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Spirit Airlines Airbus A320 Economy Class Review [IAH to LAS]

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Jessica Merritt
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Jessica Merritt

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A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little ca...
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Airline: Spirit Airlines (NK)
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Flight #: NK1252
Route: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Harry Reid International Airport (LAS), connecting to San José Mineta International Airport (SJC)
Date: May 29, 2024
Duration: 3 hours, 16 minutes
Cabin and Layout: Economy, 178 standard seats and 8 Big Front Seats across 31 rows, 3-3 and 2-2 configurations
Seats: 12D, 7E, 7F, 8B, 8E
Total Paid: $900.80 for 5 tickets (round-trip); $180.16 per ticket

I flew with my family of 5 on Spirit Airlines’ route from Houston (IAH) to Las Vegas (LAS) as part of a round-trip itinerary to the San Francisco Bay Area. This itinerary gave us a last-call run on a couple of benefits I’ve enjoyed but will lose soon: Free Spirit Gold status and Priority Pass restaurant access.

As I’ve come to expect from Spirit, the experience was mildly chaotic but ultimately fine. We arrived at our destination safely and on time, but there wasn’t even a hint of luxury along the way (as you would expect).

Boarding and deplaning were disorderly, we played the seat lottery and lost, and there was no water in the bathroom faucets. Still, we got to where we were going at a great price, and I can’t really complain about that.

Let’s look into how my family’s flight on Spirit Airlines went, from IAH to arriving in Las Vegas for our next flight.

Booking Spirit Airlines

I chose Spirit Airlines for this trip because I planned to pay cash for our 5 tickets and didn’t want to spend more than necessary. I shopped Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, AmexTravel.com, and Chase Travel, and Spirit had the best price for the itinerary we needed.

Frontier was equally priced, but both routes required lengthy layovers in Denver. Spirit, on the other hand, provided a considerably tighter connection in Las Vegas, taking slightly more than 30 minutes. I was anxious we wouldn’t make the connection, but I remembered from previous flights to Las Vegas that Spirit uses the same few gates in a circular gate area, so connecting to my next flight would be simple and quick.

Spirit flight IAH to LAS booking
I took a chance on a tight Las Vegas connection with Spirit, and it was fine! Image Credit: Spirit Airlines

I paid $900.80 for round-trip flights for 5 from Houston to San Jose, California, including taxes and fees. That was just over $90 per person each way, which is what I would consider a good bargain for airfare.

I used The Platinum Card® from American Express to pay for the flights, as it earns 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights purchased directly from airlines or through AmexTravel.com (on up to $500,000 in purchases annually). I earned 4,500 Membership Rewards points for this purchase.

Spirit Airlines Bag and Seat Fees

I have Free Spirit Gold status, which I got by doing a status match from my Hilton Honors Diamond status in 2023. My status was supposed to expire on May 1 but was surprisingly extended until July 31 without notice. This was probably the last flight I’ll take with Spirit Gold status unless it inexplicably gets extended again.

With Free Spirit Gold status, I get to choose nearly any seat for free, including exit rows but not Big Front Seats. I can also bring a carry-on and checked bag for free. Those benefits don’t extend to other passengers traveling with me, but I can register another passenger’s bag as mine or pay for them to sit with me.

Spirit does not guarantee family seating but does try to seat children 13 and under with another adult on the itinerary. Even low-priced $15 seat selections for 4 of us would have added almost $250 if we’d purchased seats for all 4 segments in our itinerary. I didn’t think it was worth it.

My kids are school-age and fairly experienced flyers, so it’s not crucial that we sit right next to each other on short flights like this. We’re comfortable as long as we have a parent who is at least close enough to have eyes and ears on them during the flight.

Skipping fees for seats and bags, the only thing we paid for on this flight was our fares with taxes and fees. We each carried a backpack small enough to count as a personal item, which we brought on the flight for free.

Hot Tip:

Want the best seat on a Spirit flight? Find out how to score a Spirit Big Front Seat for cheap.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

We arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) about 2 hours before our scheduled flight departure and got dropped off at Terminal A. We didn’t have a lot of time to spare, but we did have enough time to get through security and grab some lunch.

Check-In

I’d checked us in online, and we were traveling with personal item-sized backpacks for luggage, so we didn’t need to stop by the check-in desk for bag drop. I was thankful for that because, from what I could see past the extremely long security line, the check-in area was packed.

IAH to LAS Terminal A TSA screening line Spirit side
I’ve stood in a long Terminal A security line like this before — and scheduled my TSA PreCheck appointment shortly after that experience.

Our gate, A18, was on the south side of the terminal, but the TSA PreCheck line was on the north side of the terminal, serving gates A1 to A15, so we headed to the opposite side.

