Edited by: Juan Ruiz
& Keri Stooksbury
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Airline: Spirit Airlines
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Flight #: NK1679
Route: Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) > George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
Date: May 26, 2023
Duration: 2hr 59min
Cabin and Layout: Spirit Airlines main cabin economy class; 178 standard seats and 8 Big Front Seats across 31 rows, 3-3 and 2-2 configurations
Seats: 12D, 12E
Total Paid: $267.56 for 2 tickets (round-trip)
We see many amazing flights here at Upgraded Points, like Singapore Suites or the Etihad First Class Apartment. Flying Spirit Airlines from Las Vegas to Houston, my experience was significantly less posh than these ultra-luxurious flights. But I didn’t hate it.
Even though I had doubts going into it, my flight with Spirit Airlines was perfectly adequate at a great price, and I picked up some unexpected perks along the way.
Yes, I did really book a flight on Spirit. As a travel writer, I should know better. I do know better.
I hadn’t flown Spirit in a while, and the last time I did, my flight was several hours late and I paid way too much to check a bag.
But as is often the case with Spirit, the price was too good to pass up. So I didn’t, and I gambled on the outcome.
I was on an ultra-cheap trip, visiting Las Vegas for a Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare presentation and staying at the fabulous Hilton Grand Vacations Club Elara Center Strip Las Vegas for a fraction of the usual cost.
I wanted to splurge on food and experiences in Las Vegas, so a quick 3-hour flight was a good compromise for my travel budget. I’d priced out flights from various airlines, including Southwest, which usually has good deals from both Houston-area airports, Hobby (HOU) and Bush Intercontinental (IAH). Spirit had every airline beat by hundreds of dollars.
Most of the fares I observed were priced at more than double the cost of Spirit’s fares. Spirit offers competitive prices that are often lower than those of other airlines. However, it is important to note that there are additional costs associated with flying with Spirit. These include fees for reserving seats, a $10 fee for printing boarding passes, baggage fees, and other charges. Despite these additional expenses, Spirit remains a cost-effective option for many travelers.
My out-the-door cost for 2 round-trip tickets to Las Vegas without any add-ons and after fees was only $267.56. I paid for it with my Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which earns 3x points on travel, including flights.
My plan to bypass all of Spirit’s nonsense fees was to bring snacks and drinks or buy them at the airport, use my phone for our boarding pass, and skip the Wi-Fi.
My husband and I agreed that we could limit our baggage to backpacks — free to carry on as personal items — since we were only in Las Vegas for a few days. I even got out a tape measure to verify that our backpacks were acceptable sizes before I finalized our booking.
We also agreed that it was fine if we didn’t reserve seats. While we’d prefer to sit together, I’m an aisle person, and he prefers a window. Plus, we usually don’t chat much on planes anyway. We could endure a 3-hour flight apart if the seat assignment lottery didn’t place us together.
After booking and committing to my plan to avoid paying for extras like seat selections or bags, fellow Upgraded Points contributor Stella Shon shared a money-saving elite status match offer for Spirit’s Free Spirit loyalty program (now expired).
I qualified for a status match to Free Spirit Gold for $99 with my Hilton Honors Diamond status. Despite my strict no-extras plan, I spent $99 to satisfy my curiosity about elite status with Spirit. I love a good upgrade, even if it’s on Spirit.
My new Free Spirit Gold status got me the following perks:
The Spirit status match was worth it because I got to select my seats without incurring additional fees, check in and carry on a bag, and enjoy inflight snacks. I didn’t need shortcut security because I have TSA PreCheck, but the early boarding was nice, too.
You could argue that these perks reserved for the highest elite status on Spirit mimic the experience you get on some other carriers without needing status. For example, when I fly Southwest, I always get a complimentary seat and yummy snacks, all without having to worry about bag fees. But even with the $99 status match fee, I paid less for my Spirit flight than I would have with Southwest.Hot Tip:
You can carry on a personal item, like a backpack, for free on Spirit. But double-check your bag size, as it must be smaller than 18 x 14 x 8 inches.
One of the features I liked about booking Spirit was the on-time stats for every flight. A common Spirit complaint is delays and cancellations, so it was good to go into the flight knowing we’d have a 27% chance of being more than 30 minutes late. In practice, we arrived right on time.
With Free Spirit Gold status, I could book any available seat for free, except the Big Front Seats. I selected 12D, an exit-row aisle. My status didn’t allow me to select my husband’s seat for free, so we left it to the lottery until we got to the gate. It was just $23 for him to join me in the exit row, so we paid for the upgrade.
All-in, I paid $267.56 for my base fare, $99 to upgrade to Free Spirit Gold, and $23 for my husband’s seat selection. That’s a total of $389.56 for 2 round-trip tickets from Houston to Las Vegas with free bags and free-to-cheap seat selections. I considered it a great deal.
Spirit flies out of the A Gates in Terminal 1 at Harry Reid International Airport (LAS). Our Lyft dropoff was a breeze, and with a digital boarding pass and no bags to check, we headed straight for security.Hot Tip:
Use a digital boarding pass — like the pass you can get using Spirit’s app — so you don’t have to pay to print your boarding pass at the airport.
The TSA PreCheck process was a little weird this time. Instead of a dedicated TSA PreCheck lane from start to finish, as I’ve experienced at other checkpoints, the TSA PreCheck line we used for this flight merged with the regular security line after the ID check.
