Spirit Airlines bills itself as an “ultra low fare carrier” and they do indeed have some of the lowest fares in the business. But they also have some high add-on fees which, in some cases, can eat away at a chunk of that savings. Here are some tips to help you book with Spirit:
1. Have a Baggage Strategy
These days, most airlines charge you for checking baggage so you might be inclined to try and avoid those fees by carrying your luggage on board. That’s not a good idea with Spirit because they charge for carry-on bags, too — in fact, more than they do for checked bags.
There are a few exceptions. They do NOT charge for umbrellas, cameras, diaper bags, coats, strollers, reading material, food for the flight, wheelchairs, car seats, or anything that can fit under the seat in front of you (16 x 14 x 12 inches). If you can pack very lightly you might be able to avoid a charge. But, if not, you will actually find it less expensive to check your first bag, rather than bringing it on board.
If you need to bring more than one bag, that does change things. Each bag you check gets more expensive so if you are bringing two or more, it works out less expensive to bring one on board and check the rest.
2. Pay Your Bag Fees Early
Once you decide what you’re bringing with you and whether you’re checking or carrying-on, you should pre-pay those bag fees by going directly to the Spirit web site. It is really important that you do this more than 24 hours in advance. If you wait until the day before, or — even worse, wait until you get to the airport — you will pay higher fees.
For instance, your first checked bag is $30 if you do it online, more than 24 hours in advance. That’s comparable to the other normally-higher-fare airlines. (American, United, and Delta all charge $25.) But if you wait until you are checking in to pay, the fee goes up to $35 if you do it over the internet, or $45 if you do it from an airport kiosk. Carry on bags go all the way up to $100 if you wait until you get to the gate to pay for them — so that’s something you should avoid at all costs!
To pay your bag fees in advance, just go to Spirit’s web site and click the “Manage Travel” link that you will see on their home page. From there, enter your last name and confirmation code. Keep in mind, your Spirit confirmation code is different than your CheapAir booking number. It is listed on the e-mail confirmation you received from us or on your My Trips page under the section “Airline Confirmation Numbers.” Once you enter your name and confirmation number, Spirit will ask you to log on with your email and password. They are asking for your Spirit account, which is different from your CheapAir account. If this is your first time visiting the Spirit site, you likely don’t have an account with them so you should sign up by clicking “Register for Free”. (Unfortunately, they require you to register with them at some point prior to your flight.)
3. Print Your Boarding Passes Before You Get to the Airport
Starting April 16, 2013, Spirit will charge $10 per person for printing your boarding pass at the airport. This fee is a little obnoxious but it’s easily avoided by checking in for your flight from home, before you leave for the airport. Online check-in is free. You can do this as early as 24 hours before your flight by going to Spirit’s web site and clicking the “Check In” tab that you will see on the home page. Remember to do this on the way home, too. Most hotels will allow you to print boarding passes or will print them for you so, if you’re staying at one, check with the front desk. Airport kiosk check-in is also free.
4. If Where You Sit is Important to You…
More and more, airlines are charging extra for the better seats on each flight. Spirit is more cut and dry — they charge you for any advanced seat assignments. This leaves you two choices when flying them: either wait until you check in and accept a randomly assigned seat, or choose your specific seat in advance for a fee. The fee is usually around $10 but it varies depending on the length of the flight and the type of seat you are choosing. If you are flying with friends or family, paying for a reserved seat is, unfortunately, the only way to guarantee that you will sit together.
To buy a reserved seat on Spirit, follow the instructions above for paying your bag fees (using the “Manage Travel” link). If you’re going to do so, you should do it as soon as possible after booking. Since seats are sold on a first-come-first-serve basis, that’s when you’ll have the best options.
We hope you find this information useful but if you have any further questions about traveling with Spirit, feel free to check with one of our travel consultants.
Note: These tips apply for flights to U.S.destinations. Fees vary slightly for traveling outside the country. Fees are valid as of 03/16/13 but are subject to change at Spirit’s discretion. Click here for a full list of Spirit’s fees.