Why Is Spirit Airlines So Cheap?

Last Updated on December 4, 2020

You’ve spotted a cheap flight but it’s with Spirit Airlines and you have a feeling there must be a reason that flying Spirit is cheaper.

Yes, there is a reason…

Spirit is cheap because you are not buying the same thing. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Let’s look at the reasons why Spirit is an ultra-low-cost airline and see if you can or can’t save some money on your next flight.

How Are Spirit Ticket Prices So Much Cheaper Than Competitors?

You know when you go to a fancy restaurant and they have a pre-set menu. It will have a pre-selected list of dishes all for a fixed price.

The price is high but it includes a starter, a main course, a dessert, and coffee. It might even include drinks too.

That’s how airline fares have traditionally been sold. Flying in the early days was something only rich people did. It was normal for people to expect a full service with everything included.

Restaurants also offer an “a la carte” menu where you can choose what you want. If you don’t want an appetizer then fine don’t order one. If you don’t want a dessert then it’s your call. You can pick and choose what you want and what you don’t want.

Flying with Spirit airlines is more like flying a la carte. Their advertised bare fare price is just for the flight with very few extra amenities.

The following are extra items on the Spirit menu that you can choose:

  • Seat selection – If you want to make sure you avoid the middle seat or sit next to your family you’ll need to pay extra to choose a seat
  • Extra legroom – If you don’t want to be cramped then you can choose a seat with extra legroom. This is more important for tall people or for long flights.
  • An Extra Wide Seat – You can upgrade to The Big Front Seat that is wide and super comfortable.
  • Bringing a Larger Carry-On Bag – Spirit’s bare fare only lets you bring one personal item that is 33 liters. A regular carry-on on most airlines is usually around 45 liters so it’s a squeeze. You can pay an extra fee to bring a huge 64-liter carry-on, but you probably don’t own a bag this size.
  • Checking a Bag – You can also bring a checked bag but there is a charge for that too.
  • Printing Your Boarding Pass – If you need Spirit to print your boarding pass they’ll charge you $10 to do it.
  • Drinks and Snacks – No snacks or drinks are included. Water costs $3.
  • Changing Or Canceling Flights – If you need to change the date of a flight or cancel a flight there are fees involved to do that. Flights are non-refundable.

Many people that fly with Spirit end up purchasing something extra.

You know that time when you were going to skip dessert but you changed your mind because it looked so tasty?

That’s what happens when people fly Spirit.

Spirit’s Profit Comes From The Extra Charges

Almost 60% of Spirit’s revenue doesn’t come from selling flights.

Spirit makes more money from all the extras than they do from the flights.

This is the business model of a low cost carrier:

  1. Make the fare price as low as possible to win the business and bring in the customers.
  2. Make the profits on the backend by charging high prices for extras.

Some travelers are outraged by this. Why is my tray table so small! How dare they charge $40 to bring a carry-on! It’s more than ticket!

It’s a pricing model that can cause a lot of anger if a passenger gets a nasty surprise:

It seems Gina was flying with a bag that exceeded the 18 x 14 x 8 inches limit.

You can understand under the circumstances why Gina wasn’t reading the small print.

Spirit charges $65 for a carry-on bag upgrade purchased at the boarding gate and that seems to be what happened here.

Carry-on bags can cost more like $25 if you plan ahead. And if you travel light you can avoid the fee altogether.

Other people like Lexia don’t see the problem:

In fact, Spirit Airlines provide a chance to fly somewhere for a very cheap price IF you are prepared to pack light, to sit in a middle seat, and maybe to not be as comfortable as you’d like for a few hours.

The $9 fare club also helps to bring down the cost of flights and extras.

If you want to fly Spirit Airlines you need to be a student of Spirit Airlines. You need to know where and how they will try to hit you in the pocket. You can then decide if that charge is acceptable to you, or if the inconvenience is acceptable to get cheaper travel.

The Truth Is Spirit Is Not Always Cheaper

Look at what happened to Don:

Don didn’t do his research so he was surprised about these charges and that he wasn’t sitting next to his wife.

Alexis said that Spirit isn’t cheaper if you add up all the little things.

But the little things are optional.

If you can fly with the smaller personal item bag that goes under the seat in front you don’t need to pay extra for carry-on bags.

If you are happy to not sit next to your wife for a few hours then you don’t need to pay for an assigned seat.

If you can download a movie to your iPad ahead of time then maybe you can live without in-flight entertainment.

If you can send the boarding pass to your phone, or use the Spirit mobile app then you won’t need to print it out at the airport.

Yeah go to any restaurant and order the starter, the main course, the dessert, coffees, and a bottle of wine then your bill will add up to be just as much as the set menu.

So how much do you want the extras? That’s the question. Can you live without them and save money?

One Area Where There Is No Difference

There is nothing to worry about from a safety perspective.

It’s as safe to fly Spirit as any other US airline. Spirit might not give you free peanuts but the FAA would not allow them to fly if their aircraft were not safe and their crew well trained.

So don’t assume that because your Spirit Airlines Flight fare is cheap that the aircraft are not well maintained. They are!

The Verdict

Spirit flights are cheaper than other airlines because they have a different business model.

Airlines like Spirit keep their fares as low as possible to win your attention and get you to commit to flying with them.

After that everything is about maximizing the profit.

But if you know where the traps are and how to avoid them then you can enjoy a cheap flight with Spirit.

Spirit is not the only airline pricing like this. Airlines like United and American Airlines have started copying the business model with their Basic Economy tickets.

At least with Spirit you know they are an ultra-low-cost carrier. Check the reviews for United Basic Economy and you’ll see what I mean. Passengers are getting sucker-punched right, left, and center because they don’t see it coming from the legacy airlines.

So Spirit may or may not be cheap depending on which extras you can’t live without. Start by learning to travel light and it will be a good first step.

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