Spirit Airlines has a horrible reputation, at least in some travel circles. You've heard the horror stories. They're notorious for charging for every travel amenity or cancelling flights without prior notice. Because of these stories and/or rumors, I had always decided against flying with Spirit. I'd ignore their cheap fare, even when I saw it posted next to more expensive fares from their competitors because Spirit was never an option...until recently. I flew Spirit to Myrtle Beach from Baltimore and as it turns out, my experience wasn't that bad. And when I say "wasn't that bad," I mean it wasn't bad at all.
TSA lines have been 2 miles long at airports around the country, so I arrived at the airport two hours early. Since I didn't want any problems at the airport, I read all of Spirit's rules and regulations before my trip. One of the first (shocking) rules I read was that you must print out your boarding pass before arriving to the airport to avoid a $10 fee. Yes, $10 to print your boarding pass at the airport. Because I don't like handing out my hard-earned money unnecessarily, I obliged and printed out my boarding pass the day before. Once I arrived, I handed my boarding pass to the gate agent and she began checking me in. (Your boarding pass also says whether you paid for a checked bag or carry-on.) Since a checked bag was paid for, she asked for my bag and told me to head to security. "That was easy," I thought.
My friend doesn't have TSA pre-check and being the nice person that I am, I decided to wait in line with her instead of using my privileged way out. After waiting in line for about 45 minutes, we made it through security and headed to the nearest cafe for breakfast. We were at the airport super early (read: earlier than I like getting there), so we sat next to our gate and did what everyone else does at airport when killing time: people watch.
As our flight departure time neared, the Spirit gate agent announced that baggage must fit in the container near the front desk in order to be considered a carry-on. He also proclaimed that if you had not previously purchased carry-on baggage, there would be a $65 fee for your bag at that time, and that the fee would go up to $100 once boarding began. I wish I could have seen the look of shock on my own face! I'm glad that I followed the rules and only had my purse, my one allowable personal item.
As I continued to people watch, I saw a woman ask a woman sitting next to her about paying for her baggage. "Oh Lord," I thought. I knew this woman was just finding out that she had to pay for her baggage ahead of time and I was hoping an argument with the gate agent didn't ensue. (I actually don't know what happened to her because boarding began soon after the announcement, but I hope it was favorable for her.)
I boarded the plane with my one person item and everything went according to plan. I found my seat, settled in and noticed that I didn't have a lot of leg room. But my flight to Myrtle Beach was literally an hour, so I could deal with the tight space. Once everyone was seated, the flight attendants started with their normal announcements, including one that mentioned how food and drinks were available for purchase on the flight. Since I read the rules beforehand, I knew this was the case and came prepared with a water bottle purchased in the airport. Our flight took off and we landed safely in Myrtle Beach.
Overall, my flight with Spirit was no different than with any other budget airline, including WOW or Norwegian, which I've also taken in the past year. They let you know ahead of time that 'extras' are available for purchase, but this is why their flights are so cheap. Moral of the story is: know before you go. Spirit has clearly posted rules on their website, which you can find here. And because I love you, here are my 5 tips for flying successfully with Spirit (or any other budget airline):
1. Pay for your bags when you're buying your ticket. Whether that be a carry-on or checked baggage, make sure you pay for them beforehand and only bring to the airport what you've paid for (unless you don't mind paying $65 or $100 in last minute fees. Hey, it's your budget, not mine.)
2. If you want or need a little extra legroom, pay for it when you're buying your flight.
3. Print your boarding pass ahead of time. While $10 isn't a lot of money, it could be annoying if you get to the airport and this fee comes to you as a surprise.
4. Buy food and drinks in the airport (after security). If you know you're the type to get hungry or thirsty on a flight, do yourself a favor a purchase what you want before boarding.
5. Lower your expectations. You won't have food, drinks, or a lot of legroom, but your wallet sure will thank you later for purchasing a cheaper flight.
Spirit isn't the only airline to have 'barely there' fare prices, so I'm not sure why they get such a bad rep. Now that I've flown them, I know they're nothing to be afraid of so I'll definitely fly them again. Maybe not internationally, but definitely domestically. Have you taken Spirit Airlines and had a good or bad experience? Sound off below!