The Startling Reality of Flying with Spirit Airlines

First class accommodations for steerage prices. Seems like that’s what everyone wants these days. Don’t believe me? Head over to any travel forum relating to Spirit Airlines.

You’re bombarded with grumpy travelers complaining of cramped seats, extra fees and poor service. But in a world where you get what you pay for, these naysayers have got it all wrong.

Spirit is a fantastic airline. They have a profitable a-la-carte business model. Passengers to pay for only what they need. Nothing else.

I choose to fly Spirit Airlines because it is hands down, the most cost-effective way for me to where I need to be. For both business or pleasure.

Are the planes a bit cramped? Yes. They have the least amount of legroom of any North America carrier. Are there fees for everything from carry-on bags to advance seat selection? Yes. You pay for everything with Spirit Airlines. Are these minor inconveniences considering the cost savings? Yes!

Consider a recent round trip flight we just took. We flew from Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) to McCarran International in Las Vegas (LAS). We had non-stop flights, paid for advance seat selection and one checked bag each.

Total fare: $240 per person. 50% less than Spirit Airlines’ next closest competitor.

Impressive savings for a party of six. Four adults and two lap infants.

Now, it was a cramped ride.

I’m 6-foot-6 and my wife is 6-foot-4, so Spirit’s 28-inch seat pitch means zero leg room. Add to that an infant riding in our lap, and it takes cramped to a whole new level.

But we didn’t complain and enjoyed the flight, because we got exactly what we paid for!

How can we be upset with the situation if we chose to not pay more for our flights? Many people posting online reviews forget this one very important fact.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your flight on Spirit Airlines:

1. Travel as Light as Possible

A big chunk of Spirit’s revenue comes for baggage fees. We bring a maximum of 1 bag each (either checked or carry-on depending on the trip) and 1 personal item.

Spirit Airlines is quite generous with its allowances for personal items, but it’s 40-pound max for a checked bag is strict. We chose to forgo packing diapers and other baby supplies, opting to buy what we needed at the other end.

2. Be courteous to the staff

This should go without saying, but so many times we’ve seen disgruntled passengers complaining about the fees and the space and the lack of amenities on the planes.

Don’t take this out on the flight staff. It’s not their fault you were cheap and didn’t want to pay more for a more generous airline.

A little bit of kindness to the staff can go along way. It got us an extra seat on our return flight for the baby, for no cost!

3. Be courteous to your fellow passengers

Again, shouldn’t have to say this, but being friendly to those packed in around you can make for a more enjoyable flight. Having 180-plus people crammed into a cigar tube for a four-hour flight leaves no room for you to be a dick.

4. Plan ahead and be prepared

The cost of adding bags and selecting seats increases the closer you get to the gate. Buying a checked bag online will cost you about $21. Waiting until you get to the gate will mean you’re paying $100 for the same bag.

Printing your boarding passes ahead of time (or at the self-serve kiosk) will save you the $10 fee charged by the agents at the desk. Spirit Airlines rewards passengers for being self-sufficient. If this is a weak area for you, then you’ll likely be better off on another airline.

The Reality: Spirit Airlines is cheap

And it’s CEO is proud of that fact. Don’t expect anything to change. It’s one of the most profitable airlines in the world.

People complain about the fees and the space, but when it comes down to the bottom dollar, they still book with Spirit.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a cheaper fare, so it’s reasonable to expect less-than-ideal conditions and questionable customer service practices. Legroom costs money. Customer service costs money. Both can be had on other airlines, but you’ll have to pay for it, and Spirit knows it.

Spirit Airlines definitely takes a different approach to air travel. If you have any doubts about that statement, just have a look at this image of a recent promotion:

That’s about as cheap as you can get. But if that ad is a bit too lowbrow for you, might I suggest you take a look at this airline for you next journey. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of extra legroom and minimal added fees.

Do you have any tips to share on traveling on budget carriers? Sound off in the comments below and share your experiences.