spirit airlines plane

What You Need to Know About Flying Spirit Airlines

Erin Yarnall

Erin Yarnall

March 7, 2024

9 min read

Table of Contents

With some of the lowest ticket prices in North and South America, Spirit Airlines is an ultra-low-cost airline that flies throughout the US, Caribbean, and some South American destinations for a fraction of the cost of competitors (though that low cost comes with some downsides). 

The airline was founded in Detroit as Charter One Airlines, a charter tour operator that provided travel packages to vacation destinations like Las Vegas and the Bahamas, in 1983. Less than a decade later, and after bringing jet aircraft into its fleet, it began operating as Spirit Airlines in 1992. The airline began operating as an ultra-low-cost airline during the 2000s. 

Today, Spirit Airlines is headquartered in Miramar, Florida, and has several bases throughout the US, including major hubs in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Detroit.

The airline has received mixed reviews from passengers and critics. In 2016, it was named the Worst Airline in America by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, but in 2023, Spirit won the Value Airline of the Year award from Air Transport World.

While Spirit’s ticket prices are oftentimes cheaper than legacy carriers, the airline’s fees really start to add up if you’re carrying more than a small bag that fits under the seat, and prefer to choose your seat. Spirit ranks among one of our least favorite airlines for travel, and we don’t include them in Going deal alerts. 

That said, sometimes even we opt for a Spirit flight (when it’s significantly cheaper and we have to be somewhere, or when we just need to get away and we’re traveling very light, for example). So here’s your guide to flying Spirit, including how to make the experience a bit better, and pitfalls to avoid that can result in a more expensive flight. 

What to know about Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines’ hubs

The main hub that Spirit Airlines operates out of is Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), but it has two other major hubs:  Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW).

In addition to the three primary hubs, Spirit has several other operating bases at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), Chicago-O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas and Miami International Airport (MIA).

Where Spirit Airlines flies

spirit airlines route map

Spirit Airlines operates more than 675 routes in 16 different countries, primarily throughout the US. Of the airline’s 675 routes, 551 are domestic, and 124 are international, with its hub in Fort Lauderdale being Spirit’s most popular domestic destination. You can fly from Spirit’s hub in Fort Lauderdale to the destinations below:

  • Domestic: Atlanta, Atlantic City, Boston, Charlotte, Detroit, Hartford, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Newark, New York City, Orlando, New Orleans, Myrtle Beach, Norfolk, Pensacola, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa, St. Croix, St. Thomas and San Juan.
  • International: Aruba (Oranjestad), Honduras (Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula), Costa Rica (San Jose), El Salvador (San Salvador), Haiti (Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haitien), Jamaica (Montego Bay, Kingston), Mexico (Cancún), Nicaragua (Managua), Colombia (Armenia, Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cartagena, Cali, Medellín), Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo, Santiago de los Caballeros) and Guatemala (Guatemala City).

Spirit also flies to international destinations in Sint Maarten, Ecuador, and Peru. Several of the airline’s destinations are only serviced on a seasonal basis, including Bucaramanga, Colombia; Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Ponce, Puerto Rico; Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Mexico; Lima, Peru and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Spirit’s frequent flyer program

Spirit’s Free Spirit frequent flyer program is free and allows participants to accumulate points through both flying and making purchases, like a checked bag, seat selection, or on-board snacks and drinks. Free Spirit members can combine their points with cash to redeem points sooner, and points never expire. Points can be redeemed toward tickets, seats, and with the program’s partners, including car rental companies like Avis, Hertz, and Dollar.

Pros of flying Spirit

  • Low fares throughout the US, the Caribbean, and Latin America
  • Comfort and affordability of the Big Front Seat
  • Abundance of non-stop flights to smaller cities that some larger airlines don’t fly to, like Myrtle Beach, Boise, and Burbank
  • Frequent flyer program allows participants to redeem points quickly if they fly Spirit often 

Cons of flying Spirit

  • Excessive fees (carryon bag, onboard beverage, printing boarding passes at the airport)
  • No frills (no in-flight entertainment, no onboard drink and snack service)
  • Minimal legroom
  • TripAdvisor users have complained about Spirit’s in-person and phone customer service, saying that sometimes the customer service team never responds to queries
  • Many routes are point-to-point and have limited service, so if your flight is canceled, it could be a long time until you can get on the next flight 
  • Spirit has no interline agreements, so if there’s a disruption, they can’t put you on a partner flight
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Spirit Airlines reviews

Spirit Airlines is a frequent punchline for comedians, but the airline’s actual customers aren’t as disappointed with it as the jokes might suggest. The airline is rated a 3-star airline by Skytrax out of a possible five stars, saying that despite Spirit Airlines’ low reputation, it’s improved its services over the past year, including its onboard services and staff friendliness. 

The airline received similar reviews on Tripadvisor, where most customer complaints were about how expensive it is to check a bag. Overall, customers are relatively satisfied if they are able to fly on the airline while avoiding its excessive baggage prices, saying that it’s a smooth, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive flight.

