Spirit Airlines Boarding Zones & Process – Everything You Need to Know

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update: Due to the spread of COVID-19, Spirit has made the following changes to their boarding process:
– As of May 11, Spirit requires appropriate face coverings during travel.
– To encourage social distancing during the boarding process, Spirit is asking Guests to scan their own boarding passes and welcome you to board at the end of the boarding process if you wish.

When most people hear Spirit Airlines, they tend to cringe. Spirit is put in the same category as Ryan Air, EasyJet, and Air Asia, and rightly so: all of these airlines are known as ultra-low-cost carriers.

That means you won’t get any extras without paying for them. Fares are set as low as they can go, and passengers are charged for anything else they want.

When we say everything, we mean everything: seat selection, carry-on bags, and printing boarding passes are just a few of the extra fees you will find when booking with Spirit Airlines. You won’t even get a free drink during your flight!

The most important thing you can do to improve your experience when flying any low-cost airline is to understand the policies and fees before you book. That way, you know what to expect and don’t end up frustrated with unexpected costs and confusion.

When it comes to preparation for your flight, knowing how the Spirit Airlines boarding process works is a great place to start.

By understanding boarding, you’ll get your trip started right and have less to worry about when it’s time to fly. Let’s take a look at how Spirit Airlines boards their planes so you’ll know just what to do.

Spirit Airlines Boarding Zones

Spirit Airlines uses a boarding process that is similar to other low-cost airlines like Frontier: 4 numbered zones, along with pre-boarding and family boarding make a process that is fairly easy to follow.

When flying with an ultra-low-cost carrier, you need to remember that many of their passengers will be newer to air travel. They may not be as experienced with any type of aircraft boarding, and you’ll need to have patience when things don’t go as smoothly as they should.

The more people who understand how the boarding process works, the quicker the airplane will be loaded! So let’s go over exactly how Spirit Airlines does things.

Here are the details of which passengers are eligible to board with each of Spirit’s boarding zones:


  • Passengers with disabilities
  • Passengers who need special assistance

Zone 1

  • Passengers who purchased a carry-on bag

Zone 2

  • Passengers who purchased Shortcut Boarding
  • Passengers who have VIP or Elite status with Spirit
  • Spirit Airlines World Mastercard cardholders

Family Boarding

  • Families with children ages 3 and under

Zone 3

  • General boarding
  • Usually the back half of the plane

Zone 4

  • General boarding
  • Usually the front half of the plane

Boarding Notes

Even if you didn’t pay to choose a seat ahead of time, you will be assigned a seat when you check in for your flight. Once the seat is assigned, you will be placed into one of the available boarding zones, which will be shown on your boarding pass.

With Spirit Airlines, it is especially important to check in for your flight and get your boarding pass before you get to the airport.

Once you arrive at the airport, Spirit actually charges you to print a boarding pass. It will cost you $2 to print your boarding pass at one of their kiosks, or a somewhat ridiculous $10 if you need to have an agent print your boarding pass for you!

Hot Tip: You can easily avoid the boarding pass printing fees by checking in and printing your boarding pass at home before your flight. Even if you forget to do that, you can always use the free Spirit app to get an electronic boarding pass on your smartphone.

How to Build Up Your Free Spirit Miles Balance

Free Spirit Loyalty Program
For those who fly a lot with Spirit Airlines, it makes sense to join their Free Spirit loyalty program. Be careful though, as their miles don’t last very long before expiration. Image courtesy of Spirit Airlines

Our goal at Upgraded Points is to get you in the air without using too much of your hard-earned cash. As you would expect, the best way to do that is with miles.

The Free Spirit loyalty program of Spirit Airlines definitely isn’t known as one of the strongest loyalty programs out there, but if you regularly find yourself choosing Spirit for your paid flights, you might as well join and earn some miles.

In addition to flying, there are lots of other ways to earn Free Spirit miles.

If you’re looking for the easiest way to earn, the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard is probably the way to go. It earns 2 miles per dollar spent, has a few useful benefits, and the annual fee is waived the first year.

By putting a good chunk of your spending on the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard, you will be ready to take your first Spirit Airlines award flight in no time.

