Spirit Airlines – Is it Worth the Risk? – Budget Travel

Spirit Airlines has been ranked last overall in the 2016 Airline Quality Rating report. We took a flight to answer the question “how bad can it really be?”

The report looks at the following four categories:

  1. On Time (OT)
  2. Denied Boardings (DB)
  3. Mishandled Bags (MB)
  4. Customer Complaints (CC)

Calculated as: (+8.63 x OT) + (-8.03 x DB) + (-7.92 x MB) + (-7.17 x CC) / (8.63 + 8.03 + 7.92 + 7.17)

Spirit biggest offenses are low OT of 69% (compared to industry average of 79.9%) and CC of 11.73 per 100k (compared to industry average of 1.9 per 100k)

Top Four Complaints Received (72.6%) are about:

  1. Flight Problems (“cancellation, delay, deviation from schedule”)
  2. Baggage (“lost, damaged, delayed baggage, charges for excess baggage, carry on problems”)
  3. Reservations, Ticketing, & Boarding (“airline or travel agent mistakes, problems in making reservations, waiting in line, boarding the aircraft”)
  4. Customer Service (“rude or unhelpful employees, inadequate meals or cabin service, and treatment of delayed passengers”)

We’ve heard the horror stories & normally stay away, however when an $100 roundtrip flight (per person) to LGA came up, we decided to take a day trip to see how “bad” Spirit was.

Please note, we did not pay for any optional services:

  1. Bags: We also did not have any carry on luggage, we each carried a backpack.
  2. Seat: We booked online but did not select our seats.
  3. Boarding Pass: Printed at home. Online says it cost $2 to print at kiosk, but we printed at the kiosk at LGA & there was no fee.
  4. Snacks: We brought water bottles & filled them in the terminal before the flight. We also packed snacks in one backpack.

Let’s look at the top 4 complaints:

  1. Flight Problems: Our flight left on time. It seemed much faster than any other boarding due to the fact that you must pay to carry on a bag that goes in the overhead bin. Our flight arrived earlier, but there was no available gate, so we sat on the tarmac for about 30 minutes.
  2. Baggage: We had no problems here, because we did not check or carry on any bags.
  3. Reservations: My only concern, that they would assign us random seats far apart. When we checked in online, the night before, we were assigned seats together, so no issues here.
  4. Customer Service: We knew there was no food service, so we brought our own food. We had minimal interactions with the crew, so no issues here.

Of the items listed in the report, we had a good experiences. If we were to complain about anything it would be the:

  1. Passengers: Passengers were very rude, to each other & the crew. More so, in my opinion, than any other flight. People were talking, listening to music & watching videos loudly. If you wanted to sleep, it would have been almost impossible.
  2. Seat: This is by far the worst airline seat I have experienced. It’s similar to the bed you slept on during summer camp. After two hours, my hips & back were tight & I had to take a stroll through the aisle.

Other complaints we’ve come across on Consumer Affairs are regarding change fees. Accordingly to Spirit’s website, changes are not allowed & travel insurance is highly recommended.

Spirit lists on their website “We’re Light on Legroom”, & SeatGuru lists the seat pitch at 28 inches (71 cm). “Seat pitch refers to the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it.” Basically, how tall do you have to be, to have your knees touch the seat in front of you.

Here are photos from our flight. I am 5’2, & I did not any problems with the distance between the seats. My knees did not touch & I could straighten my leg with no problems.

Spirit Airbus 321
Spirit Airlines Seat Pitch
Seat Pitch - Spirit Airlines
Airbus A321

Overall, I would fly Spirit again as long as the [nonstop] flight is under 3 hours,  as I am okay with losing out on the cost of the flight ($200) if an emergency came up.

VERDICT:

A Good Fit For: If you want a quick (3 hour or less, solo/couples) weekend getaway for under $200. You are okay with traveling with a backpack, not selecting your seat, no in flight service & possibly a loud flight.

Not A Good Fit For: If you are planning a family trip; flights longer than 4 hours; flights with a connection; are staying for an extended period & have multiple luggage.

Have you flown Spirit before? Will you fly them again?

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