Does Tiff Need a Spiritivention?

By  |’s been said (by Keri and Delta Diva at least) that I may need a Spiritivention.  Diva asked me point-blank, WHY do I keep flying on them?  I told him, well, it’s the price.  He replied if that’s the case then fly Southwest, I explained that 1) U.S. Airways is usually the next best deal after Spirit, and 2) with the multiple legs on Southwest, it usually isn’t worth flying on them with young children, even with free bags.

So why do I still stand-by Spirit and foresee them being the majority of our non-non-rev flying for the foreseeable future?

To start, we are a family of four living off of one income.  To continue traveling as much as we like we need to save money where we can.  The majority of the time I am booking flights it’s for at least two of us, and more often than not it’s for three or four of us.  $250 is not a bad price for one round-trip flight in the U.S., but when you multiply that by four we’re already at $1000.  That’s when we start looking at the cost-benefit analysis of driving vs. flying somewhere.

Spirit is starting a market that has been non-existent in the U.S. until now.  This market already exists in Europe with airlines like Ryanair and Vueling, but Spirit is the only “ultra low-cost” carrier in the U.S.  I’ve said it before, if you know the rules and can be flexible on days you fly, you can save a considerable amount flying on Spirit, an important consideration when we’re taking a family vacation.

To show how much a person can save, I will explain how we purchased our tickets on our up-coming trip to Florida next month when last-minute changes lead us to all fly out instead of drive.  Originally we thought only my husband would be flying out since he won’t be staying as long as we will.  I bought him a round-trip ticket for $143.80; DFW to Orlando, both non-stop legs and at reasonable times of day.  The next cheapest price I could find cost $100 more and wasn’t non-stop. initial plans changed and I was going back and forth on driving out versus buying tickets; unfortunately, once we found for sure that flying was even an option ticket prices had gone up and it looked like it would still be cheaper for us to drive.

Then I got an E-mail for one of Spirit’s $9 flights specials; typically those flights aren’t for where we’re going or at the right time, but I looked at them anyways.  They had tickets for $29.90 per person one-way from DFW to Orlando.  While booking the tickets and the one bag we were going to bring (for $30) it popped up that I would save $40 on this trip if I joined their $9 club.  Membership is $59.95 a year; it includes $10 off checked and carry-on bags each way and they have special sales for extremely discounted flights throughout the year.  On this trip I would save $10 on each ticket going to Orlando and $10 each way for our checked bag.  A risk of $9.95 is one I’m willing to take so I signed up for the membership.


The flight out to Orlando cost $19.90 per ticket, $20 for our bag, and $59.95 for the Spirit membership for a total of $139.65 for three people to fly one-way to Orlando.  For most airlines that is how much it would cost for one one-way ticket (not non-stop) and we’re getting three non-stop tickets.

I didn’t see a good online price for our return flight, so I went to the airport to purchase those tickets (FYI: someone told me you can call and make a reservation over the phone and get the same price as purchasing at the airport).  The flight from Orlando had gone up in price and was now $76.90 a person, not a bad price, but I was originally looking at tickets for $46.90 per person so I was a little disappointed they had gone up since I last checked.  Again, if it was only one person $30 would not be a big deal, but multiply that by three and we’re looking at an almost $100 increase.  Since we were purchasing our tickets as one-ways and not round-trip, I started looking at other areas near Orlando.

other routes from spirit

Sometimes it is cheaper to drive to a different airport for a flight


I found tickets out of Tampa on the same day for $31.90 each!  If you’re traveling by yourself a $45 savings probably isn’t worth the extra one-hour drive to the airport; but if you’re flying with three people it’s now a savings of $135, even cheaper than the original tickets I found.  Including our bag that’s three one-way tickets home for $115.70.

Total cost for all four of us to fly out to Florida next month?  $399.15. That’s just under $100 per person.  The next cheapest flights I found cost $960.  The $560 we save will allow us to do and see a little more on our trip and (hopefully) panic a little less about how much money we’re spending on vacation.  🙂



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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.


  1. Chris - Do It For The Points

    June 4, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    This just shows that if you can pay attention to the rules and minimize the spend and maximize what you get out of it that it isn’t always a bad deal….in the end, it’s what works for you…not anyone else! As you mentioned just multiplying a normal airfare by 4 keeps the price going up to crazy amounts so I can totally see why you would take the Spirit route.

