It’s Getting Hard To Justify *Not* Flying Spirit Airlines

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It used to be that Spirit Airlines was the airline to avoid in the US, as they’re known for charging fees for just about everything. However, as legacy airlines have continued to cut services and add fees, flying Spirit Airlines makes more and more sense.

Perhaps the best kept secret of Spirit Airlines is their “Big Front Seat.” It’s essentially a domestic first class seat that you can upgrade to for a very reasonable price. It doesn’t come with any extra service, but you’ll actually sit in comfort for the whole flight, unlike the rest of the cabin, which features as little as 28″ of pitch.


I reviewed Spirit Airlines’ Big Front Seat last year, and had a pleasant flight. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again.

As I’m sure is the case for many of us, I’m responsible for making travel arrangements for my family, and my dad needs to fly from Tampa to Los Angeles next month. Up until now Delta is the only airline to operate the route nonstop, though Spirit Airlines is also starting nonstop service.

I always want my parents to be as comfortable as possible when flying, even if it ends up costing me a few bucks more. When flying between Tampa and Los Angeles, my dad usually flies Delta so he can get the nonstop, and I usually pay to upgrade him to Comfort+. However, with Spirit adding service, I was thinking of booking him on Spirit Airlines. Unfortunately the only thing he knows about Spirit Airlines is that a lot of fights break out on their flights, so when I suggested this, he looked at me shocked that I’d even suggest he fly Spirit.

However, when I explained to him their Big Front Seat concept, he seemed more receptive.

So let’s do a quick comparison, because I’m curious what you guys would do.

Option #1: Delta exit row seat or Comfort+ seat

Delta’s roundtrip basic economy fare is $316, and their roundtrip regular economy fare is $376. I’d pay to have him not fly basic economy, since I want to make sure he can get a good seat.

In order to do that, not only would I have to avoid the non-basic economy fare, but I’d either pay $39 per direction to upgrade him to an exit row, which seems like a reasonable upgrade cost on a transcon flight, or I’d book him Comfort+, which has a roundtrip fare of $544, which is an upgrade cost of $84 in each direction.

Up until now Delta has been able to charge a huge premium for this route since they’re the only airline flying nonstop, so that fare actually isn’t horrible, as I’ve seen basic economy fares of $500+ roundtrip in the past.

Option #2: Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat

Spirit Airlines’ roundtrip fare from Tampa to Los Angeles is $119. Of course never judge Spirit by their base fare, because it includes nothing. Presumably I could knock down that fare by $38 by booking at the airport, but let’s assume I don’t plan on doing that, since I’m in Orlando at the moment, and you’d have to pay me more than $38 to wait in a Spirit Airlines check-in line at Orlando Airport over spring break.

Let’s add in all the things I’d realistically want for my dad. He’d need a carry-on, which would cost him $35 in each direction (paying for a carry-on also comes with priority boarding, which is a nice additional perk).

Then I absolutely think it’s worth paying $76 in each direction for a Big Front Seat, so he essentially has a first class seat for 5-6 hours.

When all is said and done, the roundtrip ticket with a carry-on and a comfortable seat would be $340.58, which is less than Delta’s standard economy fare without paying for an exit row or Comfort+.

Other considerations

To me it seems like a no brainer to book Spirit Airlines, since you’re getting a first class seat with no service for less than a normal economy seat on Delta. There are a few things working in the favor of Delta, though:

  • While my dad doesn’t have Delta status, he’d earn five miles per dollar spent, so we’ll say that’s the equivalent of a ~7% discount, based on my valuation of SkyMiles; he’s also really close to million miler status with Delta, but I won’t put a value to that
  • My dad has The Platinum Card® from American Express, so if flying Delta he’d get access to SkyClubs in both Tampa and Los Angeles
  • Delta has personal televisions at every seat, while Spirit’s only entertainment is the potential brawl that breaks out between fellow passengers
  • Delta has wifi while Spirit doesn’t; personally this is something I’d really care about on a daytime flight, though my dad doesn’t

Bottom line

In many ways the US legacy carriers have taken passengers for granted. When they’ve added basic economy fares, they’ve done so without calculating the cost of the passengers they’d lose. Basic economy was introduced in order to compete with ultra low cost carriers, yet Spirit’s fare is $119, while Delta’s basic economy fare is $316, meaning that Delta is charging ~2.7x as much.

Since I always want the best for my dad I almost feel bad booking him on Spirit, but I just can’t bring myself not to, if that makes sense.