Security

The TSA screening line on the A17 to A30 side was so long it nearly reached the terminal’s entrance doors. The A1 to A15 side we went through wasn’t much better.

IAH to LAS Terminal A TSA screening line
The TSA screening line was almost to the elevators in the middle of the check-in area.

I felt pretty rude walking past all of those people in line, but we spotted the much shorter TSA PreCheck line that we belonged in just past some seats.

IAH to LAS Terminal A TSA screening line continued
I was relieved to see the TSA PreCheck line wasn’t as backed up as the regular security line.

The security lines were split into 3 parts: regular, CLEAR with or without TSA PreCheck, and TSA PreCheck. We veered right to join the TSA PreCheck line. I haven’t gotten CLEAR yet, but it’s on my to-do list.

IAH to LAS Terminal A TSA screening line continued
We got into the TSA PreCheck line.

The CLEAR line was practically nonexistent, but the TSA PreCheck line was a bit longer than usual.

IAH to LAS Terminal A TSA PreCheck screening line
Getting into this line, I was a little worried we wouldn’t have time for a sit-down meal, but IAH TSA got us through quickly.

We got through the line and into the concourse in an impressive 9 minutes — I checked the photo time stamps. A TSA officer chatted with my daughter and offered her a badge sticker while we gathered our backpacks and waited for my husband and sons to get through. That friendly, efficient service is typical of what I’ve experienced at this security checkpoint.

Hot Tip:

I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve® to get a statement credit covering the cost of TSA PreCheck, and I’m always thankful to have it.

Going through the TSA PreCheck line certainly saved us time, but it added steps between us and our gate. We got through security on the A1 to A15 side of the terminal when we needed to be on the A17 to A30 side.

IAH to LAS Terminal A signs
Airside direction signs in Terminal A.

Fortunately, it was only about a 5-minute walk to our next stop near our gate: Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar.

IAH to LAS Terminal A signs
The terminal signs offered estimates for how long it would take to reach the gate area.

We enjoyed some terminal art along the way. It was at this point in our walk that our 2 youngest gave up on carrying their backpacks, so this stretch felt a little lengthier than usual. But we had free guacamole and queso to get to, so we grabbed their bags and powered through.

IAH to LAS Terminal A hallway
There’s always a little time to slow down for art!

Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar

Once we reached the A17 to A30 side of the terminal, we were right where we wanted to be: Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar, just around the corner from our gate area.

IAH to LAS Terminal A lobby
Cadillac Bar is close to the gate area that Spirit uses in Terminal A.

We sometimes hop on the airport train to visit the lounges in Terminal D, but this time, I wanted to do something we wouldn’t get a chance to do again later: eat at a Priority Pass restaurant.

As of July 1, 2024, the Priority Pass Select membership I have with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card no longer offers access to restaurants — and that means no more benefits at Cadillac Bar. We had to enjoy a last round of free Mexican food at the airport!

IAH to LAS Terminal A Cadillac Bar Priority Pass sign
Cadillac Bar’s sign welcomed Priority Pass members that day — but only for a limited time.

My husband is an authorized user of my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, so we both have a Priority Pass Select membership. We each had $56 to use at the restaurant, a total of $112, including credits for ourselves and 2 guests. Quickly checking out the menu, we made our selections.

IAH to LAS Terminal A Priority Pass restaurant Cadillac Bar menu
The menu at Cadillac Bar in Terminal A.

I ordered the Cadillac chicken salad with black beans, corn, tomatoes, and queso fresco. It came with ranch dressing and barbecue sauce and was topped with crispy tortilla strips. I usually go for something covered in melted cheese at this restaurant, but this salad sounded good, and it was. It was filling but not heavy and a perfect pre-flight meal.

IAH to LAS Terminal A Priority Pass restaurant Cadillac Bar chicken salad

My husband got a peach margarita and the Cadillac burrito with spicy beef and queso. I liked the sweet-and-spicy mix of the peach margarita with a Tajin rim. I don’t think either of us has ever had a beef burrito covered in queso that we didn’t like, so that was predictably tasty. We ordered a crispy beef taco plate for our kids to share — but they were really just there for the chips and dips.

IAH to LAS Terminal A Priority Pass restaurant Cadillac Bar tacos and burrito
The Cadillac burrito, peach margarita, and crispy beef tacos at Cadillac Bar.

Everyone wanted a little bit of everything, so we ordered a trio of queso, guacamole, and salsa with chips. The server brought out extra plates for us to split up the tacos and dips, and we all had a great meal.

IAH to LAS Terminal A Cadillac Bar Priority Pass chips sampler
The chips and dips trio at Cadillac Bar.

We went a bit over our $112 combined benefit, and that worked out fine, so we could use a credit card to leave a tip for our server.