Spirit Airlines award flight redemptions actually start at a pretty low level, costing just 2,500 miles one-way for cardholders. 

Also, don’t miss our post on the Best Ways to Redeem Free Spirit Miles for Max Value.

Bottom Line: The key thing to remember about the Free Spirit program is that your miles will expire in just 3 months if you don’t have any new earning on your account (no matter how they’re earned). If you have the credit card, a simple recurring monthly bill can solve this problem — but if you don’t have the card, you really need to watch your miles and use them quickly.

Final Thoughts

Spirit is the airline people love to hate. They charge low fares and then add on costs for everything else you need, including printing boarding passes at the airport and beverages on board. But they’re really not much different from other ultra-low-cost carriers around the world.

Sure, flying with Spirit isn’t the same as the legacy U.S. carriers like American, United, and Delta — but choosing Spirit can really save you a lot of money. The flight experience typically isn’t that bad either, as long as you know what to expect.

By learning about their boarding procedure ahead of time, you are already a step ahead of the other passengers. You’ll be ready to go when you get to the airport, and might even be able to help some other customers understand what’s going on. (If you’ve got other questions relating to Spirit Airlines, check out our Spirit FAQ guide.)

Flying on Spirit Airlines isn’t for everyone, but if you are looking for a cheap way to get from point A to point B and you don’t mind giving up some of the comforts of traditional airlines, Spirit is really a great option that you should look at.

Now that you know how to board, maybe we will see you at the gate!

Featured Image: Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Frequently asked questions

Are Spirit flights assigned seating?

Yes, Spirit Airlines uses assigned seating for all of their flights. If you want to choose your seat, you can pay a fee ahead of time to pick the one you want. Fees vary depending on where on the plane the seat is, with exit rows and other premium seat locations costing more. Passengers who choose not to pay to choose their seat will have a seat randomly assigned to them at check-in.

How many boarding zones are there on Spirit?

Spirit Airlines uses 4 boarding zones for loading their flights. In addition to those 4 numbered zones, Spirit offers pre-boarding to passengers in need of extra assistance and family boarding to families traveling with children 3 and under.

Who is in zone 1 on Spirit?

Boarding zone 1 on Spirit Airlines includes all passengers who have purchased a carry-on bag for the flight. These passengers are allowed to board in the first zone so that all overhead bags will be stowed before the remainder of the plane boards, thus speeding up the overall process.

Who is in zone 2 on Spirit?

Boarding zone 2 on Spirit Airlines includes passengers who purchased Shortcut Boarding, passengers who have VIP or Elite status with Spirit, and Spirit Airlines World Mastercard holders.

Who is in zone 3 on Spirit?

Boarding zone 3 on Spirit Airlines is the first of their general boarding zones, and usually includes passengers seated in the back half of the plane.

Who is in zone 4 on Spirit?

Boarding zone 4 on Spirit Airlines is the second and last of their general boarding zones, and usually includes passengers seated in the front half of the plane.

Who is allowed to pre-board on Spirit?

On Spirit Airlines, passengers with disabilities and passengers who need special assistance are eligible for pre-boarding. If you would like to take advantage of pre-boarding, you should see a gate agent before the boarding process begins.

When can families board on Spirit?

When flying on Spirit Airlines, families traveling with children who are age 3 or under are allowed to board between Boarding zone 2 and Boarding zone 3. Families will be able to board after elite members, credit card holders, and those who have paid for priority boarding, but before general boarding begins.

Jeff Brownson

About Jeff Brownson

Since discovering miles and points in 2010, Jeff has traveled to over 35 countries, flying in first class, business class, and sometimes even in coach. Whether he’s staying in a hostel dorm, or in a luxury suite at a 5 star hotel, Jeff is constantly looking for the best deal to make travel as close to free as possible.

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  1. I’m flying with my two boys ages 8 and 10. I understand seating is assigned randomly. But my question is will we be assigned randomly to a group of seats next to each other, or will we be assigned randomly individually and thus not be expected to sit next to each other?


    • Catherine Luther February 23, 2020

      Hi Javier,

      Spirit says ” we can’t guarantee that you’ll get to sit with your friends or family” so there is a chance you could be seated away from each other with seat selection.


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