Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly Spirit…

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A few years ago I wrote a post about booking hidden city tickets (which was followed up by a post on how to do it better than Skiplagged).

In that post I wrote, “Here at DansDeals we don’t do buses.” It’s become a common expression and even the signature of some members on the DansDeals Forums. Let’s just say I had enough nightmare Greyhound stories as a high school student in Pittsburgh going back home to Cleveland to keep me from ever stepping foot on one again.

I also don’t fly ultra-low cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit. I don’t like their nickel and diming to reserve a seat or get a drink of water. I don’t like their lack of legroom, their lack of a carry-on allowance, or their lack of useful miles. I don’t like that they don’t participate in Priceline’s “next day at 11:29pm” refund policy.

But I really don’t like what happens during irregular operations. They don’t have agreements with any other airlines and they don’t have the capacity to handle problems. When things go wrong they often can’t get you to where you need to go for an entire day, or even days.

I’d rather use miles or hunt for a better fare than be subject to that and that’s why I very rarely post deals for travel on the ultra-low cost carriers. Though when I do it’s about how to beat the Spirit pricing system with strategies like going to the airport.

Obviously, plenty of people have good experiences with the ultra-low cost carriers. If you are single, don’t need to travel next to anyone, don’t need to travel with any luggage, and don’t need to be somewhere at a critical time, then it can make sense. But otherwise when you include all of the fees you get hit with later and the risks of something going very wrong, I don’t think it will typically make sense.

As Daniel K said on the DansDeals Facebook Group, “Spirit is cheap but I will never fly it again….Spirit is everything wrong with flying.”

Case in point:

A friend of a friend of mine flew on Spirit flight 440 from Fort Lauderdale to Cleveland this past Monday. JetBlue and United also fly on that route and managed to make it to Cleveland, but the Spirit flight was diverted to Detroit.

Diversions stink, but they stink worse on Spirit. They were too cheap to fly them to Cleveland, so they put them on a bus.

And then hilarity ensued.

OK, maybe not quite for the people involved.

The Spirit chartered bus then broke down on the side of the road and passengers didn’t get home until the wee hours of the following morning.

You can’t make this stuff up. Read about the full story here and think twice the next time you want to save a few bucks by flying Spirit.

HT: Sam K.

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62 Comments On "Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly Spirit…"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.


Besides for the extra charges, which if paid, end you up with a fare comparable to real airlines flying the route, any fare on Spirit should be viewed as:

This is the bid we are willing to accept for the chance that we MIGHT get you to where you want to be somewhere around (very loosely defined) the time you think you will get there.

I think if people would realize that this is exactly what they are doing when “buying” a Spirit air [lottery] ticket, a lot less people would be engaged in that kind of gambling.


That’s one bad story I can tell you ten good ones like the time we went to Miami only bec we got 40$ rt tickets(happens 5 times)

Some of us can’t afford JetBlue mint and united Polaris and would not go away if not for cheap deals and sometimes that means spirit (lately JetBlue has been stepping up in the cheap deal cat)and spirit is definitely better than freezing in nyc




And they don’t give any refunds no matter how much trouble they put you through!!


Not to say Spirit is great, but my friend was just stuck in Detroit flying back to EWR with United cancelling his flight (for no apparent reason) and refusing to put him and his wife on any other airline. The only other option was waiting till the next day.
They rented a car and drove 10 hrs.
Then they had a long fight with United trying to get them to pay for the rental car, but eventually got it.

Point is, the major airlines are not much better than Spirit at this point.
I’m much happier with JetBlue – they seem to be the only ones left trying to make the customer happy.

high end hobo

So you let your friend fly Spirit?


Or the time they offered to fly my family into Orlando because the flight to FLL got cancelled and no availability for 2 days.


There are a lot of people swears off NK, but certain times the price is too good to ignore.

