Spirit Airlines Experience – The Ala Carte Airline

Spirit Airlines Review

Spirit Airlines, Ala Carte Airline

How do your like to be charged? Do you want to pay one, all-inclusive fee, or do you want to be charged for each individual item you actually use (some would call this “being nickel and dime-d”)?

Spirit Airlines is taking bets that some customers don’t mind being nickel and dime-d for their air travel experience. In some ways they are redefining the airline experience. I for one think it’s a welcome change.

SmartMoney.com recently named Spirit Airlines President and CEO, Ben Baldanza to their list of Power 30: Consumer Game Changers. Here’s what they had to say about Baldanza’s, and Spirit Airlines’, influence:

“Since taking the top spot in 2006, Baldanza has been a driving force behind the low-cost culture… [he] introduced fees that fliers love to hate, and that other airlines watch — and emulate. (Spirit was the first to debut the now-ubiquitous checked-bag fee, in 2007.) The latest: raising the cost for a carry-on bag registered at the gate from a current $45, up to $100, effective Nov. 6. Baldanza says the key difference is that Spirit uses new fees to lower fares, while other airlines just tack them on. The carrier’s average fare last year was $81, down from $98 in 2007 — and that low cost appeals to budget, no-frills travelers.”

I recently took a flight on Spirit Airlines. It was a 3 hr trip from Dallas to Portland. My experience started well before I boarded the plane. I made my airfare purchase 3 weeks prior to my flight. The flight cost $250. The Spirit Airlines website is one of the best airline websites I’ve ever dealt with. Much more streamlined and intuitive than AA.com or Southwest.com.

When I purchased the ticket I was given the choice to upgrade to a bigger seat for $18. I’m not sure where you stand, but for me, the entire appeal to first class is the extra room. I could care less about better service or a free drink or a better pillow. All I want is a big ars seat to sit in. I’m 6’1″ and over 250lbs. I’m not sure what their average ‘bigger seat’ upgrade fee is, but I’ll probably pay it every time I fly with Spirit.

Along with the seat I was given the option to pay $25 to bring a carry-on bag, or an extra $35 to check a bag. If I opted out of this, I could only bring a personal item (e.g. backpack) on the plane. Luckily this trip was just a two nights to a conference and so I could make a backpack work. I stuffed my laptop, clothes, and toiletry items into that thing. I actually enjoyed being lean and mean.

The flight itself was just like any other airline that I’ve been on, with the exception of Japan Airlines, which actually had real customer service. But I’m not one of these people who really needs or expects service on an airplane. It’s just transportation to me. Let me get on, sit comfortably, and get there fast. That’s all I need.

Spirit Airlines is still a small airline. But they do plenty of routes across the country. Here’s their current route map:

Spirit Airlines Route Map

Spirit Airlines Route Map

If you plan on flying Spirit Airlines soon, I’d encourage you to sign up for their free frequent flyer program and start receiving their deal emails. They are notorious for sending out edgy email offers centered around controversies like Weinergate, Tiger Woods’ affair, and the Summit of Americas prostitution scandal. They also have a $9 fare club, which promises exclusive access to deals.

Have you ever flown Spirit? What’s been your experience?

Image to Alaskan Dude

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created this website back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. Jackie at The Barn Cat says

    I flew Spirit once, hated it, and vowed never to do it again.  But I have an an acquaintance who uses Spirit to fly between her home in one city and her home in another city (nice life!).  No baggage except her purse, so the bare bones experience works for her.   
    I almost always fly Southwest, even though they only fly out of Midway and I’m much close to O’Hare.  Worth it.

  2. Sounds ideal to me!  I am with you, let me on, let me get comfortable, let me get off.  I dont need much.

  3. Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity says

    I know a guy who was a member of the $9 club thing they had going and his flights still ended up being pretty expensive relative to the marketing tactic of “$9” for a flight.  And none of the flights he ever took was ever on time–he has kids in 3 different cities and travels quite a bit.  I’ve never even considered using them, but for Fincon, my experience with Southwest was great in terms of booking and price, but everything else left me questioning that decision. The fact that my seat cost covered everything was nice, but the way they board, to the awful smelling plane, to the $5 WiFi that didn’t work, and the baggage snafu after landing at home kind of negated that part.

    • Philip Taylor says

      @Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity I think you nailed it with this comment, Eric. Flying sucks these days. It’s not fun regardless of the airline. Even if you fly first class on Virgin air you still have to go to an airport, wait in line, and go through a TSA checkpoint. Even “good” airplane food is subpar compared to dining at any restaurant.

  4. OneSmartDollar says

    As someone that likes to vacation internationally I like that they fly to Central and South America.  I have never flown Spirit but if I can counter the ala carte items and still have a lower fare I am not again using them in the future.

  5. I call it being nickeled and dimed and I HATE it.  🙂  I’m glad you enjoyed your experience, though – rare to hear someone having a good flight experience anymore!  I just stick with Southwest where they are nice and I don’t have to pay to check my bag.  I just flew American and United for a work trip, and it confirmed that I just want to stick with Southwest for personal travel.