Low Fares • Miramar-based Spirit Airlines often has the lowest fares to the airline’s 57 destinations located in the U.S., Bahamas, Caribbean and Latin America. Focus cities include Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Las Vegas, Chicago and Atlantic City. Popular vacation spots served by Spirit Airlines include San Juan, Cancun, Ft. Lauderdale, Montego Bay, St. Maarten and St. Thomas.
Spirit Airlines is an “ultra-low- cost” carrier and has pioneered the unbundling of fares introducing fees for everything from drinks to bags in the overhead bin, boarding passes and advance seat selection. While Spirit Airlines may have the cheapest fares, the extra fees may make the total cost comparable to other carriers. If you are aware of the fee policy and pay in advance, you won’t be charged the highest fees which are reserved for those who wait until they arrive at the gate to pay $100 for a checked or carry-on bag. When the airline introduced a carry-on bag fee, many travelers were concerned that other carriers would follow Spirit’s lead, but so far, only Allegiant Airlines also charges for a carry-on. Spirit Airlines launched its FREE SPIRIT frequent flyer program in 2006.
FREE SPIRIT members earn 50 percent and elite members earn 100 percent of miles flown. Unlike most programs, non-elite members earn only half of the miles flown, so be aware that you will receive a reduced number of miles if you aren’t an elite member. It is possible to receive full credit for flights if you sign up for the FREE SPIRIT credit card that automatically bumps you up to elite status as long as you make at least one purchase every month.
Members of FREE SPIRIT can also earn miles for co-branded credit card spend, dining, car rentals, hotel stays and retail purchases.
FREE SPIRIT awards fall into four categories: off-peak, standard, peak and premium. Off-peak awards are the best deal and are only available for FREE SPIRIT MasterCard holders. Awards are also priced according to four regions: Region 1 (0-1,249 miles), Region 2 (1,250 to 1,749 miles), Region 3 (1,750 to 2,499 miles) and Region 4 (2,500 or more miles). For example, a one-way flight from Ft. Lauderdale to a city such as Boston that is less than 1,249 miles away is 2,500 miles off-peak, 10,000 miles standard, 15,000 miles peak and 25,000 miles premium.
Unlike many airlines where redemption within the United States is offered for the same amount of miles regardless of distance, FREE SPIRIT’s award structure can be a good deal for people who wish to travel on shorter flights. For a flight from New York to Atlanta or Chicago, for example, a roundtrip off-peak award is only 5,000 miles or 20,000 miles at the standard level, compared to the standard 25,000 miles for other mileage- based airlines.
FREE SPIRIT miles can also be redeemed for magazine subscriptions and to enter prize game tournaments at FREE SPIRIT Play.
The Spirit World MasterCard offers 15,000 bonus miles as a sign-up bonus, two miles per dollar spent on all purchases plus 5,000 bonus miles each year you make $10,000 in purchases. And cardholders earn 100 percent of miles flown. Cardholders are upgraded to elite status and miles don’t expire for cardholders who make at least one purchase each month with their credit card. Cardholders also have access to off-peak flight awards that start at 5,000 miles. The World MasterCard has a $59 annual fee, waived the first year.
Spirit Airlines car rental partners include Hertz, Avis and Budget and members can earn the industry standard of 50 miles per day on rentals of up to four days and 500 miles for rentals of five or more days.
Members can earn miles for hotel stays with Choice Hotels, where guests earn 250 miles per stay and 5,000 Choice Privileges points can be converted into 1,000 FREE SPIRIT miles.
FREE SPIRIT partners with MyPoints (up to 750 miles), Vinesse Wine Club (5,000 miles for six wines as an introductory offer), e-Rewards and Magazines for Miles (up to 2,000 miles for magazine subscriptions). Get an insurance quote with MetLife Auto & Home and receive 500 miles plus discounts. Sign up for FREE SPIRIT Dining and earn up to five miles per $1 spent at participating restaurants, clubs and bars.
FREE SPIRIT has an online game site where members can play games such as solitaire, mahjong and balloon shooter for prizes and awards.
Unlike most frequent flyer programs, all miles count toward your FREE SPIRIT elite status, including bonus miles and miles earned from partners and the FREE SPIRIT MasterCard. FREE SPIRIT’s elite program has two levels: Elite and VIP. Somebody is the membership tier that is extended to general members.
Members can qualify for Elite status by earning 12,000 miles or spending $1,200 on base fares (not including taxes and fees) in the preceding six months or by acquiring the FREE SPIRIT MasterCard and making at least one purchase every month. Elites earn 100 percent of miles flown.
Earn 24,000 miles or spend $2,400 on base fares in the previous six months and you will reach VIP status. VIPs earn up to 200 percent of miles flown.
Rules & Conditions
If you fly infrequently with FREE SPIRIT, be aware that miles expire if you don’t earn miles at least once every three months. Redeeming miles will not extend the life of your miles. Miles can come from flight miles, bonus miles, credit card miles or partner activity. The only exception to the expiration policy is to make one purchase per month with your
FREE SPIRIT MasterCard, which will prevent your miles from expiring. Missing mileage credit can be requested up to 30 days after the flight.
Members can redeem miles for an award ticket for anyone. The fee to make changes to an award or cancel an award and have the miles redeposited is $110. Change requests must be made at least 24 hours prior to departure. Miles cannot be purchased.
Spirit Airlines is known for fees so make sure you know all of the extra services that will trigger an additional swipe of your credit card. According to the terms and conditions, “Award tickets include a flight reservation only; additional services must be purchased separately.”