Which flight would you book in the above situation? Would you pay $376 for Delta (with an additional $78-168 for better seating), or $340 for Spirit (including a carry-on, priority boarding, and Big Front Seat)?

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Comments

  1. I think Ben hasn’t had his cappuccino today. Though I’d definitely like to see more budget airline reviews. That way there’s a fancy chart to look at for when to use which airline

  2. Tough call the way you laid it out. However, the only way I’d pick Spirit is if the only other option were United.

  3. FWIW, unlike AA and UA, Delta still allows Basic Economy passengers to bring a carry-on, so that’s not a reason to choose away from the Basic Economy fare — though not being able to select seats along with other indignities might be.

  4. I just did a similar thing with a friend. We were booking a transcon for his dad from Florida to LA. After looking over the pros it was a no brainer for spirit big seat up front.

  5. I remember when Easyjet first started in the UK in the mid-90s… it was really embarrassing when one booked a flight on them as it was seen as an inferior good for poor creatures who couldn’t afford to travel properly. Nowadays, one wouldn’t even think about this, especially on an intra-Europe flight. I remember back then people thought that perhaps low cost airlines were less safe, but none of those ideas remain, especially for a younger generation who have grown up flying this way. Low cost is the future.

  6. I would consider flight frequencies as well. One of the biggest issues I have with Spirit is their lack of options in many (read: by far most) of the markets they serve in the event of IRROPS. One flight a day, no partner airlines, and that plane goes seriously mechanical…even with two flights a day there’s no way to re-accommodate everyone from the canceled flight. What’s the urgency to have him travel? (And cancelled flights just beg for some of that free entertainment, even if it’s not in-flight.)

    You can assist if something goes wrong, but you’d likely be doing that anyway regardless and it’s easier to rebook on the same airline when they actually have other flights going out.

    If he’s okay with Spirit and the schedule works, try it but be aware of the potential headache in case the flight/plane goes sideways.

  7. And, one more item for your “other considerations” — Delta has generally a very good on-time record while Spirit has generally a very poor one, and does a very poor job of taking care of and informing passengers when there are delays. That by itself is worth something, though even still, if you were comparing Delta paid First Class vs Spirit Big Front Seat I agree it’s kind of hard to make the case for Delta.

  8. Spirit can be a great option. The biggest problem with spirit is that when things go wrong, they go VERY wrong (like stuck until the next day’s flight wrong). If he’s not particularly time constrained, I’d definitely go for it. The big front seat is plenty comfy, and it’s easy enough to pack a snack or buy food at the airport for a flight. Sure, you have to pay for everything under the sun on spirit, but if you do, it’s usually still cheaper than one of the big 4.

  9. I think you could/should spring to upgrade him to first, not comfort plus. It’s not that much extra on Delta.

  10. @ Tracy S

    You hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t have said it better myself. PERFECT comment.

  11. I had to make the same call for my wife and daughter, as they needed to get from FL to NJ.
    They flew today from MCO to ACY with Spirit. Saved a couple of hundreds by not flying DL or AA
    Flight on time, no brawls 🙂

  12. There are only a few US carriers I think would be worth the premium in the scenario you laid out, and Delta is one of them. (Personally, JetBlue and Alaska would be the others).

    One thing you have to take into consideration that you havent is IRROPs. Im not familiar with the route, but I would have no faith in Spirit getting me to LAX effeciently if things with your flight go south, ie maintenance issues, canceled flights, big delays etc. Maybe there is only one flight per day (again im not sure) but at least Delta has the network and capacity to get you on a flight to ATL to transfer if your flight is canceled. Spirit would leave you high and dry, and who knows how long you’d have to wait to get another flight.

    Simply because of that I’d take Delta and the premium. Plus the lounge access and miles accrued. You may be more comfortable in the big front seat than in Comfort +, but youll be a lot more comfortable on a Delta flight to LAX via ATL than sitting in the airport fighting (perhaps literally) with others to get on another flight the next day.

  13. With the increase in basic economy fares on UA and AA, spirit is looking better and better. Or rather, the others are looking more like them.

  14. Go with Spirit. When I fly with them, it’s usually DFW-LGA, and I use the Centurion clubs at both ends. And Spirit, thank goodness, is now part of Pre Check.

    There are really only three potential drawbacks, I think.

    First, your dad’s options in the case of irregular operations are going to be way more limited on Spirit than Delta.

    Second, Spirit usually just has one flight per day.

