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20 Frequently Asked Questions About Flying Spirit Airlines

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James Larounis
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James Larounis

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...
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Spirit Airlines is one of several U.S. ultra-low-cost carriers, but with a restrictive fare model and no-frills planes, it’s not necessarily for everyone.

There are many complexities and restrictions that many travelers aren’t aware of when booking Spirit tickets, since its tickets only include the bare bones. So we’re here to look in depth at some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to flying Spirit Airlines. These include:

  • How the airline operates
  • How the ticketing process works
  • Ticketing restrictions
  • Ticketing fees and how to avoid them
  • Seating options

Let’s dive right in.

1. What Is Spirit Airlines, and What Is Its Basic Business Model?

Spirit is an American ultra-low-cost airline that operates flights in the U.S., the Caribbean, Latin America, and South America.

The airline is headquartered in Miramar, Florida, with hubs in Atlanta (ATL), Atlantic City (ACY), Chicago (ORD), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Detroit (DTW), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), Miami (MIA), and Orlando (MCO).

It has a fleet size of about 200 aircraft that fly to more than 80 destinations worldwide, primarily within North America. The company slogan is “Less Money. More Go.”

As of 2023, Spirit Airlines has the following aircraft:

  • Airbus A319-100
  • Airbus A319neo (on order)
  • Airbus A320-200
  • Airbus A320neo
  • Airbus A321-200
  • Airbus A321neo (on order)

2. Why Is Spirit Airlines Considered Ultra-Low-Cost?

Spirit Airlines offers great deals and incredibly low-priced air tickets to its customers — there’s no secret about that. The base fare can be as low as $29, sometimes even lower.

How does can it afford to sell fares for so low? In March 2007, Spirit changed its fare model by removing amenities (which inflate the base ticket price on other carriers). Spirit charges a low base fare, and customers must pay for carry-ons, drinks, food, seats with additional legroom, and baggage. The more amenities included, the more a ticket costs.

So, to capture its market, Spirit reduces the cost of a ticket and lets passengers buy all ancillary items, like seat selection or checked luggage, separately. This enables the carrier to earn extra revenue while posting fares much lower than traditional legacy carriers.

Spirit Airlines Plane In Flight
Image Credit: Markus Mainka via Shutterstock

3. Do I Have to Purchase a Seat on Spirit Airlines?

You must purchase a ticket to fly on any of Spirit’s flights. The base fare is usually between $29 to $39 for cheaper tickets, though it could cost less or much more. Seats are assigned randomly at check-in — specific seat selection is not included in your ticket price unless you pay extra for it in advance.

That means there’s no guarantee that you’ll get to sit with family and friends unless you pay to choose seats. So if you are traveling with companions, take your time to read the Spirit Airlines policies, and purchase seats ahead of travel.

Bottom Line: Seat selection isn’t included with your ticket on Spirit, so you’ll need to pay more if you want to choose where to sit.

4. Can I Purchase a Seat Assignment While I Book My Ticket?

Yes, though Spirit considers this an á la carte option. To choose a seat you want, you have to pay for seat assignment, starting at $5.

You can also pick what’s known as a Big Front Seat, which is essentially a first-class-style seat, though with fewer perks. This upgrade starts at around $40. A Big Front Seat has 32% more legroom and no middle seat — prime real estate!

To view the seat prices for a specific flight, check the Seat page when booking online. You can also look under My Trips or the Online Check-in page within 24 hours of departure.

Spirit Airlines A320 Cabin Interior
Image Credit: Spirit

5. How Can I Book My Flight and Get My Boarding Pass?

Visit spirit.com for the quickest way to book your flight and get your boarding pass for free.

Start by signing in with your credentials. If you do not have an account, create one (it’s called a Free Spirit account). This only takes a few minutes; you can log in and print your pass at home.

Once you have created an account and signed in, select the Book tab. The page will display the following options:

  • Round-trip, one-way, or multi-city
  • Departure and return location
  • Departure and return dates
  • Number of adults and children

After you add the required details, click Search Flights. You’ll see results on the page, where you can book your flight. If you have a promo code, the website lets you to enter it at checkout.

Once you finish the process, you can print your boarding pass. This is also a good time to buy a seat assignment, since these options are less expensive online than in person at the airport.

6. Can I Print My Boarding Pass at the Airport?

Yes, Spirit Airlines has simple self-service kiosks where you can purchase tickets and print boarding passes in minutes. (If you need assistance, there are customer service agents nearby.) You should complete your check-in or purchase of tickets at least 1 hour before departure.

