How Much Legroom Do You Really Have (or Not) on Spirit Airlines

In this day and age with smaller and smaller planes, leg room and space have become more and more of an issues for air travelers. Spirit Airlines is notorious for having the least amount of space in the industry. But how does it compare to the other airlines?

To keep this as standardized as possible I’m going to use the seating on various airlines for an Airbus A320 for this comparison.

Spirit Airlines:
Big Front Seat: Seat Pitch: 36″ Width: 20″
Row behind “Big Front Seat”: Seat Pitch: 37″ Width: 17.75″
Exit Row Seats: Seat Pitch: 38″ Width: 17.75″
Everywhere Else: Seat Pitch: 28″ Width: 17.75″

The other airlines do not advertise how much extra leg room comes with an exit row seat. I’m going to assume the width of the seat is the same as in economy and anywhere from 6-8 inches more leg room.

Economy: Seat pitch: 30-31″ Width: 18″

Southwest: They only fly Boeing aircraft, so I compared it to those
Boeing 737-700: Seat pitch: 31″ Width: 17″
All others in their fleet: Seat pitch: 32-33″ Width: 17″

Even more space: Seat pitch: 38-39″ Width: 17.8″
Coach: Seat pitch: 34″ Width: 17.8″

US Airways:
First: Seat pitch: 38″ Width: 21″
Coach: Seat pitch: 31″ Width: 18″

First: Seat pitch: 36″ Width: 21″
Economy Comfort: Seat pitch: 34″ Width: 17.2″
Economy: Seat pitch: 31-32″ Width: 17.2″

First: Seat pitch: 38″ Width: 20.5″
Economy Plus: Seat pitch: 36″ Width: 18″
Economy: Seat pitch: 31″ Width: 18″

American Airlines: (Airbus A319)
First: Seat pitch: 38″ Width: 21″
Main Cabin Extra: Seat pitch: 34″ Width: 17.7″
Economy: Seat pitch: 30″ Width: 17.7″

Virgin America:
First: Seat pitch: 55″ Width: 21″
Main Cabin Select: Seat pitch: 38″ Width: 17.7″
Economy: Seat pitch: 32″ Width: 17.7″

a plane on the runway

On Spirit airlines, the length of your flight, where your seat is located on the plane, and the amount of extra space you get determines the cost of your seat.

For my upcoming flight to Vegas (from DFW), if I wanted the peace of mind to buy a regular seat beforehand (to guarantee you won’t have a middle seat), it can cost between $10 – $20 depending on where I’m at in the plane.

It’s $10 for the back of the plane, $15 for the middle of the plane behind the exit row seats, and $20 to be in front of the exit row seats.

Keep in mind these costs are each way and they also fluctuate depending on the length of the flight.

For an exit row seat it’s $35. For a “Big Front Seat” it’s $55. These prices are all specifically for the Vegas route.

I also have seen “Big Front Seats” cost only $35 a seat, and the exit row seats only cost $27 a seat (e.g. DFW to Detroit) and $30 and $20 respectively (DFW to DEN).

Something interesting I’ve noticed is I can never find available for purchase the seats directly behind the “Big Front Seats”. It seems to not matter which route I put in or how soon or how far out the flight is, they never are available for purchase even though they’re always advertising the extra leg room. If most (or all) of the exit row seats and the big front seats are available, I would think one or two seats in those first rows should be available too. I wonder if Spirit saves those seats for something particular or they’re not made available for purchase until you check-in for your flight. Definitely something I’ll be looking for the next time I check-in online.

Again with Spirit vs. other airlines, it’s all in what you want and need and what you’re willing to pay for. If paying for the extra leg room on Spirit is considerably cheaper than an “Economy Plus/Extra/Select” class on another airline that may be the choice for you. Someone told me they once got a “big front seat” cheaper than one of their other “extra leg room” seats so never make assumptions and always double-check the prices for your specific flight.


For more on Spirit Airlines, check out Tiff’s comprehensive guide!

Everything You Need to Know About Spirit Airlines

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  1. BFS is sooooo worth it! When I flew on the Big Front Seat two months ago ORD-LGA, a family sat in the row behind me. Perhaps Spirit saves those seats for people in need or with small children?