    The other drawback, which doesn’t matter here, is that on Spirit you really can’t check a bag since that would involve (shudder!) standing in line and, as your post above already points out, that’s not really a realistic possibility.

    It’s points one and two above that make it hard to fly Spirit for business.

  15. Spirit cancelled my flight due to “mechanical issues” which I suspect was simply an unsold flight….not worth it if you’re sending you’re dad.

  16. Check MIA-PTY it is insane…. AA and Copa are $800-$1,100 all the time. Spirit is $254 and with all the big seats and bags it comes to around $430….

  17. I would definitely fly Spirit big front seat. I’ve flown with them a number of times, the experience can be fun if you know what to expect. They know what they are and poke fun at themselves – from a recent pre-flight safety demo: “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks and credit card machines will drop from the ceiling”. And nothing beats the comfort of the big front seat on a long flight.

    The only caveat is punctuality. If you absolutely have to be at your destination for a specific event, fly the day before or take a different airline.

  18. Thanks to those of you who pointed out that basic economy on Delta still comes with a free carry-on. Hadn’t had my coffee yet when I wrote this, clearly. However, it doesn’t really change the math for me, since I’d pay to avoid basic economy so he could assign a seat (and get a good one, at that).

  19. Important: To save the $38 on Spirit by booking at the airport, you can book at ANY Spirit customer service desk at any airport. Not just the check-in desk. Go through security and find the quiet Spirit customer service desk. At FLL T4, it is next to Gate G10. It’s even on Google Maps Street View. I’ve “booked at the airport” at LGA, BWI, MCO, FLL and believe, me, if you take Spirit 10x times per year, it adds up for sure.

  20. “I’m in Orlando at the moment, and you’d have to pay me more than $38 to wait in a Spirit Airlines check-in line at Orlando Airport over spring break.”
    LOL.

  21. X Factor for me is:
    “If there is a disruption to travel, will the airline take care of me and will I get home via a relatively quick resolution manner?”

    For Spirit and Frontier, this could mean being stranded for days. With Delta, any Legacy carrier as well as Southwest and JetBlue, this would mean a good-faith effort to assist me to get to my destination or home in an expedient manner with empathy and compassion.

    So I would be darn sure that Spirit has at least daily flights, not every other day, and other routings that might be able to assist in a cancellation situation. Or whatever you’re saving or amenities you’re adding, are completely moot. And if you are booking on behalf of friends or family, it’s your reputation on the line.

  22. Spirit Airlines has the attitude of ‘who cares if we have the most complaints, the idiots continue to fly us’. People actually brag that they get from point A to point B without an issue.

    The CEO laughs at the complaints. They don’t get my business.

    Easy for me to say since they don’t fly to my city.

  23. @Abe – Although I don’t know the specifics of your flight, I highly doubt the flight was cancelled due to low loads. Particularly with Spirit where their fleet is highly utilized, which allows them reduce cost. While that flight may have been undersold, it still needed to be at the destination for the next flight. Spirit does not have spare frames around to fill-in. This is also why, as many other readers have pointed out, Spirit does not have very good service recovery.

  24. even if you don’t fly spirit , you benefit with lower fares on other airlines from the competition

  25. I’ve flown them and was fairly impressed. Their hard product is on par with any other domestic airline and the service was great. Yes, you pay for everything, but if you know that upfront, you can still save a ton of money, avoiding the things you don’t want to pay for. I’d even go so far as to say the same thing about Allegiant – flew them once and came away very impressed.

    One area where I think they have to be terrible though is IRROPS. I can’t tell you how many times having status on a legacy carrier allowed me to shift to other flights easily to avoid major snafus. On Spirit, if something goes wrong, it goes REALLY wrong.

    If you can stomach being stranded for hours, if not days, with no help from your airline, then these guys are great because they will save you boatloads of money. If you need to be somewhere on time, avoid at all possible costs.

  26. My last 4 flights were all in DL basic economy tickets. Each time, I got to the airport plenty early and went right to the gate desk. I would ask for an exit row first, and was got window exit row seats on 2 of them. 1 flight I got a window seat close to the front. Only one flight gave me an issue – the gate agent just had me wait until boarding started, then still got me a window seat near the front. All 4 were pretty full flights so, so going forward I will not hesitate to purchase basic economy (only on DL though, since you can bring a carry on).

  27. Big Front Seats are a great deal but then what is the point of flying Spirit Airlines in the first place ? I scored a $58 one way from LAX to EWR . Was auto assigned an aisle seat at checkin and bought a small carry on . I caved in and ordered some snacks and drinks ……..they were sold out of the buzz balls unfortunately.