Spirit’s seat upgrades

Spirit Airlines doesn’t have different flight classes, but the airline does offer two types of seats. Spirit’s standard seating, or economy class, offers a scant 28 inches of legroom (compared to 29-30 on most other carriers) and has 17.75-inch wide seats. 

The airline’s Big Front Seat, an upgraded seat near the front of the plane, comes with 36 inches of legroom and more space with a 20-inch wide seat. The rows with the Big Front Seat have only two seats on either side of the aisle, so every seat will either be against an aisle or a window. The Big Front Seat’s price ranges, depending on availability and route, and costs between $12 and $250.

spirit big front seat
Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines

The Spirit Airlines flying experience

Spirit Airlines check-in process

Spirit Airlines allows passengers to check in online up to 24 hours in advance. Online check-in ends an hour before the flight’s departure time. While checking in online, passengers can also purchase bags or a seat while checking in. After check-in is complete, boarding passes are available to print or save to a mobile device. 

Checking in online saves money, as Spirit Airlines charges $25 to print a boarding pass at the airport. If bags have been pre-purchased before arriving at the airport, tags can be printed at a kiosk, and the tagged bags can be dropped off at the airline’s bag drop service. 

Seats on Spirit Airlines 

There are two different seat options on Spirit Airlines—the airline’s standard seats, with 17.75-inch wide seats and 28 inches of legroom, or its Big Front Seat, an upgraded seat with more legroom and a wider seat near the front of the plane.

spirit airlines flight
Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines

Passengers have to pay to choose a seat in advance. Seat selection prices start at $5, but can range depending on what type of seat, including the upgraded Big Front Seat, and the flight’s route.

Spirit Airlines’ fleet is an all-Airbus fleet, with four different aircraft in use. The airline is planning to retire its Airbus A319 aircrafts by 2025, but those aircraft currently seat 145 passengers, with 10 Big Front Seats and 135 standard-size seats. Both the Airbus A320-200 and the Airbus A320neo have 182 seats, with eight Big Front Seats and 174 standard seats. The largest aircraft in Spirit’s fleet is the Airbus A321-200, which has 228 seats in total, with eight Big Front Seats and 220 standard seats.

For the most comfortable flight, the Big Front Seats are a great option, but if seat width isn’t a concern, it’s more worthwhile to pay for a seat in an exit row. The exit row seats, which cost less than the Big Front Seats, come with 35 inches of legroom, while the Big Front Seats have 36 inches. 

If you don’t pay for a seat in advance, Spirit Airlines can’t guarantee that passengers will be seated near their travel companions. There is an exception for children under the age of 13, who will always be seated near at least one adult that they’re traveling with.

Baggage allowance on Spirit Airlines 

Every ticket on Spirit Airlines includes one personal item that can fit under the seat in front of you (think: a purse or small backpack), but that’s it—any bags larger than 18 by 14 by 8 inches come with a fee. 

Passengers have to pay for a carryon bag, with prices ranging from $37 to $80. Checked bags cost between $37 and $99. Passengers can only check one bag on most Spirit Airlines flights, but on certain flights with additional space, they can check up to five. Checked bags can’t weigh more than 40 pounds; otherwise, they’ll be subject to an overweight fee. Oversized checked bags, which are larger than 63 vertical inches, are also subject to a fee.

Food and drink on Spirit Airlines 

If passengers on Spirit Airlines are looking forward to a complimentary beverage during their flight, they’ll have to bring their own (note: you cannot bring your own alcohol to consume on board). Another way that the airline cuts down on its costs is by eliminating complimentary snacks and beverages during the flight. 

Although there are no complimentary options, Spirit does offer a menu with hot beverages, soda, alcoholic beverages, and snacks that range from a $4.49 muffin to a $9.49 cheese tray.

Amenities on Spirit Airlines 

As an ultra-low-cost airline, the amenities on Spirit Airlines are sparse. The airline is able to recoup money from its low ticket prices by slashing amenities like on-board entertainment and complimentary beverages, although snacks and drinks are available to purchase. Wifi is also available for purchase; basic browsing plans start at $3.99, and streaming plans start at $6.99.

Tips for flying Spirit Airlines

While Going doesn’t send our members alerts about flights on Spirit Airlines, it’s not always the worst choice—so long as you know what you’re getting into. Here are some tips for a better flying experience on Spirit. 

Figure out your expenses before booking

Sure, a $40 one-way flight might look appealing, but with all of Spirit’s added-on fees, your trip might end up costing more than if you booked on a legacy carrier at triple the base cost. Add up how much it would cost to buy your ticket, and determine if you need to purchase bags and a seat as well. 

If the total is still under what the competition’s offering, then it’s worth it to book the ticket. To avoid being disappointed by Spirit Airlines, make sure you’re actually picking a more affordable flight, or determine if it would be worthwhile to pay more for a ticket on another airline in a class that includes seats, bags, or other amenities. 

Make a plan for disruptions

Spirit has no partners or interline agreements, which means if your flight is canceled, they can’t work with another airline to get you to your destination the same way an airline like United or American could. Additionally, some routes only operate once a day or a few times per week. This means if your flight is outright canceled or you miss it, you could be waiting quite a while for the next one. If you really need to be somewhere on a particular day—like for a wedding or a cruise departure, for example—allow as much extra time as you can. 