If you wait until you arrive at the airport gate to bring on a carry-on bag, the fee is $100 compared to $50 at the kiosk and $35 ($25 for $9 Fare Club members) during online booking or check-in. The same policy applies to checked bags although it’s actually cheaper to check a bag than bring a carry-on. The advance checked bag fee is $30 ($20 for $9 Fare Club members). Snacks and drinks range between $1 and $15 and the fee is $10 for a check-in agent to print a boarding pass for you.
FREE SPIRIT charges an award redemption fee based on when you request your flight award. Awards requested at least 180 days prior to departure have no fee. Awards requested between 21 and 179 days prior to departure incur a $15 fee and award requests made between seven and 20 days incur a $75 fee. Request an award within six days of departure and the fee is $100. Award bookings made through the call center incur a $10 per- customer booking fee. When redeeming an off-peak award, members must pay the award redemption fee with a FREE SPIRIT MasterCard.
Members can search for answers to questions by clicking the Help tab at spiritairlines.com, which will take you to an online support center with answers listed by popularity and topic. There is also an online contact form you can fill out to email questions or comments to FREE SPIRIT.
In addition to the $25 booking fee to make reservations over the phone, wait times to talk to a representative may be long. We waited over 10 minuntes to speak with someone.
The FREE SPIRIT website features online enrollment and account management. Missing mileage credit requests for Spirit Airlines flights can be made online up to 30 days after your flight. You can search for and book award flights online and the award booking engine will display award flights for a month at a time. You can also easily switch between miles and paid fares to compare the price in miles vs. dollars.
[+] Plus Features
If you can find availability at the off-peak level, 5,000 miles for a roundtrip flight is a bargain. But those awards are only offered to FREE SPIRIT credit cardholders during slow travel times. All miles (not just flight miles) count towards elite status, which allows greater opportunity for reaching higher status. The Spirit Airlines co-branded credit card earns two miles per dollar spent on all purchases and comes with elite status. Most airlines only offer double miles for certain purchases with their co-branded card, such as airfare or in-flight purchases, and none offer elite status as a benefit, although some hotel programs offer their lowest-level elite tier as a complimentary credit card perk.
[-] Minus Features
FREE SPIRIT has the shortest expiration window around and is designed for active members or FREE SPIRIT credit cardholders. Miles will expire unless you earn miles from Spirit Airlines or its partners every three months. General members flying nonrefundable economy class receive only 50 percent of miles flown and you must reach the first elite tier or have the FREE SPIRIT credit card to earn 100 percent of miles flown.
Report Card from Readers
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Three month expiration of miles.
Have to book 180 days in advance to avoid close-in redemption fees.
No redemption partners: your reward for flying Spirit is you have to fly more Spirit.
Are there values on the award chart? Can the airline be cheap if you don’t need any of the things that generate fees? Sure. Although those 5,000-mile tickets (for co-brand credit card holders) generally line up to fares under $100, you’re not getting much value out of miles even then …
FREE SPIRIT makes Delta look good.
I like the airline’s sense of humor, and I think that their President, B. Ben Baldanza, is remarkably candid. When he was at US Airways it was his comment about people buying the cheap fares the airline offered (in the aftermath of 9/11!) not being the kind of loyalty they were interested in that spurred the ‘cockroach’ movement. He’s also the one known for hitting reply all on customer complaints instructing that disserviced passengers get nothing because service doesn’t matter in purchasing decisions.
The reward for flying Spirit, provided you earn miles every three months, is flying more Spirit. That alone justifies the D rating. Because that’s more of a punishment.
Redeeming 5,000 miles for $140 in travel is less than three cents per mile. It’s not bad for domestic but hardly revolutionary. And Spirit does have a pretty limited route network, and no options to fly outside of that network. So even the return on their credit card is limited.
Are there people that can make this work for them? Sure. Is it a better program than the median airline offering? Not even close. Since it’s worse than average, I give them a grade that’s worse than average.
There are tons of cons, no doubt. However, I have watched my parents get tremendous value from Spirit in the last year or so. They started when Spirit handed out free miles to anyone who would show up in Houston and then they got the Spirit credit card which allowed them to book roundtrip flights for 5,000 miles roundtrip. They have taken seven or eight flights on these free miles because it’s only 2,500 miles each way. In fact, I am taking my first Spirit flight in a week or so using their miles because it is too good of a deal not to give it a try. Availability isn’t great for the 5,000-mile roundtrip flights, but it isn’t terrible either. It is best for those with real flexibility who want to stretch their miles and just get from Point A to Point B. If you wanted to, you can get the Big Front Seats for like $40 extra and you now are basically in domestic first class without the free gross food for 2,500 miles + $40ish.
Getting a free flight for every $1,250 you charge on the credit card (2x points on everything and free flights at 2,500 each way) is absolutely untouched by anyone in the market … but that “free” flight at the end of it all will be on Spirit Airlines. I think the credit card’s reward earning potential related to the rewards program deserves better than a D. I know that isn’t exactly the question at hand, but it is worth pointing out. I know for sure my parents who actually use it way more than most of us here discussing it would certainly rate it higher.
Your only real downside is in the case of IRROPS in which case you are a little up a creek.
D-minus seems accurate. In the past they were a clear F when you couldn’t even search award availability online.
Overall Score: 5.64
Earning Ability: 5.5
Award Choices: 5.0
Elite Level: 4.0
Rules & Conditions: 5.0
Service Support: 7.5
Online Services: 7.0[/box]
2800 Executive Way
Miramar, FL 33025