    1. That could be. I remember the first few times I flew on Spirit with the kids I was assigned one or two rows behind the “big front seats”. This only happened if I bought tickets at the ticket counter (not online). I guess my kids are getting too old for me to get those seats now. 😉

  2. You forgot to include Frontier’s Stretch seats, which are in the 1st 4 rows and exit rows of their Airbus fleet. They have the same width as coach, but the seat pitch is 36-38″, especially in the exit rows.

  3. “Someone told me they once got a “big front seat” cheaper than one of their other “extra leg room” seats”

    I said that, or at least I could’ve. On my flight between FLL and CUN the BFS was a few bucks more than an exit seat. Don’t remember the specifics.

  4. Unfortunately, you cannot buy the BFS with an infant in lap. Super bummer. The regular seats are just too small to hold an infant.

  5. Thanks for writing this up, Tiff. I’m going to try them for my San Diego trip this year. I fly from Dallas, for which they offer direct flights, and they’re over $200 cheaper than other airlines. But the “Big Front Seat” was the selling point. I’m 6’1 and a BIG guy, used to be a football lineman, and while I’ve been pretty loyal to American through the years, their seats are offensively narrow. Last time I tried to fly in an exit row, where they now have solid side arms in those seats, I actually hurt myself pretty bad as my hips are just too wide for those seats, and there was nowhere to move. Knowing Spirit’s “Big Front Seat” is essentially the same size as most other’s first class seats, that’s a HUGE plus. Plus I paid just $30 to get them, which was nice. If this works out, I may revisit Spirit more often. I’ve been scared off by them in the past as most people say they should be avoided, but I’ll stay cautiously optimistic on this upcoming trip and see what happens.

    1. I hope it works out for you. I will say the one thing about Spirit (at least flying into DFW) is it usually takes longer for the bags to arrive at baggage claim than other airlines. After a horrible experience on Ryanair last month, I still stand by Spirit any day of the week and twice on Sunday. =) Good luck!

      1. Thanks Tiff, shouldn’t be an issue as I never check bags. Hoping for the best. Booking was pleasant enough. My only complaint at the moment was the lack of flight times available, but for a discount airline I guess that’s to be expected. Coming home on Monday after the trip it was either leave at 9:30am or 5:30pm, no in between options. I chose the later flight so as not to be frantic in the morning after a long trip, but as a result I’m now missing out on TWO evening events in Dallas I really wanted to attend. But hey, for the price, it’s hard to beat these guys… now let’s just hope the flight itself is worth it.