Delta also uses buses during Irrop


Don’t most of the big three lack interline agreements with each other by now anyways? I think what matters more is frequency. The big 3 and Southwest generally have enough frequency to handle irrops on later flights, or even flights the next day or two.

Spirit Nightmare

Flew from fort Lauderdale to “”LGA”” thery diverted is to Atlantic city.they said there will be a bus to drive us to LGA its 6 years and im still waiting for the bus…. bis never came thank God someone from lkwd was there and got a ride slept there then went to brooklyn the next dayhave never thought of going on spirit since then never again!


It’s great to see people deciding you gotta be loaded to fly like a human…yea as dan clearly stated spirit works for a select group, but anyone with half a brain can get themselves some decent flights at a great price if you set your mind to it. When I signed up for my first credit card with a large signup bonus I decided I would no longer be flying spirit.


My father-in-law had a stack of Spirit free flight vouchers and offered me a few of them. He was shocked when I told him “no”. 🙂


I flew spirit and always a good experience, of course not a comfortable ride but I was able to book six tickets rt for less than $200 to Florida from nyc. For some it’s the only option, even though you might end up being delayed. I wouldn’t have taken the kids otherwise. Went twice to Florida and once to Bahamas with the family.


The personnel was so rude when I flew with them. They forced many passenger to check in their carry-on luggage right before boarding and have them pay for it. I said “never again”.


We fly every month on Spirit for the past 6 years to Florida We have never had a problem. It could happen one day. We have had problems on other airlines and not always so accommodating either .


I would not fly spirit as they charge to bring carry ons. I know United is also stopping carry ons for the lowest priced seats but anyone who has the United Mileage Plus credit card will still be able to bring carry ons on board.


My friends tried to dissuade me from spirit. I didn’t listen. Was going to save about 1k over 6 tickets compared to other airlines even with the other fees included. Flight out was delayed 2 hours, which I could deal with. Flight back was a six am flight with four little kids. It was cancelled because the copilot did not show up. There were no other flights until 2 days later. They literally stranded us with no recourse.
Luckily miles saved us for or return trip.
Unfortunately I learned this the hard way. Will never never fly then again!


I fly Spirit fairly often from LGA to DTW or from LGA to different cities in Florida. The main issue is that you have to know the rules before you book and then abide by them. If you do that, it’s not too bad. If you don’t, your experience will suck a lot. Sometimes the cost of a Spirit flight is tens of dollars vs. hundreds on other airlines; for most, that price difference is worth it. Bottom line is that I’m glad Spirit is there, even if I don’t fly it. It brings competitors prices down, and gives you the option to fly on the cheap if you need it.


I wouldn’t compare Spirit to Frontair, fronair is not that bad



I have had very positive flights with spirit. Yes, my co worker has a nightmare story with them (stuck in Vegas 3 days cuz cancelled flight) and my friend from Colorado ended up spending $1400 to get him because spirit cancelled her flight and also wanted her to wait 3 days) But for the short trips to florida, $70 round trip… and once we got the $9 flights to florida. Yes, it has risks. but also some plane, cheap flights. Last week i went EWR to FLL. my friend took the $35 spirit, I upgraded to the $53 jet blue. we both left at 6am. Jetblue got delayed because someone parked a jet blue plane the night b4 right behind ours, and they couldn’t move it for 40 minutes. He landed half hour before us. Coming home we flew together on teh 8:50 and had an amazing flight. (granted, we couldn’t sit together because we weren’t paying for seat selection!) – but good flight. With spirit, it’s hit or miss. When it’s good – Great. When something happens, then you’ll say ‘never again spirit’.


For the people who fly Spirit because can’t afford other airlines should you get stuck in another city for two or three days because of a canceled will cost more than a ticket on another airline because you will probably have to use the money saved to book an hotel for an extra few days unless you don’t mind sleeping in the airport for a few days.


I’ve posted $49 fares on AA and United from NYC-Florida.

Do you think you’re actually saving money by spending $35 on Spirit? In the end you wind up spending more, it’s just not all at once.