  28. Go for spirit! The term ‘legacy carrier’ is a misleading term anyway. Delta’s service is no better than spirits by all means. Unless these so called ‘legacy carrier’ can serve their customers like those asian airlines do, they shouldn’t charge a premium for anything

  29. The comfort of Spirit (have never said that before) far outweighs the “pros” of flying Delta, and it’s cheaper to boot!

  30. Thanks, Lucky for keeping an open mind and questioning whether Delta is always better.

    Thanks also for comments on your actually flying Spirit.

    Years ago, I was like that about Southwest. “No way!” Now, it’s sometimes “Yes, way!”

  31. Even though Spirit has those spacious seats, they look very ugly and tired.
    I would definitely choose Delta Comfort+ for the modern cabin, entertainment, miles and service.

  32. I agree with all the comments about IRROPS. It’s the primary reason I haven’t ever flown Spirit, and didn’t fly them when they actually had a flight to a place I needed to go at a good fare at the time I needed to go. Wedding in CLE in the winter = weather = no bueno. Even vacations, I think my lovely wife might leave me if we had a vacation start late because of an IRROPS SNAFU.

    What about booking Spirit but with a credit card with built-in trip interruption insurance?

  33. Spirit definitely presents the best value overall in this case (although I have found Delta’s customer service and FAs generally to be extremely friendly recently, which is worth something).

    The IRROPS issue is the bigger concern and I would generally never fly spirit on a business trip where, for example, a cancelled flight could mean missing an entire (expensive) conference.

    For leisure I’d roll the dice, but it is a gamble. A few years back my dad and stepmom (unknowingly) booked Spirit to MSP. Their return was cancelled on a Sunday afternoon after being delayed for hours and Spirit could not offer another flight for DAYS. They of course got a refund but had to change terminals and pay a massively expensive walk-up fare on UA or DL so that they could get to work the next day. The web is filled with probably hundreds of thousands of similar stories, maybe more. Spirit is the epitome of stepping over a dollar to save a dime (except for those rare times when it’s not 😉 )

  34. @Lucky: After the series of “Spirit tickets at the airport” posts last year, Spirit quietly raised the Passenger Usage Fees up another $1 from $18.99 to $19.99.

    I really like the idea that D mentioned about booking tickets post security. That’s a smart way to avoid all the people checking bags.

  35. Spirit consistently has “mechanical issues” resulting in your flight being cancelled 2 hours before the flight. Happened to me twice and both times the next flight would be 2 days later. Had to rebook last minute for significantly more on other airlines.

    You get what you pay for.

  36. Great article, Lucky. As I just took an Alaska red eye to the East Coast and came out red-eyed this morning, I was considering that Spirit’s Big Front Seat may be the thing to do in the future given the cost makes it a no-brainer compared to trying to upgrade to First on a different carrier. Of course, the once daily flight making it hard to recover from a mechanical is a very valid one.

    But how often do those actually happen? 5 percent? 10? 20? The other comments out here make it seem like it happens almost every handful of flights, which would of course make sense to avoid. But if it’s a pretty remote chance, it seems worth it in my book. On a route like TPA- LAX, even Delta only has a single daily flight. Yes, they can connect you through ATL in case of a delay, but probably still means you lose your whole day if they don’t have open seats on ATL- LAX. And I can’t remember ever having flown ATL to any California city that wasn’t entirely full in recent times.

  37. Don’t do it, especially on time-sensitive travel and when you’re responsible for someone else’s travel needs. Pay to fly a legacy – Spirit and the ULCCs compete on the Contract of Carriage and not just on the tangible factors.

    When booking for yourself feel free to go for it – perhaps at some point if the math is good I’ll try it myself.

  38. Take Spirit. The marginal savings could be put to use by seeing how many BuzzBalls ™ can be consumed on a five hour flight.

  39. I consider every option that gets me more than “standard” economy. I fly Air Asia and EasyJet/RyanAir quite often, almost solely because they offer me more physical space at a decent price.

    I used to be a “hell no” on Spirit, but I’ll give Big Front Seat a serious look the next time I have a transcon.

  40. Go for Delta. In my experience parents and Ultra-LCC’s don’t mix well. I remember booking my mum on Ryanair a few years ago to met me in London and she was just petrified by their umpteen regulations. And, in my opinion, Delta is one of the nicer US carriers, although I have to admit that their fare here is outrageous.