        1. Just a quick update. Got back from San Diego tonight. Had a mostly positive experience with Spirit, with the slight exceptions of airport issues that may or may not be in their control. They have kiosks set up in the airport where you can very easily print your pass, but both leaving Dallas and leaving San Diego came with the unpleasant surprise of finding out the departure gate was a bit of a hike from where I was dropped off. In San Diego in particular the walk from security to the gate was a lot longer than it needed to be, especially since I was carrying a rather heavy bag going back, making extra walking pretty annoying. But again, that’s more likely an airport issue than Spirit’s fault. Now the flight itself was pretty cool. I think adding on the Big Front Seat automatically puts you in Group 1 for boarding, so little to no wait when boarding starts. And the Big Front Seat itself was definitely worth it for a guy like me. I’m 6’1 and a big guy, and the extra room was wonderful. I think what’s going on, at least the impression I get, is these planes are refurbished planes from other airlines, and the “Big Front Seats” are basically what used to be First Class seats. It should also be noted that those seats have a larger seat/armrest divider, like what you see in First Class on other airlines. This is also helpful for big guys like me, as I can’t stand people nudging their elbows into me in coach seats. The Big Front Seat pricing varies when booking flights. I think I paid $30 additional each way to have the Big Front Seat when booking the Dallas to San Diego trip. However, I just booked a flight to Boston from Dallas on Spirit, and on those flights the Big Front Seat was $50 additional for each flight. Some of the pricing seems a little excessive, like charging $35 each way for one carry on bag – that pricing was the same for both San Diego and Boston. I pack light and try to never check bags, so I just carry a laptop bag (which is considered a personal item and costs nothing additional) and a garment bag on trips. To pay $35 additional for each leg to put my garment bag in the overhead seems like a tad much, but trust me when I say you want to pay for that stuff when you book and NOT at the airport, as Spirit charges more on site than online. And when booking tix on the site, you also have the annoyance of Spirit asking you about booking other things like car and hotel, even when you just want to search for a flight, and they push things like travel insurance and other extra fees, which is a little annoying to me when I just want to book the flight and be done with it. Overall I’m happy with Spirit. I would recommend that you book tickets with them through THEIR website and not a travel site like Expedia, as Spirit’s website spells out the extra charges a bit more clearly. They are a discount airline, to an extent, and it seems like their pricing is competitive for the most part, but the Boston trip I just booked is a good example of how they may not be for everyone. To clarify, my trip on Spirit to Boston from Dallas (which granted was booked with less than 3 weeks before the travel date) cost me almost $500, and I could have got a roundtrip flight on a different airline (same accommodating flight times) for $425 through Expedia, but I don’t mind paying extra for the wonderful Big Front Seat. Lastly, in regards to flight times, that’s the only other negative I could find. When booking my return flight from San Diego, I was hoping to get back to Dallas around 5pm or so, but the only options had me either flying out of San Diego at 9am or 5pm. I hate flying early, so I opted for the 5pm departure, but that also put me back home after 10pm. It would have been nice if they had a more mid-day option, like something leaving San Diego at Noon and arriving in Dallas at 5pm… but hey, it could be worse. So yeah, I liked Spirit enough to book another trip already, and I haven’t even been home for 24 hours. I’m not saying their my airline of choice just yet, but I’ll definitely not hesitate to use them again in the future. Tiff, I can’t thank you enough for alerting me to the Big Front Seat dynamics, as this last trip was much more comfortable than what I’ve experienced on American or Southwest.

          1. I’m glad you had a good experience! My dad is also over 6′ tall and flew in the regular seats in Spirit one time and hated it. I’m trying to convince him to give the “Big Front Seats” a chance, especially if it costs the same as flying any other airline.

            Luckily since we fly out of DFW, one of their hubs, there tends to be more options with flight times than other airports.

            If you haven’t seen it I have written a blog post dedicated to avoiding all the fees possible on Spirit. It’s changed a little since they now give a discount for purchasing bags at the same time you purchase your tickets online, but other than that the rest is the same.


    2. Hey Mark, I used to think the same about spirit. All the negative online reviews and I was dedicated to delta a lot. But u know all the major American flights have issues from time to time. I haven’t flew a perfect airline yet. And I have flew American, delta, spirit, frontier, Southwest, us airways, and united. They all have something in common. They all get more negative review feedback online than they do positive. So spirit is no better or worse than any American airline. My last two flights with spirit went great. We was early going and coming. Snacks and water are a little expensive on spirit so I advise you to bring your own snacks. So my friend sometimes just better to see for yourself and ignore others. A matter of fact most places I fly to are with spirit now since they are cheaper and I can get a direct flight like New York and Florida. I usually fly into ft Lauderdale and drive into Miami versus booking a direct flight into Miami through another airline because its cheaper to do it that way. New York and Chicago I can book through spirit and fly directly there. Don’t have to worry about any layovers at another frustrating airport. Anyway I hope everything goes well for you with spirit. Remember they may not be perfect but the others aren’t either.

  6. I was assigned the first row behind the big seats
    (Row 4) I am physically challenged and quite often those seats are assigned to the handicapped. When I made my reservation I indicated I was handicapped and needed a wheelchair.

  7. I flew to Vegas from Minneapolis, & back, bought the exit row seat for an extra $25 each way, & I was fine. I’m an average size guy, 5’11”, & was not cramped. The exit row is a must, or the big chair, but either way, you should be good.

    1. I must say I’m only 5’6 and the seats on spirit air are pretty cozy to me. My girlfriend is 5’9 and she says it pretty comfortable as well compared to American airlines economy. However when we do fly spirit it’s a direct flight and no greater than two hours. The seats don’t recline so if your flight is longer than two hours it could get a little hectic, but no different than any other airline.

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