Most people probably never take a look at a fare breakdown, but Spirit’s is rather interesting.
After selecting your flights click on “your booking:”
Then click on more info and you’ll see a breakdown like this for a round-trip Chicago-Los Angeles round-trip:
Notice that the actual fare is just $16.74. $3.72 is added as “Unintended consequences of DOT Regulations.” That’s the amount Spirit claims it costs them to offer refunds for 24 hours from the time of purchase. I’m not sure what Spirit gains by splitting that fee off except to show their anger at the DOT.
Then there’s a $35.98 fee for “passenger usage fee”. Spirit splits this fee off of the price of the flight to avoid paying the 7.5% federal excise tax on airfare. The real airfare in this case is $16.74+$3.72=$20.46. 7.5% of that makes up the $1.54 federal excise tax. Then of course there’s the $11.20 9/11 security theater fee, the $8 segment fee, and a $9 facility fee.
Note that the $35.98 passenger usage fee doesn’t go to the government.
It’s a fee for using Spirit.com or your phone to book your tickets. In order for Spirit to avoid paying the excise tax on it though they need to make it possible to avoid the fee.
You can do that by buying your Spirit tickets in the airport.
If you go to the airport now and stop by the Spirit counter you’ll be able to purchase the itinerary about for $50.20 round-trip.
Same goes for Cleveland-Los Angeles:
A $99 round-trip would be $63.02 when purchased at the airport.
That might not be worth it for 1 person, but if you’re with a family or have multiple itineraries to book the savings can quickly add up.