhere to the same FAA safety standards as other U.S. airlines.  Often times, other low cost airlines don’t use such nice planes.
  5. If your flight is oversold, delayed, or canceled Spirit Airlines is obligated to compensate you under the same FAA (the U.S. based Federal Aviation Administration) guidelines that apply to all other airlines.  There are no special exceptions to discount airlines like Spirit.

Have you come across any things you do or don’t like about Spirit Airlines?  Let me know below.

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