  41. I tend to give my business to AA 90 percent of the time when I fly PHX-TPA or PHX-MSP as those are the routes I fly ever otherweek. When fares are too high, I go with spirit and their big front seat. I’ve never had an issue with being delayed, and they get me where I need to go. Spirit has a tendency to arrive early, while American will always arrive late. If it wasn’t for the miles, I’d choose spirit every single time.

  42. As someone above said, flight times are really important as well. But think about the Million Miler for a second: In some other post prior to this one you said that your dad could be Million Miler just by applying for one credit card. While I don’t know when your dad plans to fly (and if there’s time to apply for a credit card) your dad could get Comfort + for free. So you can take out the cost for that. Additionally your dad might get upgraded. While I’m based in Germany and don’t know how realistic it is to be upgraded as a silver, it looks like there is a change for domestic first for him.

    That being said, I’d still go for Spirit. Yes, there might be fights sometimes but that’s not normal there either. Spirit is cheaper and by much so go for it. Other than that, the experience on LCCs (I’m talking to you Ryanair) is usually just very “different” from the legacy carriers and if your dad is not comfortable flying Spirit…

    Auf wiedersehen aus Deutschland! Beste Grüße an deinen Vater!

  43. Honestly im surprised you dont book him 1st class, yet thats all you fly basically hahah.come on hes your dad!!!

    But for real though, i would book him Delta to have peace of mind. If Spirit gets delayed or cancelled due to mechanical issues, which apparently happens a lot, he will be stranded.

    Delta all the way.

  44. I flew them once almost 20 years ago and swore I would never fly them again and have not. I exclude them from every meta search I do. I tell everyone not to fly them, not because of my horrible experience, but because of safety. You really didn’t address that? If you could prove to me that they are safe to fly I would definitely fly the Big seat up Front.

  45. You have a lot of great responses. This is your father, that should be your #1 concern, not the price. If you are not flying with him and somehow are not available to help him in the event of an IRROP, then he is just a number. I have been spoiled by being a Diamond with Delta and what makes me keep coming back is the guaranteed service I get with them if something goes wrong. And the numerous alternatives in that event. You know, if it was a quick hop from TPA to MCO, and something went wrong, you can rent a car. But with 1 flight a day, cross country, and it being your father, you shouldn’t even consider the money. His safety, and your peace of mind around that is all that you need to think of. There is a reason I pay the higher price, call it insurance or what have you, my peace of mind is worth it.

  46. But doesn’t Spirit have way more fatal accidents then all the other airlines? Oh wait, they don’t. So the safety argument is a stupid one.

  47. I can’t help but wonder if Spirit will have some major mechanical problems later. Like their aircraft are new now, but what about 5-10 years from now? They’re not Delta on their maintenance and can’t help but wonder what happens to them. And they’re a non-hub models, so how do they do overhauls? Where are they servicing planes regularly? And will their ULCC model end up costing lives when they decide to employ mechanics who for one reason or another can’t get a better position working for better wages with a legacy carrier.

    I also find the whole business model repugnant so I don’t use them and choose delta. Then again, I live in a main Delta city, NYC, so I understand living in non-hubs that flights can be absurdly expensive like this delta example. So for me, I care far more about how I am treated because of all the competition. As a GM, at least Delta pretends to care about me. Its the mask of civility that I care about. Something that Spirit customers and the airline have never had. I’d pay 3x more to avoid being anywhere near bubba who is pounding alcopops and looking for a fight, But call me old fashioned. Not really down with endorsing such ULCC madness and I’ll pay a little more to have decent food and entertainment and a chance at an upgrade. But since your dad didn’t have status, then I suppose I understand. However, If he is looking for million miler, doesn’t it make sense to focus on that?

  48. If Spirit were a full-service, thousands of flights a day kind of airline, this would be a no-brainer. But anyone who’s ever had IRROPS on Spirit, Frontier, etc. can tell you that it makes your rudest AA call center agent sound like a gem. It’s very challenging to deal with delays, aircraft issues…basically, anything that isn’t perfect. So I pick Delta.

  49. We fly Spirit 1-2 times a year and love it.
    Big Front Seat for half the price of Economy+?
    Yes please

    Now I never fly when it is Uber important to get somewhere in time.
    But if I have wiggle room? Then I do it

    As for IRROPS
    That’s why we have the Chase Sapphire Reserve
    Delayed by 6 hours?
    Walk-up and buy a ticket on Delta

    This especially works if there are numerous flights (like Miami to MSP it NY to LA)

    It’s true
    I fly then less in winter when blizzards can take everything down.

