Would you Fly on Spirit Airlines?
MIAMI — When asked this question, many will start bashing the no-frills ultra-low-cost-carrier based on their previous experiences or what they have heard about Spirit. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found more negative reviews than positive reviews about Spirit.
As for me, yes, I would fly on Spirit. What’s more, I already have: three times.
Trial by Fire
I had a lot of spirit to fly Spirit Airlines for the first time. I booked my one-way flight from Dallas DFW to Houston only two weeks prior to departure on their website, Spirit.com. Normally I wouldn’t walk through the ticket purchasing phase, but with this carrier it actually matters.
After selecting the flights I wanted, I was required to sign up for their frequent flyer program, Free Spirit. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid having to sign up, no matter how infrequently you plan to fly with them.
After signing up, I was re-directed back to the flights I selected and continued on. After completing my personal information, I was given the option to purchase space for the baggage I planned to bring on-board. I paid $26 for my carry-on item on-board, opting not to check the bag for the lower price of $21.
Finally, I was taken to a page where I could select my seat. Seats can be reserved for an additional fee. The prices for the seat vary by the location of the seat, as well as the scheduled travel time. You can avoid this fee if you opt to have your seat randomly assigned at check-in.
Finally, I confirmed and paid for the flight, and I began the countdown to my first Spirit experience.
The cost of my ticket with all of the fees is as follows:
- Base fare: $76.03
- Luggage fee: $26.00 (carry-on fee)
- Seat fee (“Big Front” seat): $35.00
- Beverage (bottled water) in-flight: $2.00
- Grand total: $139.03
Finally, the day arrived. I checked-in for my flight online from home less than 24 hours prior to departure, saving $10 (Spirit does charge a fee to customers who have their boarding pass printed at the airport).
I arrived at DFW three hours before my flight to spend time with a friend before he departed. Two hours later, I made my way to terminal E’s satellite terminal, which currently houses all of Spirit’s operations at DFW. After a long walk, I arrived to find that my flight was delayed 30 minutes: No big deal. The food options were limited in the satellite terminal so I headed back to the main terminal for a quick dinner.
After returning to the gate, a fellow passenger said the flight was delayed until 11:00 PM (now a four hour delay). Interestingly, there were three other Spirit flights that were delayed until 11PM which left me a bit suspicious. I later I discovered weather problems in Denver were responsible for multiple delays.
In the meantime, there were no agents in my gate area to assist passengers with questions. In fact, there were only two Spirit agents in the entire satellite terminal. Needing to make it home that night, I called the Spirit Airlines call center to see what options I had in case the flight cancelled. Disappointingly, the phone agent was rude and hung up on me.
I headed to the ticket counter in hopes of getting some help, but the agents did not have any information to help us. I felt bad for the poor folks manning the counter because there was not much they could do, and there were a lot of upset customers.
Eventually, an agent arrived at the gate, and he was greeted with a lot of unhappy passengers, mostly thanks to the delay and lack of any information. They did offer food vouchers since the flight was delayed more than two hours, which I found to be a nice gesture.
The delay did provide me with a great opportunity to talk with many of my fellow passengers. There were several first time Spirit passengers. They were frustrated, and, like myself, simply wanted to get to Houston that night.
I also talked to a few passengers who fly Spirit frequently. Overall, most were pretty happy with Spirit. As one passenger said, “you get what you pay for, and I do not expect a lot in return based on the fares I pay.”
At 9:30PM, with the flight currently two and a half hours late, the airline offered passengers a $50 voucher for the delay. However, it came with a catch: You had to purchase a ticket with the voucher within 60 days for travel within the next six months. I did not take it.
At 10:30PM, my inbound aircraft, an Airbus A319, finally arrived at DFW, and the employees did a good job turning the aircraft around as quickly as they could. For my first flight, I purchased a “Big Front” seat, but I switched with another passenger prior to boarding who need it more than I. Spirit’s A319s are equipped with 135 regular economy seats, none of which recline. The seat pitch is 28 inches, the smallest of all US domestic carriers. The seat width is also on the small side: 17.5 inches. However, the A319s offer ten “Big Front” seats which are larger seats at the front of the cabin. They offer an additional 6-8 inches of extra legroom and wider seats in comparison to the other 135 seats.
Once on-board, the aircraft seemed very open thanks to the one class cabin configuration. As I made my way to seat 21A, I noticed that the aircraft was not thoroughly cleaned after the flight from Denver. Advertisements dotted the back of each seat back tray, but were few and far between on the overhead luggage bin doors.
Finally, at 11:00PM, we were on our way. The crew was very friendly, and the pilots made a few jokes which lightened everyone’s mood after the long delay. Once above 10,000 feet, the flight attendants came down the aisles with credit card machines and menus for anybody that wished to purchase a drink or a snack. Do not expect a complimentary beverage!
After a quick 45 minute flight, we finally arrived in Houston.
Overall, not exactly the best experience. Figuring/hoping that this was likely an anomaly, I decided I should give them another shot. And so after this experience I booked a round trip ticket, this time Houston to Orlando, which I’ll tell you all about…in part two.