There was no line to see the TSA agent, and he handed us an “Expedited Screening” slip of paper to show to the agents screening baggage and moving passengers through the metal detectors.
The Expedited Screening paper was supposed to indicate our TSA PreCheck status. However, we were still asked to take off our shoes and remove large electronics and liquids from our bags until I mentioned TSA PreCheck.
We still breezed through security, but it wasn’t nearly as smooth as other TSA PreCheck experiences — including one at a different LAS terminal.
After getting through security, we went right to the gate. Even though we had a lot of time to explore, we were eager to get my husband’s seat assignment at the gate. Once we got to the gate, I took care of my husband’s seat selection while he played a few more slots for the road.
We had a nice view from our gate with the mountains and the Las Vegas Strip in the distance.
We could have visited The Club LAS in Terminal 1 with our Priority Pass membership, but the lounge is in the D Gates satellite concourse, which is a trek — including a tram ride — from the A Gates. Neither of us felt like taking the journey, so we skipped it this time.
We may be more motivated when the Capital One Lounge opens in LAS.
With Free Spirit Gold, I got priority boarding, so I was one of the first passengers on the plane. My husband didn’t get to board at the same time, but it wasn’t long before he joined me. There weren’t many passengers on this flight.
There was some friction in boarding — Spirit seems to invite drama. First, a woman sat in a seat she hadn’t reserved and was asked to move to her correct spot to balance the plane, but this took some time and reasoning due to a language barrier. Then, when asked if they could perform exit row duties, the gentlemen in the exit row beside us declined and were moved to another spot.
The couple seated behind them — not in an exit row — quickly volunteered to perform exit row duties and stood right up to take their place. But the flight attendant told them they’d have to pay for an upgrade, and they quickly sat back down. Always with the fees, Spirit!
With the boarding process complete, we were left as the only passengers in the exit row seats.
The rest of the boarding process was efficient, and we departed right on time.
I selected seats 12D and 12E — exit row seats. My seat selection was free with Free Spirit Gold status, and my husband’s was $23. These weren’t the best seats on the plane — the best were the Big Front Seats in the first 2 rows. But they were the next best thing.
Don’t be too impressed, since our seat was quite basic, even if it was one of the best on the plane. Sure, the leather seat cushions were adequate, and I loved the extra legroom in the exit row, but the seat back pocket was little more than a bungee cord, and the seat back itself was unpadded molded plastic.
But our seats were fine where it really mattered: space. We had enough room for our bags under the seats in front of us. And the seats were comfortable enough for a 3-hour flight.
With the row to ourselves, we got to sit next to each other and still had an open view out of the window.
My expectations for amenities on Spirit were low. You shouldn’t plan on a posh ride when the seat back pocket is a bungee cord. In other words, BYOF (bring your own entertainment) and don’t expect an amenity kit. However, there was Wi-Fi.
You can connect to SpiritWifi.com for free content, including flight progress, connecting flights, destination activities, and booking your next Spirit flight.
Inflight Wi-Fi was $3.99 for web browsing and messaging or $6.99 for streaming.
Spirit doesn’t serve complete meals on its flights, but drinks and snacks were readily available (a complete menu is available online).
Beer and wine started at $9 with liquor at $10 and cocktails at $14.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out I could get a drink and snack for free with my Free Spirit Gold status. I just had to look for the gold-winged S next to the items. Alcoholic drinks weren’t included, but all other drinks were.
Food items included snack boxes ($9) and packaged chips, crackers, and candy ($5).
My status didn’t get me free snack boxes, but I did get a fairly large bag of my husband’s favorite pretzels, so that was a nice perk.
Spirit’s service isn’t as warm or formal as other airlines. It knows you’re not expecting an exceptional experience — just safe travels from point A to point B. That’s what I planned on, and that’s what we got.
Our interactions with Spirit gate agents or flight attendants were cordial and caring but not overly friendly. However, the whole plane was entertained during the final descent announcement when the lead flight attendant encouraged everyone to meet him at Whataburger on Will Clayton Parkway near the airport to buy a round of burgers for the crew.
We arrived right on time, just before midnight in Houston. With few passengers and no checked bags, we quickly deplaned and headed home!
I had fun being a baller on a budget with Spirit. My Free Spirit Gold status got us the best treatment you can expect on Spirit. And more importantly, we got home safely and on time for a meager price.
I can’t say Spirit will be my first choice of airline, but I’ll definitely take a look at my options when it comes up in searches. I probably won’t qualify to roll over Free Spirit Gold past my initial 12-month status match, and I won’t go out of my way to try and make that happen, but I can enjoy my status while it lasts!
It takes about 3 hours to fly from LAS to IAH. Our flight was 2 hours and 59 minutes.
There are 2 Priority Pass locations in LAS. Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 both have The Club LAS locations. However, the Terminal 1 location is at the D Gates satellite concourse, a tram ride away from the A, B, and C Gates.
Baggage fees on Spirit start at $54 for your first checked bag with the Spirit Saver$ Club. Baggage fees vary depending on when you pay for it, whether you’re checking or carrying on, and how much it weighs. The policies can be confusing, so it’s a good idea to check Spirit’s baggage calculator tool.
Free Spirit Gold offers several benefits you’d normally have to pay for on Spirit, including a checked and carry-on baggage allowance, seat selection, and drinks and snacks inflight. My $99 status match paid for itself, and I considered it worth it, but I’m not going out of my way to maintain Free Spirit status.
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