    But Spirit has saved me a ton
    Last year we bought 14 tickets MSP to MCO
    We saved $250 per ticket
    That’s $3500
    Worth a missed day

    Everything has its place

  50. Lucky, here are some factors beyond dollars and cents that should be considered.

    1) The outbound flight does not get into LA until 11pm IF the flight is on time. As many have said, spirit is easily unreliable when it comes to on-time performance. If this flight gets delayed for any reason, it will stretch into the wee hours, which will lead to other inconveniences.

    2) Not sure how old your parents are, but from the sound of you being a very filial son (thumbs up) that wants them to travel as nice as possible, you probably don’t want them to deal with the infamous customer service on an airline that’s known to have irregularities.

    3) Have you also looked at change fees in case you guys need to make a change due to personal reasons? Your Delta status might get you a lower fee vs the monstrous fee on spirit? Opportunity costs should be considered here as well.

    Why don’t you book two separate one-ways (since us domestic fare don’t cost more for one-ways) with the outbound on Delta and inbound on spirit, so both flights are operated at normal hours of the day and are easily managed If the shit hits the fan. This also allows your parents an opportunity to test out spirit on a one way to see if they like it. If they don’t, then they only had to deal with it once, not both ways. FYI, if they fly this route often, Southwest starts nonstop service in August as well. I would pick Southwest over Delta and spirit any day of the week.

  51. @Lucky —> Given a choice between Spirit and Delta, I’d go for Delta. Why? Because I refuse to fly Spirit on principal; I am not going to reward a company that once seriously considered installing PAY TOILETS on their planes. I refuse to reward an airline for nickel-and-diming to death every customer who boards their planes.

    You selected a roundtrip departing TPA on April 24, 2018 and returning from LAX on May 1st. According to Google Flights, Spirit is indeed $119 roundtrip. But, FWIW, it returned less expensive flights on DL than you list. That said, I’d much rather fly Southwest @$148 each way, even with one stop!

  52. Would you get your dad a Spirit FF Membership? Isn’t it terrible for you here at OMATT not to earn any miles or points? At least with Delta he could accrue the mileage and inch closer to his million miler with or without getting the Delta co-branded credit card.

  53. @JRMW – I always wondered how insurance would cover IRROPS on a low-cost carrier. How many times have you bought a walk-up fare to cover a cancelled flight? Has the insurer ever given you grief for that?

  54. One caveat – the big front seats no longer recline. This could get uncomfortable on a six hour transcon

  55. Once and done, from about 8yrs ago. Would have to see major company/marketing change to give it another try.

  56. Haven’t looked at the exact itinerary timing but what I like to do is self-protect on higher risk itineraries such as flying Spirit, etc by booking an easily cancellable backup that leaves 1-2 hrs after the original flight. Works great using Southwest miles, Avios and on Delta/other airlines if you have status. Seems like the best win-win situation because having your Dad stuck because of cancelled Spirit flight seems like no fun.

  57. Just to support all the IRROPS comments: I recently has the choice between Spirit big front seat and UA first class. While in general I can’t stand UA, in this case these were the only two affordable options with reasonable schedules. I chose UA. Sure enough, the plane departing IAH went mechanical and we had to return to the gate and deplane. Within an hour, we were on a new plane and they were closing the door for departure. UA staff made plenty of announcements to keep everyone informed of what’s going on. Would this have happened on Spirit, or would I have been stuck standing in a long line for hours, only to be told I’d be accommodated on a flight 3 days later?

    I have a lot of complaints about the way UA has run down its F service (no special meal options on short flights with meals; no meals at all on flights after 8 pm or during the afternoon; etc), but in the end getting there safely and close to on-time is more important.

  58. Do you go to the movie theater expecting to pay for someone else’s popcorn? No. That’s how Spirit fares work with a la carte pricing. You pay for what you want and it is STILL cheaper. You’ll have money leftover to purchase a delicious Buzzball inflight.

    @Lucky: Please choose Spirit. A win for the little guys!

  59. Andrew B asked:
    ” I always wondered how insurance would cover IRROPS on a low-cost carrier. How many times have you bought a walk-up fare to cover a cancelled flight? Has the insurer ever given you grief for that?”

    I’ve flown Spirit a large handful of times and have never been bitten by the IRROPS bug… yet.

