Budget or bad news: flying with Spirit


Photo by Michael Sandoz.

It’s four in the morning, and I have three hours of sleep under my belt. I take off my boots, get hassled by a handsy TSA agent and get my duffle red-flagged and rummaged through. If you love to travel like me, these are just a few pains of air travel to endure when a road trip is not an option. Although I can tolerate these, the worst pain is usually the thought of how much is spent for this abuse. This time is different though. This time, I am flying with Spirit, “Home of the Bare Fare.”  

As airline ticket prices soar,  smaller companies have attempted to market inexpensive flights. These budget airline companies seem like a dream to a traveling college student since many flights can be half the price of the competing airlines. Although a budget airline Spirit does not equate to cheap, plastic planes made in China. Spirit planes and pilots adhere to all U.S. safety regulations. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be flying in our skies.

Window view from Spirit airline flight. Photo by Michael Sandoz.

But being skeptical myself, I understand how students may feel that their deals are too good to be true. One might also feel that these deals result from poor quality flights since customer reviews of Spirit often talk about terrible customer service. Let’s see if my trip of two domestic and two international flights can calm or confirm these fears. 

When buying tickets, getting deals on Spirit flights isn’t as straight-forward as one thinks. Hidden or surprise fees can hike up the price if you do not know how to avoid them. For instance, while a personal item is free, a carry-on bag is going to cost you. If you don’t buy one in advance, the price of that carry-on at the airport costs even more. It’s also important to buy tickets well in advance and do not change your plans as the fees for changing things can sometimes make the price even more. To get the advertised price on my tickets, I bought a month in advance, made no changes to my itinerary and packed in a single duffle bag, which I called a personal item. 

Besides surprise fees, the most numerous grievance from customer reviews that I saw was that Spirit’s customer service is atrocious. Often these two were coupled in a single review so it seems a little biased. I’m sure there are some rude employees out there, but in all four of my flights the ground crews and stewardesses were friendly and helpful, even when I couldn’t understand the native tongue. This could be an artifact of how I treated them, but it seemed fairly standard to treatment of other passengers too. The airlines do not serve complimentary beverages and snacks though, which on one of my four hour flights was a shame since I got pretty famished. Be aware and pack snacks if you’ve got a long flight since airline food and drinks are pricey. 

My one slightly bad experience was on my first flight. The plane was nearly empty with lots of window seats, and the stewardess strictly told passengers they could not move to other seats since we were seated with weight and balance taken into consideration. My dad being a pilot, I know this statement was ridiculous; wouldn’t standing up going and walking to the restroom “affect the planes balance?” I only mention this because I was seated in a crammed row of three when everyone could’ve had a window seat. I kept in mind that I paid very little for these tickets and was redeemed the next flight when a stewardess told me I could move a seat to have more room. 

This brings me to plane comfort. If you’re looking for a comfortable flight, good luck with any airline. Unless you fly in your own private jet or cough up the cash for first-class, I doubt you’ll have a comfy ride. Spirit was no exception, nor did it seem any more uncomfortable than other airlines I’ve been on. 

If you’re a solo traveler that packs light and are trying to save money, Spirit is a great option. All four of my flights were average from flights and experiences I have had in the past. I can’t say they were the best though since a few airlines out there really take time to make their customers happy. For me, I’ll take saving the dough to decrease the overall cost of my trip. That’s why when I stepped off my last flight, I had a smile on my face, a new stamp in my passport and a few extra dollar bills in my bank account.