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Last fall my parents put on their backpacks, packed lightly, took a shot of whiskey (or Coke), and bravely went were no Mommy Points family member had gone before…on a Spirit Airlines flight. Since there is a (understandable) shortage of reviews of Spirit within the miles and points community, I had them share their experiences here. The short story is, it wasn’t great, but it was very cheap, and wasn’t that bad. Now they are again braving the skies via Spirit thanks to a promo in Houston where Spirit gave away 25,000 miles to anyone who took the time to show up and wait in line.
Naturally I wanted to know if their first decent experience was a fluke, so they were nice enough to share their thoughts on their second trip using the airline everyone loves to hate, Spirit.
You survived once without any major setbacks, what made you brave enough to try your luck with Spirit a second time?
Our second flight on Spirit was again a roundtrip Houston to Las Vegas trip. The trip was based primarily on seeing Elton John at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace. We are mid sixty-somethings that appreciate live entertainment, but had never seen nor heard Sir Elton in concert (a.k.a., a “Bucket List” item). We looked on his concert date calendar and chose a date that would work and booked the concert and the flight. We go to Vegas with some frequency so we did not need much extra sightseeing, strip-walking, sport-booking and slot-playing time on this 48 hour whirlwind. Look, I’m not the only crazy one in the family who does these turn-around trips!
Okay, so you wanted to go back to Vegas. You have plenty of miles in plenty of programs, why did you chose Spirit again?
We chose Spirit because we had some miles/points with them that we needed to use before they expired, and because of the nature of our trip, we could fly during some of Spirit’s non-peak hours. Since I have the Spirit credit card, the two of us were able to fly round trip for 10,000 total miles plus about $85.00. Let me re-emphasize that. They got two round trip tickets for a total of 10,000 points + $85 for two…that is why you fly Spirit.
How were the flights?
Because of Spirit’s limited presence, most all flights leaving from Houston Intercontinental use the same gate. This can make for a crowded waiting area when Spirit has back to back flights scheduled. Spirit has a quick turn around on their flights, and consequently you can have two sets of aircraft passengers waiting almost simultaneously at the same gate. In Las Vegas it seems as though there were a couple of active gates, but the crowd was pretty extensive there, too.
Our outbound flight boarded a little late, but quickly, as it was only 60-70% of capacity and very few items go into the overhead bin due to the carry on baggage fee of $35 – $100 (depending on when you pay for your carry-on). As a result, the flow of traffic was good. We did not pay to pre-select seats or have any baggage fees. Even still, our seats were together in the rear of the aircraft. We packed using back packs that fit under the seats in front of us. Because the flight was not full, passengers were advised they could move to the empty seats in the cabin if they so desired. The flight was uneventful and arrived in Vegas a little early.
The return flight boarded and left on time and also arrived a little early. This flight seemed to be slightly over half full so there were plenty of seating options available. Once again, we did not preselect/pay for seat assignments, and our seats were together. My biggest complaint about either leg of our journey was the trash that littered the gate waiting area at McCarren Airport in Las Vegas. I contacted Spirit about this situation, and they responded that the appropriate personnel would be notified.
Where did you stay in Vegas? Did you score any great deals on your hotel room?
We stayed at Harrah’s in an updated room for about $50.00 a night all-in. We booked before the mandatory resort fees went into effect, so we saved about $20.00 per night. Resort fees are very strange creatures and are very widespread. I do not know of any real tangible consumer value received for this extra add-on fee. I hope some hotel/casinos eventually kick this fee to the curb as an enticement to lure disgruntled tourists to their property.
What about transportation – did you rent a car?
We rented a Toyota Corolla from Advantage for our excursions. It is normally our pattern to book the lowest available rate 4-6 weeks before our scheduled trips. We then recheck rates weekly for better deals (I need to teach them about AutoSlash, though they seem to do well on their own). The day before our departure the base rates dropped to $10 a day, so we re-booked at the lower rate. In my experience, Advantage and Payless have become consistent lowest cost car rental outlets since Hertz sold Advantage to buy out Dollar and Thrifty.
How was the short Vegas trip and Sir Elton?
Our trip was fun and worthwhile. Elton John was outstanding, as was the venue. We were in the upper mezzanine and our tickets were about $100 each. The seats offered a good visual and audio experience.
We always try to include some side trips to our Vegas stays. This year we revisited the Neon Boneyard Museum. It has been updated and refined since we first toured it five years ago. It is a unique historical salute to Vegas signage. The entrance fee was less than $20 a person for about a 45 minute guided tour.
We also drove out to Mt. Charleston and the Las Vegas Ski Area. This is about a 40 minute drive to the west of the city. It is somewhat of a contradictory juxtaposition to have The Strip and ski runs in the same geographic area. What a contrast and pleasant diversion! The drive is easy on a new freeway and good roads from the valley floor at 2000 ft., through the high desert to the 9000 ft. mountains environment, and ultimately to the almost 12,000 ft. mountain peaks. On the way back to Vegas, we stopped to take a few pictures of the desert showing its springtime flowers. The colors, as usual, are subtle but impressive.
What was the grand total for this trip?
Flights: Two people for a total of 10,000 Spirit miles + $85
Hotel: Two nights on the strip in an updated room at Harrah’s for $100 all-in
Rental car: $20 + taxes
Elton John tickets: Two for $100 each
A chance to see this legend in person, priceless….or at least extremely affordable by using miles and shopping around for solid hotel and car rental deals.
Any final thoughts now that you are veteran Spirit travelers?
To sum this adventure up, Spirit again worked for us. If you have not flown Spirit, but are a seasoned traveler, you will notice some differences in your normal airline and Spirit. You will see a very diverse cultural and economic representation. There are more families. No doubt most people use Spirit because it can often offer the lowest base airfares. It is certainly not fancy or elite. It is very pedestrian and utilitarian. It is more spartan than comfort. It is more Old Navy than Banana Republic. The rows of seats are a little closer to each other, so your legroom is a little more restricted. There are no complimentary drinks or snacks. You have to be a little tougher mentally and physically.
Any airline can have cancellations, delays and problems. We have all experienced them. It is a risk with Spirit that such an inconvenience might result in a more involved and lengthy wait as it does not have as many backup aircraft and local resources at its disposal. It is important to be an informed and prepared traveler so that you can make the best choices for you and your family. Spirit is not for every occasion and not for every flyer. It is, however, an option that may allow travel when travel may otherwise not be possible or practical. Or it might open up a travel adventure that would not have otherwise been taken. It has for us, and hopefully will again in the future.