I’m so disappointed we’ve lost our Priority Pass restaurant benefit. We particularly enjoy Cadillac Bar, and although we could visit and fully pay for our meal, it just tastes better when most of it’s free with our card benefits.

Moreover, losing the restaurant benefit means we won’t have a Priority Pass option in Terminal A anymore. Terminal C has Minute Suites, and Terminal D has the KLM Crown Lounge, both of which are in the Priority Pass network. However, the KLM Crown Lounge routinely restricts Priority Pass admission, and I’ve only made it in once despite trying to visit for years. It’s not a reliable option, and the Air France Lounge in Terminal D was closed for refurbishment.

Boarding

After a nice farewell meal at Cadillac Bar, we turned the corner to walk to our gate just before boarding time. What we saw was a huge mess of people waiting to board. It was tough to tell, but it seemed like a couple of planes were boarding simultaneously, so there were many people standing around waiting in the walkway. That made for an extremely busy gate area.

IAH to LAS Terminal A gate area
We should have turned around and gotten another margarita — Zone 1 boarding wasn’t worth wading through this!

We got to the gate right at boarding time, and I had Zone 1 boarding — a Free Spirit Gold benefit. Although I later realized the rest of my family had Zone 2 on their boarding passes, the gate agent didn’t hesitate to let us all through together.

At the gate, there was space for 2 lines — Zone 1 and Zones 2 to 4. During preboarding for passengers with disabilities or those who need assistance, the Zone 1 sign was to the left, and the Zones 2 to 4 sign was to the right. Zone 1 passengers lined up on the left, which was the side that seemed appropriate, and Zone 2 passengers gathered on the right.

As soon as preboarding was done and it was time for Zone 1 boarding, a gate agent flipped the zone sign, moving Zone 1 to the right and Zones 2 to 4 to the left. Cue groans from everyone waiting in both lines as we had to get out of our positions and move to the correct sides.

The sign switch was subtle, and not everyone understood what was happening. That led to a lot of passengers asking each other what zone they were in while we crisscrossed, and a few passengers who hadn’t been in line found the opportunity to push past everyone else amid the chaos. Still, everyone was generally polite.

This same sign-flip scene played out on our next flight later that day and on both of our return flights home, so at this point, I’ve come to expect it. We didn’t bother getting in line for our return flights until Zone 1 boarding was underway — I don’t need to be among the first on the plane if it means I have to join a mosh pit before stepping on the jetway.

It’s beyond me why they’d use the sign, let passengers get in line, and then switch it up, adding chaos to an already stressful environment.

IAH to LAS Terminal A Spirit gate
A gate sign switcheroo was just what this crowd needed.

It got a lot easier once we reached the jetway, which hardly had a line at all.

IAH to LAS Spirit jetway
It was mere seconds from scanning our boarding passes to getting on the plane.

The plane door had a Wi-Fi sign to indicate a connection would be available.

IAH to LAS Spirit plane door
The plane was equipped with Wi-Fi.

On Board Spirit Airlines’ Airbus A320

It was quiet and calm once we stepped on board, and we were greeted warmly by a flight attendant at the door.

IAH to LAS Spirit cabin
The mostly empty airplane was a completely different scene than the confused lines of people behind us.

My family settled into rows 7 and 8, and then I headed to my seat in row 11. It wasn’t ideal being separated from them, but it was just a few rows away, and I could still see everyone.

Our seats had my husband and kids within the same 2 rows, with 2 of the seats next to each other. My husband sat next to our youngest, and our 2 oldest had seats in the row behind them.

Las Vegas-bound flights always seem to have a bit of a party vibe, and I happened to share a row with a group of ladies headed there for the first time to celebrate a birthday. We had a great time chatting about some of the fun things to do in Vegas and the surrounding area.

IAH to LAS Spirit seats
Any row can be a party row on a flight to Las Vegas.

The legroom was fine and I had enough room to not cram my knees into the seatback as long as I sat up fairly straight. The seatback pocket was not a pocket but a bungee cord. Nothing about the Spirit Airlines experience is meant to be luxurious, but I find this particular dip in quality amusing. It’s nearly impossible to store anything there without it slipping through, and it’s almost like they made it difficult to use on purpose.

How hard would it have been to put a basic mesh pocket instead?

IAH to LAS Spirit legroom
It was a snug fit with my backpack and water bottle.

I flipped down the tray table, and it was dirty. I tried my best not to come into direct contact with it. I wouldn’t count on using this tray table as a workspace — clean or not — because it was too small for a laptop and didn’t pull forward.

IAH to LAS Spirit tray table
The tiny and dirty tray table.

Food and Beverage

Hardly anything is free on Spirit Airlines — not even a cup of water. But as a Free Spirit Gold member, I got my choice of a complimentary snack and drink from the menu sections marked with a gold “S.”

