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I know that Spirit Airlines is a four letter word in the miles and points community. It is basically the antitheses of everything that many people who earn miles and points typically want. However, last time I checked, they still fly airplanes that get from Point A to Point B at very low fares and even lower mileage prices. Many people may be too good for Spirit, but I’m not. Here’s why.
How did my family get involved with Spirit?
My parents (without my knowledge) got the Spirit Airlines credit card about a year ago on a Spirit Airlines flight. I don’t remember exactly how many miles they got from the sign-up, but I do know that having the card enables them to book Spirit Airlines flights for 2,500 miles each way. Not 25,000 each way. Just 2,500 each way on certain routes during off-peak times. That is a crazy deal that is unmatched by any other type of airline mile I know of.
They started off with some Spirit miles when they were giving them away for free in Houston, and then added to it with the credit card. They wrote a trip report for me after their first Spirit experience, and haven’t looked back. Honestly, they have been using the heck out of this 2,500 miles each-way deal by taking many trips out west, including a current trip all around Utah.
They are on a fixed budget, don’t care at all if flights aren’t fancy, and have a flexible enough schedule to work around availability issues. Their one Spirit Airlines credit card sign-up bonus plus the free miles given away in Houston have resulted in many free trips. The current sign-up bonus is 15,000 miles which would be enough for 3 round trip off-peak tickets. As a bonus, this card is issued by Bank of America, so you may be able to get it more than once.
Why I would fly Spirit
My husband has a work conference coming up in Vegas, and we got the idea of me joining him for one night. A quick check of other airlines showed that nonstop flights were pricing at around $700 round trip. I love my husband, and I love Vegas, but I’m not going for anywhere near $700. Some flights with less desirable times could have been had for $400-$500 RT. That wasn’t going to happen either. However, I remember all of the massive success my parents have had in redeeming Spirit miles from Houston to Vegas. I asked if they could spare some miles, and since my dad is a Spirit credit card holder, we were able to book my ticket back from Vegas for just 2,500 Spirit miles for a direct flight at a desirable time from their account. The outbound flight time didn’t work for me, so I did purchase that ticket on another carrier.
I am well aware that there are some risks in flying Spirit in the event of irregular operations since they don’t really operate many other flights to change you to, and aren’t keen on putting you on another carrier. However, I am willing to take a little risk in that regard in order to save a substantial amount of cash for this particular trip. Worst case scenario I’m sure I could use United miles or Southwest points to get home.
Spirit award chart
Spirit does have an award chart that is a bit confusing since there are Off-Peak, Standard, and Peak pricing times. There are also Premium awards available at all times that cost even more. There are also four different zones in terms of pricing awards. You can look at their award chart here. You have to have and use their co-branded credit card in order to have access to the off-peak pricing option.
From Houston, we could fly to places like Las Vegas, Orlando, and Chicago, and Denver for as low as 2,500 miles each way during the off-peak dates as they are all in “Region 1″. Obviously that isn’t going to get you everywhere, but if those were locations on your travel wish list, you have date flexibility, and you are okay without any on-board frills, then this really can be a very solid opportunity. The card earns 2 miles per dollar spent, so for every $1,250 you charge you are getting a free one-way flight. Again, that is a return that is virtually unmatched.
The flights with the blue triangle in the corner are dates that have off-peak availability for 2,500 miles for this Zone 1 route (Houston – Las Vegas).
Fees, fees, fees
Be aware that Spirit charges extra for virtually everything. You want a seat assignment? That’ll cost. You want to carry-on a roller bag? That’ll cost. You didn’t know that until you got to the gate? That’ll really cost you. You want a Coke on-board? That’ll cost. However, if you travel with a backpack, are okay with the seat lottery (my parents have always been assigned seats together), and bring your own soda then you are good to go and can avoid those fees. They do allow you to check one stroller and one car seat per child at no extra cost to you at the ticket counter. Do be aware that most award tickets will be hit with a $15 fee for requesting the award ticket between 21 and 179 days prior to departure. You have to book more than 180 days out to avoid that fee, and the fee gets higher within 21 days.
You also have to really stay on top of your miles as they will expire when an account becomes inactive for a period of 3 months or more. An “inactive” account is one that has no miles credited to it from any source during the preceding 3 months. If you have and use the co-branded Spirit Airlines credit card each month you can prevent this expiration from happening. This is what my dad has been doing, but that level of diligence likely won’t work for everyone.
Is it for you?
Odds are, no. There are so many people who have had bad experiences with Spirit, and there are so many rules and potential fees that the odds are against it being for any given reader of this site. However, it probably is a good thing to consider for a few of you. You need to spend some time look at the award prices and availability from your city to see if it is even potentially feasible for you to use Spirit miles as the network is limited and award availability varies from route to route. If there are some available routes from your home city that are interesting to you, and you are okay playing by their rules, then it may be worth considering.
There is no question having Spirit miles has been a rewarding experience multiple times for my parents, and I am now officially booked for my own first Spirit redemption. It seems like everyone else in the miles and points world basically laughs at Spirit, and that’s okay, but I’ll be laughing all the way from Vegas as Spirit made that trip possible…I’ll also keep my fingers crossed I get home without incident!