    However: last month we went to Puerto Vallarta on Sun Country, which was my favorite airline (they are now a LCC… they were not when we bought tix).

    On the way home, our flight was delayed by 10 hours.
    the incoming MSP-PVR flight was diverted to DFW. No mention to us as to why.
    I walked up and bought 2 Delta tickets home last second.

    Off the top of my head: last second tickets were around $575 one way per person.
    I had Sun Country refund me for my ticket (since I didn’t use it due to their fault). They refunded me around $220.

    So I put in a claim for the $575 minus $220 per ticket two weeks ago.

    Claim is pending right now.
    The only issue:
    Chase (actually the insurer) requires a notified letter from Sun Country about *why* my flight was so delayed. But Sun Country won’t give me such a letter.

    So I sent screen shots of the scheduled departure time (11am), the actual departure time (10pm), and screen shots of the incoming MSP-PVR flight that diverted to DFW.

    Let’s see how it goes.

  60. @John Ham —> You wrote, “Please choose Spirit. A win for the little guys!”

    Please define “little.” Spirit is the 7th largest airline in the US in terms of enplaned passengers, as of 2017. They are larger than Frontier, Allegiant, Hawaiian, and Sun County (all US-based carriers); they are also larger than WestJet (Canada), AeroMexico, Volaris, and Interjet (all from Mexico). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_airlines_in_North_America (data taken from “About Us Spirit Airlines,” http://www.spirit.com retrieved 2018-02-07; and “News Releases,” News Release Archive, retrieved 2018-02-09.

    OTOH, there are various sources which ranked domestic airlines, and Spirit specifically, as follows:
    — TPG: 7th out of 10 in 2018, up from 10th the year before. (See https://thepointsguy.com/guide/best-and-worst-airlines-2017/ Dated 3/6/2018)
    — Business Insider: in an article recapping a Consumer Reports piece on “The 11 best and worst airlines in America,” Spirit comes in dead last with 62 out of a possible 100 points. (See http://www.businessinsider.com/best-worst-airlines-america-consumer-reports-2018-3 Dated 3/17/2018)
    — Wall Street Journal: Spirit ranked 7th out of 8 airlines, up from 8th out of 9 the two previous years. The AS takeover of VX accounts for the overall drop in the number of airlines ranked See https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-best-and-worst-airlines-of-2017-1515594783 Dated 1/10/2018).
    — Money: Spirit ranked 7th out of 9. (See http://time.com/money/5167479/largest-us-airlines-2018/ Dated 3/8/2108)

    Etc., etc., etc.

    Personally, I remain as convinced as ever NEVER to fly Spirit. Certainly, YMMV.

  61. Fly Spirit, hope there is no IRROPS.

    DL seems to really charge higher these days on light competition routes.

    DL has the WORST basic economy pricing among the legacy carriers. They just make the same old fare BASIC on EVERY fare base then add 20-30 to make it normal. They just milk EVERYONE extra $30. UA and AA at least price them truly a separate fare base.

  62. Compared to Delta, United, American, and Southwest, of course Spirit is a little guy, they go to around 60 destinations. And just why would I lump in Spirit with international carriers from Canada and Mexico?

    TPG: Great for Spirit in improving rankings!
    Business Insider/Consumer Reports: Of course Spirit is going to get docked a lot of points by survey respondents for not having Wifi, Seat comfort, legroom, IFE, selection of complimentary snacks,
    Money/Time: Looks like Spirit scores #2 in On-Time Arrivals.

    Glad you’re passionate about not flying Spirit. Spirit has their target market and it’s working for them.

  63. Eskimo: not all the time with AA. Last spring semester I used to pay 188 bucks to get from PHX-TPA in normal economy. Now they charge that much for basic, and moved regular economy to 235. To MCO from PHX though, I constantly get basic economy for 65 each way for basic economy and just make the drive to Tampa. Their regular fare is about 320 for the PHX to MCO route.

  64. For me flying Spirit’s BWI and FLL hubs a lot it’s a no-brainer:

    1. The big front seat !! Usually available and just $35 BWI/FLL. WOW

    2. Unlike other airlines, lowest fares don’t require 21 day/14 day/7 day advance. Sometimes next-day flights are the cheapest fare on Spirit. All determined by load.

    2. At BWI the only lounge is leClub which is Priority Pass. Many of us have that through credit cards. It’s smack in the middle of the Spirit terminal. Great lounge.

    1st class seats, nice lounge, and next-day cut rate fares.
    I’m fine with a small rolling backpack.

