I’m only willing to book on Spirit Air if I find a really cheap airfare and so far, I’ve only flown round trip to Las Vegas from Philadelphia with them.
Free Spirit, the frequent flyer program of Spirit Air is different than any other airline loyalty program I’ve encountered. It continues the nickel and diming of booking on Spirit Airlines, only in a MORE complicated way!
My first impression when delving into the program specifics is that your loyalty is not rewarded right away. Spirit wants proof that you’re going to be loyal and payment up front, to earn any sort of perks beyond their rock bottom sale fares. Fortunately you don’t necessarily need to be loyal to still access some great deals.
FREE SPIRIT™ – Loyalty Program
You get “Somebody” status just for enrolling in the Free Spirit program. That’s a clever name, but Somebody only receives HALF of the actual miles flown. Half? Why? That’s weird and Free Spirit miles expire in 3 months.
The ONLY way to gain access to Off-Peak frequent flyer mile fares is to have the Spirit Airlines™ World Mastercard® which also gives you Elite Status. Without having the credit card, you can earn Elite Status, for flying at least 12,000 miles or spending at least $1,200 on base fare tickets within SIX MONTHS; roughly the equivalent of 5 round trip flights to Vegas from Philadelphia, which is almost commuter frequency.
Elite Status | Main Perk – 100% Miles Flown
You get the main perk for obtaining Elite Status—getting 100% of the miles flown, whether you obtain the status with flying or having the credit card. If you have the credit card, the status is continuous as long as you use the credit card once per month. If you earn Elite Status with flying, you’ve got to re-qualify every six months AND you don’t have access to off-peak frequent flyer mile fares. Only holders of the credit card get that.
Fly Double the Miles of Elite – you get a new title : VIP
No difference in benefits between the Elite and VIP Tier levels
The highest tier is VIP, for earning 24,000 miles or spending $2,400 on base fares in again, six months. For this additional tier, you get no additional benefit. You get the same Elite benefit of receiving 100% of the miles flown. This is also just plain weird. I searched the site because I assumed that I was overlooking a benefit, but I think Spirit just wanted to have another tier level.
Spirit Airlines – Awards
Spirit advertised that you could take up to 3 round trip flights with the 15,000 miles I received as a sign up bonus for getting the credit card (Spirit is currently offering a 30,000 mile bonus). (FREE SPIRIT™ USE MILES) Those 3 flights would have to be off-peak, Region 1 (up to 1249 miles) for the lowest redemption rate (only available with the credit card) of 2500 miles one way, plus taxes and fees. Philadelphia to Las Vegas is 2176 miles, at a one way redemption rate of 7500 miles, off-peak with the MasterCard, so I will get one free round trip flight (if I fly off-peak) with the 15,000 bonus miles I received for signing up for the credit card.
Need Credit Card For Most Value
You pretty much have to have the credit card to get any value from Free Spirit. Charging on the card once a month keeps your miles from expiring and gives you 100% credit for miles flown. Just like any other airline, you’ll have to look for the best (which will be off-peak) frequent flyer fares, to stretch your points.
Credit Card Elite Status
Elite status for getting the credit card doesn’t kick in until the 15,000 Bonus Miles hit your account, so I was just a “Somebody” and only received 50% of the miles flown for my first flight after signing up for the credit card. There is also a $59 annual fee for the credit card (waived the first year) and of course opportunity costs for the monthly charge(s) you make to it. Unless you sign up for a monthly bill to be automatically charged to the card, you’ve got to make sure you make a monthly charge, so your miles don’t expire.
If you’re unable to book an award flight 181 days ahead of time, you are going to be subject to an award redemption fee that starts at $15 and goes to $100 for bookings 6 days before departure. I can understand a fee for last minute redemption but six months ahead of time? Really?
Spirit – $9 Fare Club
There is another Spirit program you can pay to belong to; the $9 Fare Club. For $59.95 the first year, you get access to discounted fares and cheaper bags for you and up to 8 additional passengers on your itinerary. (Membership automatically renews the second year at $69.95, unless canceled.)