I fly Spirit occasionally from NYC to DTW or NYC to DFW. It isn’t glamorous, but I got to my destinations, on-time, with no nightmare stories to tell.

I agree with Anonymous above who said: “The main issue is that you have to know the rules before you book and then abide by them. If you do that, it’s not too bad. If you don’t, your experience will suck a lot.”

I have had cases where a Spirit ticket was 75% less than the cost of the nearest option on other carriers (using all the standard techniques for finding cheapest flights on other carriers). That price gap is too large for me to ignore.


Have flown Spirit many times LGA -ORD. Only trouble I had was when I arrived to print my boading pass 44 minutes b4 takeoff. Rules say it’s 45 minutes at ORD. They refused to print a boarding pass no matter how much I cajoled and yelled.They did give me a coupon for a heavely discounted hotel room and a boarding pass for a 6 AM flight the next day. So I learnt always print your boarding pass (or download) in advance.

I did email Spirits customer service and after some back and forth they gave me 2 $75 coupons which expire in 3 months. I used them

Is Spirit that Bad :(

Strictly on fares, Spirit will often beat legacy carriers (and Jet Blue) where you travel with no luggage and a backpack and are willing to forgo the benefits of seat selection and a free cup of soda. Travelling light with a family of 5 from NYC to FLL for a short weekend for just $100 rt can save lots of $. The $49 AA fares are certainly competitive (and more desirable than Spirit when available) but are often not at the best days or times so you sometimes need the flexibility to be able to take advantage of those fares and they don’t come with the same consistency as Spirit.

It is all about expectations. I was stuck on an AA flight from Boston to JFK for 3 hours for no real reason in perfect weather, and a different time on Delta from YYZ to JFK also for 3 hours because the potable water system was leaking, so it could happen anywhere, just be prepared for a contingency.


I’m taking this as a sign. I was about to book a Flight to MYR, as no other airline flies direct from NYC. I happened to glance at the DD homepage, and what do you think was the lead story?? I will be Booking a flight on JetBlue to CHS and driving down instead.


I wrote in the post that there are situations where it makes sense.
Though I’d prefer using miles to fly on a legacy carrier even in those situations.

It’s how they deal with irregular operations that is the major issue.

@Is Spirit that Bad 🙁:
The difference is that AA or Delta has many flight per day and can get you there if something happen to your flight.

With Spirit you can be stuck for days. How do you prepare a contingency for that?

I’d do the same.


Flew spirit from Houston to Las Vegas a month ago, flight was delayed 3 hours because one flight attendant’s alarm didn’t wake her up on time and I am not joking. They issued me a 50 dollar voucher valid for two months towards a new ticket. You gotta love spirit


I’ve never flown spirit but I did a flight recently on Frontier. The flight was much better than I expected and it was $28 for the one way ticket. The cab to the airport costed more. I did have a backup flight the next morning with Southwest though. Got to love the free ticket cancellations.


It’s Russian roulette. When that flight gets cancelled then what.
Another issue is that they have a bare bones crew at the airports. So if you have checked bags or need to speak to someone prepare to wait a long time compared to other airlines.


I call spirit the greyhound of airlines.
Just look around at the waiting area in front of a spirit gate.


I fully agree, Dan.

To the people with anecdotal good experiences with Spirit, I can tell you that it’s a numbers game. Once, twice, three times you may have a perfectly fine experience on Spirit. You may get lucky and never have a problem. But when something goes wrong, wow, does it go wrong spectacularly. With so few flights, you may not get rebooked for DAYS. Imagine how you’d feel traveling with kids, stranded in another city. How much would you pay in that moment to just get home? Wouldn’t you rather pay a bit more upfront and be in a much better position should something go wrong? Ultimately you’ll probably pay (for checked bags, buying last minute tickets if your Spirit flight is cancelled, etc), so why not save yourself the headache? And on routes where Spirit and Frontier fly, competition tends to lower prices on the legacy carriers. It may not be quite as cheap, but it’s often close.

