Ahh yes, Spirit Air, the self-proclaimed “America’s Only ULCC-Ultra Low Cost Carrier.” The champions of nickel-and-diming, Spirit charges the customer only for what he uses. If you want to carry-on a bag, you’re welcome to for a fee, but they don’t add it to the ticket cost because they don’t charge those who don’t want the service. No matter what your opinion is on the big change in the airline industry, you can’t deny that Spirit Air has some damn cheap fares on their routes.
I don’t necessarily expect the same level of service on a $40 flight as I do on the $8,000 trans-Atlantic First Class ticket. We’ve flown them a few times and have been all-in-all pleased with the value of the service. In an effort to keep their costs low, they tend to fly somewhat obscure routes and into underutilized airports. Instead of flying into Toronto, you’ll fly into the Niagara Falls, NY airport, about two hours (and one country) south. The same goes with Montreal: they’ll bring you close to your destination, but you’re on your own for the last remaining miles.
We booked about 30 days in advance and our one-way from Myrtle Beach to Plattsburgh, NY was $119.79 each.
It’s best if you can travel light because the only thing you can bring on for free (apart from the clothes on your back) is a small “personal item” (backpack, purse, briefcase, etc…). The carry-ons will cost you $30 ahead of time for domestic flights (or $45! at the gate—so, to avoid being pissed off for the rest of the day, be sure your personal item is small enough). I had to break down and check a bag for $18 (again, costs more at the counter, so plan ahead and pay online).
Another way to save money on fees – and the flights – is to join Spirit’s $9 Fare Club. For just $59.95 a year, you can purchase discount tickets (some as low as $9, hence the club’s name) and save on baggage fees. My checked bag would have cost $10 more for a non-member, and $20 more at the counter than what I paid. Only one of us is a member, purchasing both tickets through one account. It’s saved us much more than the yearly fee on just one trip. But, if you’re just not sure yet, you can try a 60-day trial membership for $19.95.
Just like nearly every domestic flight these days, you’ll be paying a-la-carte for food and drink aboard as well. Refreshingly, Spirit Air is priced reasonably and they don’t try to price gouge you too badly. They’ve got a few combos/deals and some are geared for those that are drinking for a purpose, like the ole 3 beers for $14 combo — a perfect way to start your ritzy vacation to Myrtle Beach. Just know in advance the lowest-brow beer on their menu is Budweiser, so, if you’re more of an Icehouse type, which, if Myrtle is your destination, I suspect you are, you’ll be nothing but disappointed.
Spirit Air has also adopted the same ultra-classy marketing campaign as Las Vegas, further solidifying their rank among the lower classes of society. “Our cabins are pressurized to seal in Vegas secrets”—OK, we get it: Vegas is where people go to sleep with strippers, and that’s Spirit Air’s idea of a target audience. Again, if Sin City is your idea of a good time, Spirit Air will help you get there — or close to there, at least.
On past flights, we’ve noticed that they have crammed a few extra rows in the plane, robbing normal-height people of precious legroom. For a nominal up-charge of $50 each (price varies depending on length of flight), we upgraded to the “Big Front Seat” – worth every single penny because it got us that much further away from the screaming babies with pierced ears drinking Sweet Tea, but hey: their parents vacation in Myrtle Beach, so what do you expect? The Big Front Seat is what was once considered First Class in whatever Airline operated this Airbus A319 before passing it along to Spirit.
Oh, and don’t expect to pick your seat for free. Unlike Southwest, every passenger will have a seat assignment before boarding the plane. If you want to pick your seat ahead of time and ensure your proximity to those traveling with you, it’ll cost you up to $50 ahead of time. In the past, we’ve skipped that and often found ourselves in middle seats on different rows, making that $50 price tag for the “First Class” seat all the more appealing.
BOTTOM LINE: Whether you’re jonesin’ for a vacation in Myrtle Beach or looking to travel on a budget, Spirit is the airline for you. You may be sitting next to a four-month-old with six piercings, but you’ll have saved enough money on the flight to buy yourself a bucket of beer for the ride.