I flew on Spirit Airlines for the first time in order to get a direct flight. I had a few lessons learned:
- You are not allowed a carry-on unless you pay for it. So even though the price of the flight itself looks cheap, add minimum $100-$130 to the price unless you can fit everything you need in a backpack
- Check in as early as possible. They oversell every single flight if they can, and only offer a paltry $500 voucher for someone to take a later flight, so no one does. So unless people just don't show up, they usually end up kicking people to a later flight by force. They choose who to kick off the by the order that you checked in (last to check in is the first to kick off).
- It's more expensive to carry-on a bag for some reason than it is to check a bag. This isn't much of a negate on its own, but as some of my other points here will explain, they make checking a bag more annoying than it should be.
- Keep checked bags under 40 pounds. Other airlines have a standard allowance of 50lbs, but if you assume Spirit does that too you would be mistaken. They allow 40lbs, and to bring your allowance up to 50lbs they charge an ADDITIONAL $50 on top of the ~$50 you have already paid to check a bag. And that happens in both directions. So if you check a 50 pound bag on both the flight out and the return flight, you're looking at about $200 in checked bag fees on top of your plane ticket. Going above 50lbs is even more expensive.
- Check bags online or on the app if you can. They charge ~25% more to check a bag when you're at the airport kiosk than if you use the app or website ahead of time.
- The app sucks. I tried to follow the previous tip on my return flight and check a bag via the app but it simply didn't work three times in a row. Each time I'm re-entering my credit card information just praying that this shitty app isn't going to charge me multiple times for this same single bag.
- Their baggage claim system is poorly organized. On both our out and return flights, out luggage did not come out of the baggage claim terminal that they told us on the flight and the posted signs. Why is that so hard?
- They manage to take even more leg room away from you. Being 6'2" I have felt cramped for space on nearly every flight I've ever taken, but Spirit seats are even tighter. They probably take another inch away from your legroom on every seer except for the exit rows and the front two rows.
- You cannot use a laptop on their tiny tray tables. I like to work on flights because it passes the time quickly for me, but that proved impossible on Spirit. Both tray tables were too small and neither pulled out toward me to give me enough space to actually open the computer. The tray on my return flight was basically the size of an envelope.
- They charge you for water. There are no complementary beverages or snacks whatsoever. They will charge you for absolutely any food or drink that you receive while on board. I'm frankly surprised that there isn't a coin slot on the bathroom door.
- They don't have many dedicated gates at most airports. This means that they have to use other airlines gates, which can mean longer delays after landing waiting for a gate to open up.
So I'm summary, the up front price of your ticket is cheaper because they will nickel and dime you at every turn to make up that difference.
I did not enjoy the experience, and will avoid Spirit in the future if I can. But if I'm weighing the experience against the cost of an added layover, I might choose to just deal with the anger in my “spirit” and buy into their swindler's game again.