  65. If Southwest is starting this route they are a perfect back-up if you have points. Awards booked on points can be canceled anytime or just no-showed with no fee and all points are returned immediately. I often do a few Southwest reward flight reservations for insurance.

    Even other than points, cash ticket funds can be used as credits later.

    Could help places Spirit has few flights and people are worried about canceled flights.

  66. Love the big front seat, actually I hate it and spirit so everyone here agree to never fly it ok, I don’t want yall ruining my deal.

  67. More food for thought . . .

    I need to be in Las Vegas for a two-day convention next month (April 19-20), but there’s a dinner the night before, so I have to arrive sometime on the 18th. And rather than fly out Lae Friday night, I’ll get together with family for dinner and instead fly out Saturday, the 21st.

    VX: Virgin America offers a number of nonstops between SFO and LAS (*and* LAS-SFO). Departures on 4/18 are priced at $49, $59, $64, and $79. Returning on 4/21, there are flights priced at $49, $59, $64, $79, and $99. All flights are nonstop. My itinerary would be:
    — SFO-LAS, VX flight 1896 for $49 (d. 11:20, a. 12:52; total flight time 1:32).
    — LAS-SFO, based upon a more convenient time, VX flight 1903 for $64 (d. 10:12, a.11:48; total flight time 1:36)
    Total cost: $113, but it could have been as little as $98. (NOTE: As an Elevate Gold/Alaska MVP Gold, not only are there no baggage fees, but I get a chance for an upgrade to MCS.

    AA: Unfortunately American doesn’t fly SFO-LAS nonstop. All flights involve either 1- or 2-stops. For $142 roundtrip, I can fly Basic Economy. HOWEVER, a round trip in “regular” Economy (aka “Main Cabin”) can be as little as $1 more! Since I’m going for three nights, and will need to change for dinner, there’s no getting around the fact that I will *need* to check a bag. A similar departure time (SFO-LAX-LAX) of 10:10 takes 5 hours and 21 minutes! A similar return flight (d. at 10:05 am) doesn’t arrive at SFO until 4:00 pm with a layover in PHX. The next flight (d. at 10:59 am) takes even longer — 6 hours and 5 minutes — arriving at SFO at 5:04 pm! AA does, BTW fly out of Oakland, but — again — no nonstop, and the flights are more expense than they are out of SFO. P.S.: let’s presume I have a credit card that either grants me free checked bags, or will reimburse me for any bag fees; either way, there is no additional out-of-pocket expense for one checked bag.

    NK: Spirit offers two flights SFO-OAK nonstop during the week, and several additional ones for a Saturday return. By the time I add the “big seat” and check a bag, the roundtrip ticket costs $243.38 — CLEARLY the most expensive option!

    WN: Southwest offers six nonstops between SFO and LAS (*and* LAS-SFO). Departures on 4/18 are priced at $79 (4 of the 6), and $79 (the last two flights of the night). Clearly a late night flight doesn’t work, given my schedule, so $79 it is. Returning on 4/21, there are flights priced at $49 (1), $79 (2), and $103 (3). All flights are nonstop. I’ll grab one of the $79 flights, as the single $49 departs at 6 am! So the airfare here is $159, with no bag fees . . . no real food, and no IFE, either.

    Now then, Southwest has a major hub across the Bay at OAK, with 9 weekday flights from OAK to LAS, but these are MORE expensive than the SFO flights, ranging from $79 to $248 one way, and 9 weekend flight, ranging from $79 to $204. (NOTE: all Southwest fares quoted here are “Wanna Get Away” fares, WN’s least expensive. Business Select flights are $323 each way. (Whereas I can fly First Class on VX for as little as $148, depending on the fare bucket.)

  68. What a sad state of affairs the airline business in the USA has become when Spirit becomes an attractive option!

    As others have noted, IRROPs is what separates the big boys from the LCCs. Even my beloved JetBlue runs into issues with IRROPs at outposts.

  69. If there’s no rush to go anywhere, I’d say do it. If, on the other hand, your dad needs to be at a particular place at a specific time, then not on your nelly!

    Budget flight are great in general. The no-frill ones can be a disaster when trouble arises though as I personally experienced flying on two separate airlines – Vueling and Norwegian – and both for the very first time! My mistake. I was going to a 3-day conference! I missed the first day, and couldn’t really catch up on the other days, as the delayed flight meant a night at the airport, as I had missed my pre-booked – pre-paired-shared taxi too!

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