“Bring More – Up to 50% off bags compared to paying at the airport” is somewhat deceptive. Paying for bags at the airport is purposefully discouraged with higher prices and $9 Fare Club members receive just a $9 discount on bags, compared to those that don’t belong and pay for bags when booking.
You can get a 60 day trial membership to the $9 Fare Club for $19.99, but you can only purchase the trial membership while you are booking and then it can’t be used until the NEXT time you book. There they are again, with a lag in savings. If you don’t cancel that trial membership, it will automatically renew at the 2nd year rate of $69.95.
Save Money – Book at the Airport
There is one more way to save money with Spirit, but you need to have convenient access to an airport to take advantage of it. If you book your flight at a Spirit airport location, you don’t have to pay the $19.99 per way, Passenger Usage Fee for a total savings of $39.98 for a round trip ticket, but—you cannot get internet pricing or use discount codes at the airports. The ticket counter has their own independent ticket pricing.
The ticket counters also have penny and dollar fares available, but—you have to give them specific dates that you want to fly and see if it comes up as a penny or a dollar, but—Spirit Air ticket counters are run by a sub contractor and they will not check fares for a long list of dates. They will check one or two dates. When I asked the agent how I could find a penny or dollar fare, she suggested that I stalk a low fare on the Spirit site and then come to the airport and they will probably beat the price. Probably. That would be a lot of hassle unless you live really close to the airport or fly all the time.
Not a bad idea to inquire about fares any time you’re in the airport. You can purchase tickets for all Spirit airports at any Spirit Air ticket counter. At Atlantic City airport (ACY), you can purchase tickets from 8a to 8p and the airport gives you a 15 minute grace period to park in the lot across the street from the ticket counter.
- The following carrier fees apply to your domestic air travel (except for award bookings):
- Passenger Usage Fee: Passenger Usage Fee of $19.99 per one way travel per traveling customer applies to most reservations. A lower fee of $8.99 may apply to certain discount fares. No fee applies to bookings completed at Spirit Airlines’ airport locations
- Unintended Consequences of DOT Regulations Fee: Unintended Consequences of DOT Regulations Fee of $5.00 per one way travel per traveling customer applies to most reservations. No fee will apply to certain discount fares
- Fuel Charge: Fuel charge of $8.00 per one way travel per traveling customer applies to most reservations. This surcharge will not apply to certain discount fares
Backup Plan – Maybe?
An important caveat, if there is a mechanical problem or bad weather that delays a Spirit plane, Spirit cannot endorse you over to another carrier. If they do not have an available plane, you will have to wait until the next time they can schedule you on a Spirit flight and that could be DAYS! I have spoken to quite a few people who were stranded by Spirit and they will not fly them again. On a positive note, Spirit Airlines has significantly improved their on-time performance.
But, if you can’t resist a Spirit price or flight schedule, then the work-around is to have a back-up plan in case your flight is canceled and not to fly on Spirit if the timing of your trip is critical. In tandem with this warning is to only fly Spirit if the price difference (for the base fare and whatever add-ons you deem necessary) is significantly lower than a non-ultra low-cost carrier that flies the same route. The price difference has to be worth the risk of being stranded and the discomfort of the 28 inch seat pitch (if you don’t upgrade).
Another option (that was submitted by a TravelZork reader) is to book a back up flight with Southwest Airlines and cancel it once you know your Spirit flight is going to take off. Southwest Airlines will credit you reusable funds as long as you cancel your reservation at least ten (10) minutes prior to scheduled departure of the flight.
Spirit – Still A Good Option
Personally, I am motivated by ultra-low airfares and am willing to be inconvenienced to get them. If you live near a Spirit Air hub and there are non-stop flights where you want to go, Spirit fares could be comparable to other carriers and have the same comfort level, with the additional purchase of the Big Front Seat or a seat with extra legroom. Spirit Air is worth considering, if you know what you’re getting into. It’s an option in a climate of rising flight prices and decreased comfort in economy, on all the airlines.