IAH to LAS Spirit menu
Spirit’s inflight menu with snacks and drinks.

I’ve noticed snack service tends to be very fast on Spirit flights, as most people don’t order anything. When I order a drink, they typically hand me the whole can.

Snack time gave me an opportunity to bring pretzels to my husband and check on the kids, who were happily wrapped up in screen time.

IAH to LAS Spirit Gold status food and beverage
Pretzels for him, Bloody Mary mix for me! I’ll miss this benefit when my status expires.

Amenities

Spirit Airlines is light on amenities, but on this 3-hour flight, Wi-Fi was available for the steep price of $14.99 per device.

Lavatory

The plane had 1 lavatory in the front and 2 more in the back. I visited the front lavatory and it was barebones but clean. There was a changing table above the toilet.

IAH to LAS Spirit lavatory toilet and changing table
The lavatory was clean and had a changing table.

All of the paper products were fully stocked.

IAH to LAS Spirit lavatory napkins
The lavatory had plenty of tissues and paper towels.

When it came time to wash my hands, the water didn’t turn on. I already had soap on my hands and I grabbed one of the towelettes on the counter to clean off. When I stepped out, I told the flight attendants that the sink wasn’t working.

IAH to LAS Spirit lavatory sink
Air travel is not a great time to cut corners on proper hand washing.

They said they were aware of the problem and asked whether I saw the towelettes. I did, but only after I had soap on my hands; in any case, it’s not the most sanitary approach to clean your hands after using the lavatory on a Spirit flight.

Service

The Spirit Airlines staff we encountered were friendly and generally helpful. However, everyone was annoyed when the gate agent switched zone lines at the last moment, and I received a very matter-of-fact response about the lavatory sink lacking water. Still, the crew on our flight to Las Vegas brought fun energy onboard. Every announcement had a joke — sometimes about paying for literally everything extra — and I never saw anything other than a warm smile on the flight attendants’ faces.

Arrival at Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)

As we arrived at LAS, the pilot made an announcement requesting that passengers let those with a tight connection to SJC off first. That was us, and I’d warned my family to be ready to hustle off the plane. Unfortunately, deplaning quickly didn’t work out as well as it could have.

I popped right up and started heading up to collect my family, but had to ask other passengers to let me through. That was fine until I got up to my family and discovered that the first several rows of people ahead of us were in the aisle and not moving. Fine enough, at rows 7 and 8, we’d still get off pretty quickly.

Then, a passenger from further back, making the same connection, started pushing her family through and tried to get around us. I told her we were trying to catch the same flight, but that didn’t stop her from getting in between me and half of my family so they couldn’t get out of their row.

I later had to chase them down to get them to the right gate because we got separated when other passengers didn’t let them through. I guess they thought my new pushy friend was the last of the tight connection group.

However, the gate was conveniently located nearby, allowing us to reach it in time to witness the confusing zone sign switcheroo once more before boarding.

Final Thoughts

This Spirit flight was predictably imperfect and we experienced chaos getting on and off the plane. Complimentary amenities were about as minimal as could be, even lacking water in the lavatory sink, though I appreciated my snack and drink as a Free Spirit Gold member.

We certainly didn’t have a luxurious experience (and didn’t expect one), but we arrived safely without delays and didn’t pay more than we had to. That’s about what I expect when I fly with Spirit.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Spirit a good airline to fly with?

Spirit Airlines ranks low on customer satisfaction scores and has lower on-time arrival rates than legacy carriers. It also has a limited schedule compared to some other airlines. You can get a cheap flight with Spirit, but watch out for add-on fees, and be aware that you may experience delays, poor customer service, or both.

What are the best seats on Spirit Airlines?

The Big Front Seats are the best seats on Spirit Airlines flights. These seats require a premium price.

How do you get the best seat on Spirit without paying?

You’ll have to pay if you want to sit in one of Spirit’s Big Front Seats. However, you can get free seat selection for any other seat on the plane — including exit row seats — if you hold Free Spirit Gold status.

How can I avoid paying baggage fees on Spirit Airlines?

Spirit Airlines doesn’t offer much for free, but you can carry on a personal item, like a small backpack or shoulder bag, at no additional cost. If you’re traveling light, you could get by with just your free personal item. Free Spirit Gold members can carry on and check a bag for free on every flight.

Does Spirit Airlines seat families together?

Spirit Airlines doesn’t guarantee family seating but does try to seat families together. In my experience, we aren’t always seated right next to each other. However, we do typically get seats close enough for supervision, and gate agents may be able to accommodate seat change requests for families with young children at no charge.

Jessica Merritt's image

About Jessica Merritt

A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little cash as possible.

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