Purchase a Big Front Seat if you have a long flight

Spirit doesn’t have a first-class section—instead, they have Big Front Seats, larger, wider seats with more legroom near the front of the plane. The seats, usually cheaper than most first-class seats on other airlines, typically range in price from $12 to $250, and offer passengers an opportunity to fly more comfortably. 

While it might not be worth the additional cost for a shorter flight, Spirit flies to 16 different countries, and purchasing a Big Front Seat could give passengers the opportunity to fly internationally in comfort for a lower price than on other airlines.

Plan to entertain yourself

Spirit is a no-frills airline, and that means that there’s essentially nothing besides the view out of the window to keep passengers entertained on board. If you don’t feel like napping throughout the flight but want to be entertained, it’s best to download movies, TV shows, music, and podcast episodes to your personal devices before boarding the plane or bring a book or magazine on board.

Join the Free Spirit program, and enjoy its status match

Spirit’s frequent flyer program, Free Spirit, allows passengers to collect points on their flight, as well as purchases like bags or on-board snacks and drinks. Free Spirit members can combine their points with cash to redeem points sooner, and points never expire. Another perk of the program: Free Spirit status matches with more than 30 airline and hotel loyalty programs, allowing participants to earn points faster. Members who have earned Free Spirit’s gold status also receive a free checked bag, a free carryon bag, and free on-board snacks and drinks.

Frequently asked questions about flying Spirit Airlines

What is it like flying Spirit Airlines?
Spirit is an ultra-low-cost carrier, so don’t expect any frills. There’s no in-flight entertainment, no complimentary beverages or snacks, and limited legroom.
Why is Spirit Airlines so cheap?
Spirit is able to make up for its low prices by charging for amenities that are included in the ticket price on other airlines, like seat selection, beverages on the plane, and carryon bags.
Is Spirit Airlines safe?
Yes, Airline Ratings gives Spirit a 6/7 for safety.
Is Spirit Airlines bad?
Flying on Spirit isn’t comfortable or luxurious, and consumers are often dismayed by some of the airline’s extra fees for bags and seats. Consumers should be aware of the additional fees associated with flying an ultra-low-cost airline before making a non-refundable purchase. Spirit has a high safety rating from Airline Ratings and had a completion rate of more than 99% in 2023.
Are Spirit Airlines seats smaller?
While the seats themselves are actually wider than some other airlines, at 17.75 inches across, Spirit Airlines has a smaller seat pitch, at just 28 inches, which results in less legroom.
What is Spirit Airlines' baggage policy?
Spirit allows passengers to bring one small under-seat personal item on board for free and charges for carryon and checked bags.
Does Spirit Airlines charge for carryon bags?
Yes, prices typically range from $37 to $80, depending on when the flight is, where it’s going, and at what point consumers pay for the carryon. Bag fees are at their lowest when they’re purchased alongside the ticket, increase if they’re purchased during online check-in, and increase again at the airport on the day of departure. While passengers have to pay for a carryon bag, one personal item is included in each ticket.
How much do checked bags cost on Spirit Airlines?
The cost for a checked bag depends on several factors, including where the flight’s destination is and when the checked bag was purchased—bags are at their lowest price if they’re bought alongside the ticket and increase in price as time goes on. Prices typically range between $37 and $99. The price for checked bags on a Spirit Airlines flight also depends on the weight and size of the bag, as overweight and oversized luggage will also have a fee. For bags that weigh between 41 and 50 pounds, checking costs $79 per bag, and $125 for bags that weigh between 51 and 100 pounds. There’s also a fee to check oversized luggage; it costs $150 to check any item that’s larger than 63 vertical inches.
Can you bring food on Spirit Airlines?
Yes, you can bring food on Spirit Airlines for no charge.
What is the Spirit Airlines customer service phone number?
The toll-free number is +1 (855) 728-3555.


When it comes to discount travel, there are few options in the US that are more affordable than Spirit Airlines. The ultra-low-cost airline is famous for its deeply-discounted ticket prices, but the ticket is the only thing that the price covers. The airline recoups its money by charging for just about everything else: checked bags, carryon bags, seat selection, on-board beverages, and printing boarding passes at the airport. 

Spirit offers a no-frills experience. There are no amenities on board and the seats are infamous for their 28-inch seat pitch. But if you’re not looking for a luxurious experience and just want to travel at a deeply discounted rate, Spirit can be a good choice for travel through the US, Caribbean, and Latin America—as long as you’re a light packer. 

Although Spirit does have some of the lowest ticket prices in the US, the airline’s exorbitant fees and notoriously bad customer service have made it one of our least favorite airlines, and we don’t include Spirit in Going deal alerts.

Erin Yarnall

Erin Yarnall

Freelance Writer

Erin is a Chicago-based freelance writer, with bylines in The Chicago Tribune, The Toronto Star, Time Out, Business Insider and Best Life, among other publications. When she’s not traveling, she loves trying out vegan restaurants in Chicago and hanging out with her dog, Bane.

Published March 7, 2024

Last updated March 7, 2024

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