Hi Travel Junkies,
I just got back from a quick weekend trip to Vegas with some friends that featured my first ever flight on Spirit Airlines.
Spirit Airlines Economy Columbus > Vegas
We took our friends, Caleb & Allison with us!
As you may recall, Spirit just launched service to and from Columbus’ John Glenn International in February and partnered with us here at 10xT to promote it by giving away 2 free flight vouchers.
They now offer daily non-stop flights from Columbus to Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando as well as seasonal routes to Ft. Myers, Tampa, Myrtle Beach, and New Orleans.
Spirit also threw in a few vouchers for myself and some friends so naturally we decided to fly to Vegas for the weekend to give them a try.
In full disclosure, the vouchers came with one free checked bag and free seat selection (I was not aware of this until I checked in to my flight). Which is certainly not “normal” for the average Spirit flyer but I did my best to work around it for this review.
Like most travelers, I am very familiar with Spirit’s reputation for hidden fees and frequent delays. Almost everyone I spoke to leading up to the trip warned me about what I was getting myself in to.
But I am happy to report that the trip went off (almost) without a hitch and I was satisfied with my experience. Here’s how it went down.
Check In & Boarding:
The flight from Columbus to Las Vegas was the source of the trip’s only setbacks, which actually occurred prior to us even boarding the plane.
Spirit Airlines Check-in, Columbus
The first had to do with checking in online. Spirit charges $10 to check in and print your boarding pass at the airport, which I was completely unaware of this until I read the check in reminder email.
(I intentionally didn’t do much research on their fees in order to have a more “normal” passenger experience)
Spirit’s email was very up front about their check in and baggage fees
Which is not a problem, as I generally check in online anyway.
However, I was unable to do so this time due to the website crashing every time I put in my reservation info. This happened multiple times throughout the day on both a laptop and mobile device.
I was only able to check in after downloading the Spirit Airlines mobile app and plugging my information in on there.
Annoying, but eventually I was able to get it to work.
Checking in at the airport was no different than it is with any other major domestic carrier. Spirit has the new self-tagging kiosks and I found them very easy and intuitive to operate. The entire process took less than 60 seconds.
Spirit Airlines Check-in Counter
They also had multiple agents available who were more than happy to help other passengers who didn’t find the machines to be as intuitive.
Spirit charges variable prices for checked bags and carry-ons depending on the length of your flight and when you purchase this “add on” feature. You can check the prices for any of their flights on their website.
Sample of Spirit’s baggage fees for Columbus > Las Vegas
The price per bag is lowest if you pay at booking, a little higher if you pay before or during check in, and higher yet if you pay at the airport or at the gate.
As I mentioned earlier, Spirit covered one checked bag for each of our tickets. For this particular flight we would have had to pay $50 per checked bag and $55 per carry-on had we done so at the airport.
I also was interested in upgrading to Spirit’s “Big Front Seat” for the ~4 hour flight to Vegas if any were still available. Which is where the second setback of my trip occurred.
For those not familiar with it, Spirit’s Big Front Seat is comparable to domestic first class on any other major airline. It’s nothing over-the-top, but the seats are significantly larger than the economy options and can often be had for ~$25-$150 on top of your standard ticket fare. Which is a great deal in my book.
Spirit’s “Big Front Seat”
So naturally I was pretty excited when I scrolled down and saw this on the bottom of my check in reminder email.
My Spirit check in reminder mentioned that I had booked a Big Front Seat
However, when I downloaded my boarding pass I saw that I was assigned to seat 4A. Which is a standard economy seat.
I asked the ticketing agent to confirm that I had been assigned to a Big Front Seat and she informed me that I had, and that they would work it out at the gate.
But after arriving at the gate I was told that I would indeed be flying in seat 4A. With no option to upgrade.
Spirit Airlines economy seat 4A
*Sad Trombone Noise*
This would have been completely fine with me had I not gotten my hopes up (and subsequently texted my friends to share the good news). But I was very disappointed to have been informed of the upgrade only to have it taken away.
The good news is that Spirit assigned all of us to the same row. Which again is not typical; other passengers would have had to pay $35 per seat to do the same.
Anyway, we boarded the plane and took our assigned seats in row 4. The one positive to flying an airline with steep carry-on fees is that few people pay the fee and boarding moves quickly. The flight was almost entirely full and boarding was completed in about 20 minutes.
Spirit Airlines Economy Seats
The seat was like just about every other domestic economy seat I have flown in with the exception that it did not recline. Which I am totally fine with, having both feet firmly planted in the “you-should-never-recline-your-seat-on-a-domestic-economy-flight-unless-its-a-redeye” camp.
The flight departed on time and service began shortly after we reached cruising altitude.
Spirit doesn’t offer complimentary drinks or snacks while on board, which meant that many people opted not to order anything in favor of bringing their own snacks.
Spirit Airlines in-flight menu
But not me. I was determined to provide the most thorough review I possibly could.
So it is with you in mind, dear 10xT Reader, that I decided to order 2 of the famed BuzzBallz Ready-to-Drink Cocktails along with some chips & salsa.
BuzzBalls are featured prominently on the menu (P.S. Their copywriter is a genius)
BuzzBallz and Chips, the Dinner of Champions
I was also curious to see what my accountant thinks of claiming BuzzBallz as a business expense. Stay tuned for that outcome.
I went with the Ginger Mule and the Mile High Lemonade. The former was drinkable, the latter was….passed across the aisle to my wife after one sip. She seemed to enjoy it.
And the chips and salsa were chips and salsa.
Service was fast and attentive. The flight attendants were friendly and somewhat “playful” in a way that you don’t see on many of the larger US based carriers.
For example, when I asked a flight attendant if I could use the restroom prior to takeoff she answered “sure, that’ll be $1,000 though” with a coy smile before letting me pass.
The last time I experienced that type of friendliness from a flight attendant on another major domestic carrier not named Southwest was, well, never.
The Flight Home:
Our flight from Las Vegas to Columbus was a red-eye scheduled to depart Vegas at 11:59pm for a 6:55am arrival in Columbus.
Which sounded like torture when I first booked it but ended up being strangely convenient.
There was no traffic on the way to McCarran Airport in Vegas, no line to check in or get through security, and the airport was completely devoid of the usual “it’s Sunday morning in McCarran and everyone literally looks like a zombie” crowd. With the exception of myself.
McCarran Airport passenger drop off on a Saturday night
McCarran Airport Security at 11pm on a Saturday night
I fell asleep before takeoff and didn’t wake up until the wheels hit the ground in Columbus. Which was exactly what I was going for, but leaves very little for me to write about.
The flight also arrived more than 40 minutes early. How that happens is beyond me, but I was stoked to be in my own bed before my flight was scheduled to land.
Overall I have to say that flying on Spirit Airlines exceeded my expectations. I went in to this trip expecting a completely no-frills experience that was loaded with tons of hidden fees and bottom-tier service.
What I found was friendly service, easy-to-understand fees (that can be mitigated with a small amount of planning), and an overall comfortable travel experience.
Sure, the flight itineraries aren’t ideal.
But for the cost, even when factoring in fees, I would absolutely consider flying Spirit Airlines again.
P.S. Special thanks to Johnny at King of Clubs Las Vegas for hooking us up with the Penthouse Suite at the Venetian.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.