Boarding passes are available at the check-in counter, but customers will be charged $10 to print a single boarding pass. So if you want to save, print your boarding pass at home.

Bottom Line: When it comes to Spirit bookings or boarding passes, avoid talking to a human if you don’t want to pay extra! At the airport, there are significant fees even to do simple tasks.

7. Who Can’t Check in Online To Fly With Spirit?

Here is a list of travelers who may not be able to complete check-in online:

  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Travelers with a lap infant
  • Travelers with a military ID and no passport
  • Non-U.S. citizens traveling from outside the U.S.
  • Travelers who have purchased special items or extra seats
  • Travelers who have made a group reservation of 10 or more
  • Travelers with pets or service animals

These guests are required to check in at the airport counter. Unlike others who will be charged $10 when printing boarding passes at the airport, the guests listed above will have the $10 fee waived.

8. Can I Travel With an Infant on My Lap?

Yes, you are allowed to travel with an infant on your lap. Before departure, you should check in with Spirit staff. Spirit Airlines provides the following guidelines when it comes to traveling with an infant:

  • Adult travelers (ages 15 and up) can carry 1 child per lap
  • Infants under 7 days old or requiring life support systems like an incubator are not allowed to board (as is the case with most airlines)
  • Car seats are not allowed in the emergency exit rows or any row close to the emergency exit
  • Child car seats and lap children are not allowed to occupy seats with inflatable seatbelts
  • You can add a lap child when booking online

Fees and taxes are applicable when an infant accompanies you. The amount charged depends on the destination.

9. Can Unaccompanied Minors Travel on Spirit Airlines?

Unaccompanied minors can travel alone, but only on domestic direct flights (within the U.S., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico). They cannot travel unaccompanied on international flights, domestic flights where an aircraft change is scheduled, or connecting flights.

During flights, unaccompanied minors are taken care of by the airline staff. They will be offered snacks and beverages for a fee, just like any passenger. Unlike most legacy carriers, Spirit will not help children with gate transfers in connecting cities.

Here are the guidelines guests should follow when booking flights for unaccompanied minors:

  • Inform Spirit Airlines staff that you are booking an unaccompanied minor
  • Check in at the gate together with the minor at least 1 hour before departure
  • Request a gate pass when dropping off the child (available at the reservation counter)
  • Guests must accompany the child to the gate and remain within the gate area until the flight takes off (about 15 minutes after boarding)
  • Unaccompanied minors will be released to the person indicated on the unaccompanied minor form or to a Spirit Airlines employee

10. Can I Cancel or Change My Flight Reservation?

Yes, but you will be charged a fee if it’s too close to the flight date. Here are the current cancellation and change charges:

SCROLL FOR MORE
Days from DepartureFee Amount
0 to 6 days from departure$119
7 to 14 days from departure$99
15 to 59 days from departure$69
60+ days from departureFree

Customers who purchase Flight Flex can change their ticket for free up to 24 hours before departure.

Spirit Airlines allows changes or cancellation requests to be made up to 1 hour before departure. If you cancel your reservation 0 to 60 days before departure, any remaining balance is issued as credit. If you cancel via Spirit’s Airlines online portal, you will be issued a $10 voucher (one-way) applicable on future travels, provided the reservation charge is less than the cancellation fee.

To make changes or cancel yourself, sign in to your account and click My Trips. If you prefer not to do it yourself, you can text 48763 or 855-728-3555 on WhatsApp, direct message Spirit on social media, call 855-728-3555, or speak to a Spirit agent at the airport. You can also visit the reservations desk, but may be charged for this service.

You can learn more about canceling in this post: How To Cancel a Spirit Airlines Flight [Points or Cash Ticket].

Bottom Line: Canceling or changing a ticket can cost you (at least $39 if you do it online). 

11. Can I Change My Name on a Spirit Reservation?

Yes, you’re allowed to change a name that’s misspelled by a few characters. Doing so is free of charge. To change your misspelled name, contact Spirit Airlines’ customer support team.

You can also request a change of your legal name, though you must provide reasons for the change and supporting documents (like a divorce decree, marriage license, or court order). You can request a name change online. Visit spirit.com/help — at the bottom, you should find an option to attach your documents.

If you need to change your contact information, date of birth, passport number, or gender, contact the Spirit’s reservations center or email the customer support team. Remember to have copies of your legal documents.

Spirit Airlines Airplane Tail
Image Credit: Ken Wolter via Shutterstock

12. Can I Travel With My Mobility Aid or Wheelchair on Spirit?

Yes, Spirit Airlines accepts mobility aids and wheelchairs for travelers. You can carry these devices onto your flight at no charge. To check your mobility aid or wheelchair, visit the ticket or gate counter.