    Before getting into miles and points we flew Spirit to Cancun and we paid attention to the rules, so we didn’t get charged extra fees, but the people around us felt a little taken advantage of because they didn’t pay attention. But hey…it was cheap, we were in college still and we wanted to get away. It worked for us!

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      June 4, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      I used to take Spirit home from law school. I just made sure I had clothing at my parent’s house already, so I wouldn’t need to pack 😉

      I ended up switching to Northwest, and once I got the taste for _better_ flying, I couldn’t go back.

    • Tiff

      June 4, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      We also try to minimize our packing so we only have to check one bag for the four of us each way; and like I mentioned in a previous post a checked bag is cheaper than a carry-on, go figure.

      • Keri Anderson

        June 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm

        How big is this ONE bag? Is it as big as the 28″ I take on my Asia trips? 😀

        • Tiff

          June 4, 2013 at 9:20 pm

          On Spirit checked bags must not exceed 62 linear inches and 40 lbs; we try to hit it exactly out of principle. 😉

  2. Wandering Aramean

    June 4, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Don’t forget that you have to get from Orlando to Tampa; that time and cost has to be considered. I’m a bit surprised that the $90 fare difference is worth that.

    • Tiff

      June 4, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      Yes, I mentioned that in the 2nd-to-last paragraph. For one ticket a $45 savings probably wasn’t worth that; but it’s a $135 savings for three tickets for a little inconvenience (an extra hour of travel). Where I used to live in CA it was normally an hour and a half drive to the nearest major airport.

  3. Pingback: Bits ‘n Pieces for June 5, 2013 - View from the Wing

  4. MCP

    June 5, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I pray I do not have to fly Spirit EVER AGAIN, even if I’m desperately in need of a low fare to the Caribbean. 4 Persons were left stranded at the airport in Jamaica when they closed the flight early (I’m thinking they were overbooked? To be honest, we did not arrive exactly 3 hours ahead of departure time as they suggest for international flights, but they could have gotten us on the flight because it was still within check-in time. They made no effort to do so). We all had to buy tickets on another airline back home. I have read horror stories about how rude their attendants are and I have experienced it. They are just an airline who touts “cheap” fares but couldn’t care less about customer service. Although when you add all their nickel and dime factors, the fare isn’t so cheap after all. Pay a few more bucks and get treated like a human being on another airline, PLEASE.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      June 5, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Depending on where you are flying from, I’ve always found flights to Jamaica and Bahamas on US Airways to be really decent.

  5. UAPhil

    June 6, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Yes, life is too short to fly Spirit Airlines. I have also heard their customer service is very poor. (Spirit may be OK when things go as planned, but heaven help you if there are any irregular operations.)

  6. Delta Diva

    June 6, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Here’s my problems with Spirit:
    – Customer Service. I have just heard story after story about how piss poor the customer service is when you call in, when you need to make changes to your tickets, when you are at the airport and when you are on your flight. I’m not saying that Delta (or any other carrier) is the best at customer service. But even with Southwest, I get a general feeling they want my business. Spirit doesn’t seem to want it.
    – They’re cutting costs visibly, so it makes me wonder what costs they are cutting behind the scenes. I’ve heard of strife with Spirit’s management and their pilots. So what else is going on that we don’t know about? Is maintenance being cut? We’ve already gone down that path with Valujet, which costs lives. Not worth the $9.95 fare in my opinion.
    – Agree with your comments about traveling to cheaper cities that are relatively nearby. That’s why when I fly to Texas to visit my parents, I don’t always fly into Austin (where they live). Sometimes, I’ll go to Houston or San Antonio and drive the distance. I did this for the F1 race last November.
    – There’s more than just Southwest as low-cost carriers. Virgin America, jetBlue, and Allegiant Air are three others that seem to be overall better.

    I get what your saying about costs, but the hidden costs of not flying them seems to well make up the difference to me.

    • Tiff

      June 6, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      A friend of mine is a pilot for Spirit; I have not heard of any skimps in maintenance that would cause a concern for safety of flight.

      I’ve actually had the worst customer service with Southwest over all the airlines; that’s another reason I’m not a huge fan of flying with them.

      • Delta Diva

        June 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

        I’d like to meet your Spirit pilot friend. And I’m not suggesting that Southwest has great customer service. I personally think their attempts at comedy pale in comparison to Kulula Air or WestJet. But I have heard Spirit is the worst.

        • Tiff

          June 7, 2013 at 10:48 am

          You probably know him (or at least who he is) he went to Denton High School. 😉

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