I’m one of those people that straddles that fine line between wanting a bargain on every trip I take and requiring luxury for said trip. Sometimes, if you search hard enough, you can make both of those things happen. But sometimes, you have to be willing to give a little to get where you want to go. That’s how I came to take my first flight on Spirit Airlines.
We hadn’t been on a family vacation in almost two years and we were definitely overdue. At a minimum, we take a yearly vacation to Disney in Orlando because we’re members of the Disney Vacation Club. We found a great deal to stay over Easter weekend and we were ready to book until…
As expected for a holiday weekend, flight prices were outrageous. But I looked on all my favorite sites (usually starting with Southwest.com and followed by Kayak.com). I adjusted the dates of departure, dates of arrival, the departure airport, the arrival airport. I just couldn’t seem to spin things in the right direction until I found a ridiculously low airfare on Spirit Airlines.
Understanding Your Fare on Spirit Airlines
I knew going into this deal that Spirit Airlines is a budget airline. When you pay for a ticket, you’re paying for the seat on the airplane. That’s it. If you know that going in, it makes the experience much more palatable.
Everything else comes at a price.
The airfare for my family of three came in at $214.86. TOTAL. That’s not a per person price. BUT… Spirit is very good at showing you the total price and letting you know which portion goes to them for the flight, and which portion goes to the government.
In this case, taxes added on an additional $92.94. That’s a grand total of $307.80, or $102.60 per person.
Most people would be willing to sit on the wing for a roundtrip flight at that price, especially over Easter weekend.
But remember, you’re only paying for a seat on the plane. Let me explain more about what I mean by that.
Those Pesky Fees on Spirit Airlines
Here’s where things are radically different from other airlines and you have to know the fine print or you might find yourself getting unnecessarily emotional at the airport.
You want a seat assignment? You have to pay for that.
You want a seat assignment in a bigger seat? You’ll have to pay more for that.
Want to carry on a bag? Check a bag? Grab a snack? Get a drink? Yup. They all come at a cost.
As long as you know that and you know what you need, you can factor that into the pricing to see if the overall cost works for you as compared to other airlines that don’t have a fee structure like Spirit.
Planning Our Trip on Spirit Airlines
We had the flight booked without a problem. We just needed to figure out our baggage situation.
Spirit Airlines classifies baggage as one of three types:
- Personal item – This is a purse or a backpack or a small carry-on. Everyone is allowed ONE and there is no fee. They are very specific about the dimensions of this bag so don’t expect to pass off a roller bag as a personal item. That’s considered a carry-on.
- Carry-on bag – This is a typical carry-on bag that you might wheel onto any other flight. These are the bags that you stress about hoping you can find overhead space because it will NOT fit under your seat. You have to pay a fee if you want to bring a carry-on on board.
- Checked luggage – Again, Spirit is specific about bag sizes and weight and will charge you a per bag fee (usually about the same as a carry-on).
We knew we’d be traveling to Florida for almost a week. And we don’t pack light. We could have tried to fit everything into a carry-on but we’d have to pay the same fee as checked luggage. So I prepaid for three checked bags when I bought our tickets.
I factored this in to the total cost of the flight. We each checked a bag in each direction for $34. That’s an additional $102 each way and a total of $204 extra. But with the low, low cost of the fare, I tried not to think about $204 in fees but instead thought of the total per person price as $170.60. Still a major bargain.
We also opted not to pay for seat assignments. It was a short two hours flight and we’re all old enough that we could handle sitting apart if necessary. As it turns out, you can check in online for your flight 24 hours before departure and you’ll be assigned available seats.
In our case, we were all on the same reservation and when I checked us in, it gave us three seats together on the way down and back.
The Actual, In-Person Spirit Airlines Experience
Once we got to the airport, we quickly found the Spirit Airlines area. They have plenty of kiosks for self-tagging bags. With my confirmation code (or boarding pass, which I had printed at home), I had the labels for all of our bags ready to go. Once we tagged them, we had to wait in line for the bag drop.
It was a longer then expected line and moved slower than I would have liked. They didn’t seem terribly organized but we allowed for plenty of time (especially since we use CLEAR and TSA Precheck) and made it to the gate just in time… to wait.
Actually, we grabbed some sandwiches, snacks, and drinks to bring on board (making sure they fit in our personal items just in case Spirit was jerky about that) and waited at the gate as the plane didn’t board. Because there wasn’t a plane at the gate.
We ended up departing over an hour late. We had no announcements and really no idea why it was delayed. But my friends online assured me they had never had an on-time flight with Spirit.
It was also clear that they were overbooked as they made several announcements asking for passengers to voluntarily give up their seats (they did this on the way home too).
When it was finally time to board, it seemed more like a cattle call than a boarding process. To be fair, we were flying to Orlando with a lot of families obviously heading for vacation. They may not have been the savviest travelers.
Once on board, I took note of a few things:
- The tray tables are tiny! So tiny, they’re actually cute! I actually wasn’t planning on doing any work (they didn’t have wifi anyway) but it was big enough for me to prop up my phone while I watched the latest Netflix documentary.
- The seats are bare bones. You’re padded on the front but not on the back. Less material is used for the seats and the seat back pocket. The plus side is that it makes the seats lighter and probably makes the plane more fuel efficient.
- The seats don’t recline. But don’t worry – the stationary position of the seats is actually a nice, natural angle of inclination.
- The rows were tight but not nearly as tight as some other non-budget airlines I’ve been on! I was comfortable enough as was my husband who’s 6’2″.
And if you forgot to bring your food and drink on board, you can actually purchase it – which is not a lot different than a lot of other airlines these days.
Most importantly, the pilot did his job. He flew that plane trying to find an altitude that was as comfortable as possible. We took care of ourselves and it was just fine.
Would We Fly Spirit Again?
It definitely wasn’t my favorite flying experience ever. I think they have a few operational kinks to work out with their airport staff (Orlando seemed a little more put together than Baltimore). But it was totally and completely fine.
For short haul flights, Spirit Airlines is a good option to consider as long as you look at the total cost of flying instead of just your ticket price.