If you’re traveling with a battery-powered mobility aid or wheelchair, we recommend arriving at the airport 2 hours before departure to ensure it’s handled properly. Officials at the ticket counter will recommend that you carry any detachable items like footrests or seat cushions on board yourself. If this is not an option, they may be stowed in the cargo bin.

To make your check-in process fast and smooth, Spirit requests that guests provide the airport crew with written instructions on handling the wheelchair or mobility aid and recommends bringing your user manual. You can also fill in a mobility aid information form.

13. What Are Spirit’s Baggage Fees?

Spirit Airlines allows travelers to check in with 1 personal item the size of a small box (such as a small backpack, handbag, or purse). These items are included in your base fare, so you will not be charged extra. However, Spirit will charge for extra baggage and some personal items.

If you plan on carrying extra luggage, check in online before departure! The charge for your extra items will be lower if you add them when booking your flight than if you wait and do it at the airport. Fees for carry-on bags start at $31.

Hot Tip: Prepay your bags when you purchase your trip to reduce expenses incurred at the airport.

Personal items allowed by Spirit’s airport crew at no charge include cameras, assistive devices, umbrellas, coats, wraps, hats, and books. Head and neck pillows are allowed, but they must fit inside your backpack or bag.

There’s a common misconception that true low-cost carriers such as Spirit don’t allow small personal items on board — which is why we’re so thorough in mentioning everything you can and cannot bring with you.

Bottom Line: If you’re carrying on a bag (non-personal item), you could pay north of $50.

14. Where Can I Check the Size and Weight Limits for Bags?

Spirit Airlines allows personal items or backpacks under 18 x 14 x 8 inches, including wheels and handles.

The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 22 x 18 x 10 inches. If your carry-on is too big to be stowed safely in the cargo bin, you must check it (and pay extra).

For checked bags, it’s a maximum of 62 total linear inches (the sum of the height, width, and depth, in inches) and 40 pounds. Bags weighing over 40 pounds are charged more because they require special handling, and extra weight means the plane has to use more fuel during flight. Bags over 100 pounds cannot be accepted.

Certain regions, such as South America, have additional baggage restrictions, so be sure to check the Spirit website before you go to the airport.

Hot Tip: If you’re planning to travel with a checked or carry-on bag, make sure to check it online! Doing so at the airport will cost more.

15. Can I Carry My Personal Dialysis Machine, Insulin Device, or Other Medical Devices on Board?

Yes, Spirit Airlines allows you to carry a portable dialysis machine on board at no extra cost, and it doesn’t count toward your baggage allowance. Your device should not exceed 22 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches.

Although Spirit allows you to carry on these medical devices, it prohibits using the machine during the flight. The planes do not have compatible electrical plugs to charge or power medical devices.

Passengers are welcome to carry insulin on board, but it’s recommended that guests inform airline staff about the insulin before boarding. Insulin is normally stored in special bags aboard the flight for safekeeping.

Like other medical devices, insulin will not incur a fee during check-in. However, if your insulin is in a bag together with other personal items (like socks, electronics, and clothing), you might owe a fee for the other personal items if the weight exceeds the recommended limit.

For more information about traveling with insulin and other medical assistive devices, check the TSA website.

16. Can I Carry My Sports Equipment on Board?

It depends. You can carry some sports equipment on your flight. All checked sports equipment, such as hockey sticks, tennis racquets, and others, are charged just like a standard checked bag and stored in the hold. The sports equipment should be secured inside a bag. Spirit will charge you for a separate bag if they are not packed securely in the bag.

Spirit Airlines only permits non-battery-operated and non-motorized skateboards. Electric or battery-operated skateboards and other sports equipment cannot be checked (batteries can contain hazardous materials that can endanger other travelers and the plane).

Sports items not within the normal carry-on dimensions will be checked in the hold, and you will be charged a checked baggage fee.

17. Can I Fly With a Musical Instrument?

Musical instruments such as ukuleles, violins, guitars, cellos, accordions, saxophones, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and bass guitars are considered fragile. To prevent damage, pack your musical instruments in a case.

Instruments are charged like any other checked bag, meaning you’ll have to pay the checked bag price and any overweight charges. You must also sign a release form before departure that relieves Spirit of liability for damage or loss of the musical instrument.

18. What Is the Spirit Saver$ Club? How Do I Join, and What Are the Benefits?

Distinct from the Free Spirit program, Spirit has a program called the Spirit Saver$ Club (formerly known as the $9 Fare Club). This club offers benefits, including discounted fares, baggage fees, seats, and time-saving options for a fee of $69.95 for 12 months, $99.90 for 18 months, or $129.90 for 24 months. You could offset the membership fee above in as little as 1 booking, so the savings are potentially significant!

