Airlines

Tiff Guest Post: A Review of Spirit Airlines (Traveling with Kids)

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This started when I was trying to book three one-way legs for less than what it would cost for two round-trip flights. It occurred to me that we were planning on traveling to two destinations back-to-back and instead of flying to Detroit, then back to DFW only to leave for Orlando a couple of days later I wanted to see if it would cost less to fly to Orlando from Detroit and then fly back to DFW from Orlando. The best rates I found were on Spirit Airlines where (including our baggage fees) the price came to approximately $240 per person for all three legs. I knew relatively little about this airline despite having a friend fly for them, but I figured we’d try them out. One leg was close in price to the fares on Southwest but I figured it was worth sticking with Spirit this time around for the non-stop flights.

First thing I found out by reading about them online was there is a $16.99 fee for each way per person for booking tickets online. Since I was booking nine one-way tickets, it came to a little over $150 savings if I went to the airport to purchase our tickets instead of buying them online. If I didn’t do that the cost would have come to $290 per person for all three legs. I suggest doing your own cost-benefit analysis to see if going to the airport to purchase the tickets is worth it for you based upon amount of savings, distance to airport, cost for parking, gas, etc. In this case, the trip to the airport proved useful for several other reasons; first I learned you get to go in the priority line if you pre-print your boarding passes. They also charge $5 per boarding pass if they have to print them for you. I saw that the lines at Spirit (at DFW) can be slow and long so it is good to give yourself more time to check bags than you may normally plan for. Another interesting quirk, it’s cheaper to pay for your bags online instead of paying at the airport. As a result, I booked our tickets at the airport, but paid for our luggage online later.

Spirit Airlines is a low-cost airline because they charge for anything extra. You even have to pay for coffee, soda, or water so I was glad that we purchased (and brought) our food and drinks before getting on board our first flight. The plane was running out of certain items they sell since they only cater in the morning and we were on the last flight of the day. I asked the flight attendant and she said for certain routes (e.g., Vegas) they re-stock more often.

It also costs to bring a carry-on bag. You’re allowed a personal bag for free (as long as it can fit under the seat in front of you), but if you want to bring a bag you have to put in an overhead bin it will cost you. The desk agent I bought our tickets from was helpful and told me that duffel bags were good choices for your personal items as long as you could squish them under the seat in front of you. The other quirky thing is it costs less to check a regular bag than it does to bring a carry-on on the flight. Yes, of course, you can still check car seats for free and you can gate check a stroller for free. The odd thing about gate-checking the stroller was they gave me the gate-check tag when we were checking our bags, not at the gate like most airlines. Not that I’m complaining, it was just different than traditional gate-checking protocol.

There is no first or business class in Spirit, but there are first-class-sized seats in the front of the plane you can get for an extra charge. They cost $25, $50, or $75 per seat depending on the length of the flight. Another thing I liked is they assigned us seats in the front of the aircraft; a lot of airlines tend to seat families towards the back.

The first leg (DFW to Detroit) was not full which was nice. You can pay to select your seats ahead of time online or at the airport, but we didn’t have to since I was traveling with young children and they assign our seats together for free. If you’re okay not sitting next to who you’re traveling with then it’s not an issue; but if you really want to sit together the cheapest seats to get together are $10 per seat. Again, prices may vary for shorter or longer flights. I know the prices for the seats vary based on location, but if you want more leg room in “regular” seats the rows directly behind the first-class sized seats have more leg room than other rows. I don’t know if the rest of the seats are actually smaller than other airlines or if I just had that idea in my head because my friend mentioned it; but I could see them being uncomfortable for someone with really long legs. My parents are flying on them over the holidays and my dad is tall, so I’ll ask him if the seats are better, worse, or the same as other airlines he’s been on in recent years.

There are no airline magazines, music, videos, or wi-fi available on the aircraft. Granted in this day and age most people bring their own entertainment on flights, but it was a bit of a shock for me to have no Sudoku to play in the airline magazine. Luckily I have a program downloaded on my phone that I could play as soon as we were allowed to turn on our electronic devices. 🙂

After my initial trip to purchase tickets, I didn’t have to deal with really long lines again. In Orlando there was almost no line, and Detroit and DFW were normal lines where I didn’t have to wait for more than 10 minutes to check our bags. If you’re not checking bags you don’t have to wait at all, but we always do since we check our car seats even if we’re not checking regular bags.

I did buy snacks for the kids on our last flight; yes, I broke my own rule and bought only drinks before boarding. Luckily they weren’t out of food. They also weren’t as out of beverages like they were on our first leg to Detroit, but I noticed they seemed to run out of alcoholic beverages faster than anything else and sodas seemed to go next.

Spirit Airlines was also easy to get credit for your miles if you forgot to give them your account number when checking into the flight. All I had to do was log in on the website, go to the “request mileage credit” tab and submit the confirmation number. We were given our miles credit instantly. The catch is you have to do it within 30 days of the flight; I know some airlines give 6-12 months to request previous flight miles so that’s something to be aware of.

If the price is right I would fly on Spirit again. If their prices are similar to Southwest Airlines it would depend on where I’m traveling to and what I need more to make me choose one airline over the other. Spirit has the non-stop flights I typically can’t get on Southwest while Southwest has the free baggage allotment.

I would recommend Spirit to others if they’re looking for a low-cost airline; but I would definitely make sure they know what they’re getting into before they buy their tickets.

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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.

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