To join the Spirit Saver$ Club, you are required to register online and submit the following details:

  • First, middle, and last name
  • Date of birth
  • Email address
  • Password
  • Contact information

You’ll also have to provide your billing information. Spirit Airlines accepts major credit cards and other popular payment systems, and your membership is renewed each year automatically unless canceled.

Benefits of joining the Spirit Saver$ Club include:

  • Exclusive discounted fares for yourself and up to 8 additional guests
  • Up to 50% off on checked and carry-on bags for you and up to 8 additional guests
  • Your entire party will save on every seat, including the Big Front Seat and exit rows
  • Save on elements like Shortcut Security, Shortcut Boarding, and Flight Flex
  • Exclusive offers with Spirit partners
  • Discounted seats, shortcut security, and shortcut boarding
Spirit Airlines Flight Attendants
Image Credit: Spirit Airlines

19. What Is the Free Spirit Frequent Flyer Program?

Free Spirit is a free rewards program created by Spirit Airlines to reward its customers for flying Spirit on an ongoing basis. To join the program, you must fill out a membership form with the following details:

  • First, middle, and last name
  • Date of birth
  • Email
  • Password
  • Contact information

A welcome email with your account information is sent to your inbox if registration is successful. Alternatively, you can become a Free Spirit member when you book your first flight.

Benefits of the Free Spirit Program include:

You can book and manage your flight reservation using Spirit Airlines mobile app on Apple or Android. If you have questions about bookings and managing your reservations within the program, call Spirit Airlines at 801-401-2222.

20. How Can I Save by Booking a Spirit Ticket at the Airport?

Strangely enough, you can save upwards of $19 per ticket if you book at the airport. This is the opposite of most of Spirit’s policies, where speaking to someone at the airport incurs a fee.

Because airlines must pay a federal excise task on base fares, Spirit tries to avoid paying this tax by adding an $18.99 passenger usage fee to tickets booked over the phone or online. This fee is not a tax and is included in most online and phone booking scenarios. In this way, Spirit can increase what is essentially the fare of the ticket so it doesn’t incur the additional tax.

Because the fee is only applied to online or phone bookings, you can avoid this $18.99 charge by booking at the airport. When you arrive at the airport, speak to a customer service representative to get around paying this nuisance fee.

When you get to the counter, let them know your preferred travel dates and routing, and they’ll price out the itinerary for you, less the $18.99 fee. While this does save you money on your ticket cost, you need to weigh the cost of driving to the airport and getting this done, which could be more expensive than just paying the fee at home.

Bottom Line: It may sound counterintuitive, but booking a ticket at the airport can save you money.

Final Thoughts

There are many nuances to booking Spirit tickets, but with a little know-how, it’s easy to figure things out and save a few bucks. Spirit can save you a ton of money when you travel, and understanding its processes and policies will help you maximize the experience and not overpay.

The information regarding the Free Spirit® Travel Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Spirit Airlines baggage fees?

Spirit Airlines allows travelers to check in with 1 personal item the size of a small box (such as a small backpack, handbag, or purse). These items are included in your base fare, so you will not be charged extra fees.

However, Spirit will charge for extra baggage and some personal items. If you plan on carrying extra luggage, check in online before departure! The charge for your extra items will be lower if you add them when booking your flight than if you wait and do it at the airport. Fees for carry-on bags run north of $25.

Do you have to choose a seat with Spirit?

You do not have to select a seat. If you choose not to, you will be assigned one at random. If you do want to select your seat, you’ll have to do it in advance and pay extra.

What is the Spirit Saver$ Club? What happened to the $9 Fare Club?

Distinct from the Free Spirit program, the Spirit Saver$ Club (formerly known as the $9 Fare Club), launched in 2021. This club offers benefits like discounted fares, baggage fees, seats, and time-saving options for a fee of $69.95 for 12 months, $99.90 for 18 months, or $129.90 for 24 months. The new benefits, compared to the $9 Fare Club, are the discounted seats and time-saving options.

Does Spirit Airlines have a credit card?

Spirit Airlines partners with Bank of America, the issuer of its co-branded credit cards. You will earn Spirit Airlines points directly with the Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard® and Free Spirit® Travel Mastercard®.

Does Spirit have an awards chart?

Redemptions start at 2,500 points and are dynamically priced. When searching for your flight on spirit.com, select Points as your payment type to see the total points required.

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About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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