Sure, they have a niche (establishing the floor of air travel in terms of price and perks), but you are definitely gambling, and one day your number will come up and you’ll regret not paying a bit more upfront.


That’s the Spirit!

Very well said.


I understand all the reasons why people don’t fly spirit, however as someone who is flying as a family of six we have done it many times and saved a tremendous amount of money, without any issues. this upcoming Yeshiva week we’re flying to Fort Lauderdale for $22 a ticket, (bought at the airport, thanks Dan)


$22 via the airport hack is very good.
But what will you spend on seat assignments, water, carry-ons, and luggage?


Gosh, remember he good old days when people dressed up to fly and you were treated like a guest on the plane with meal service? *sigh* At least you can still dress nicely.@Dan:


As I said previously should the flight get cancelled especially if you are there with children you will pay more for a hotel for the extra time you have to stay than the ticket on another airline would have cost unless you don’t mind sleeping in the airport for a few days with your family.


Spirit has always seated us together in one row without paying for seat assignments, we purchase 2 or 3 checked bags (online, not at the airport), and if the kids behave, we spring for a soda on board 🙂


The airport hack is only good if you are not checking any bags at all. When you buy on line you get a $10 discount if you pay the bag fee then. At the airport you do not get this discount.

Joey Cheesecake

It reminds me of Tower Air.


i fly spirit with my family and never had a problem. Dan, please keep posting the deals from Spirit and Frontier. when you are flying with a large family, this might be the only way unless you have millions of miles

Dan's the Man

There can disaster stories with any airline. While I agree a legacy carrier wouldn’t put you on a bus they can get you home just as late (even with having interline agreements). Purchase Spirit tickets using a Chase card with good Trip Interruption benefits and you should be good 99% of the time.

Dan's the Man

@Joey Cheesecake: Tower Air? I fly Spirit once and they didn’t stop in Bangor, Maine to refuel. 🙂


With jet blue card at 6 points per dollar and 10% redemption rebate, yes it’s worth 10$ more for points alone and free drinks, snacks and Wi-Fi


As stated numerous times, it’s not about the bag, seat or even drink fees. You can adequately plan for those. It’s about being stranded (can we get a poll on what the chances of that are? 10%? 5%? Other%?), will you get trip insurance for that? How much will it cost you to insure for something like that? Will any insurance company insure that risk?

Especially for those traveling with a family, what if you’re stranded for days? What if due to an emergency you can’t make it to the flight and need to book something else last minute (spirit won’t credit anything if you can’t make the flight IME).


my 1 and only experience with spirit jfk to fll roundtripwas absolutely terrible!!!! from jfk to fll we were delayed and sat on the plane for 3 hours then another 2 hours back at the gate to let the plane refuel. Then it got worse – it took me about 3 trips to the airport over a span of two days to get from home from FLL to JFK.


You judge a business by what they do when there is a problem, not when it works out. If every flight was messed up they would be long out of business.


They ruined my suitcase. They offered a $50 voucher towards next flight…Geez, theres no next flight!


no advance seat selection already implemented at some of the legacy carriers and coming to the rest soon as well


You probably meant LGA, as I don’t believe they operate in JFK.

I think the best idea for anyone considering buying a spirit ticket is to thoroughly read, and make sure they understand – even if it requires hiring a lawyer to review, the contract of carriage, because after all, that is what one gets in exchange for payment, a contract of adhesion.


we flew spirit all the time til a year ago. Our flight NY to FLL was cancelled. They were offering people flights a WEEK later, for a lot of the passengers that would have been AFTER their trip home to NY! We ended up buying JetBlue tickets for $700. Spirit did give a refund, but not anywhere near what we had to spend to get to FL on time. We vowed to never fly them again, the only way would be if we could walk away from the trip not minding if it was cancelled.


i just wonder if we all started posting “horror stories” about other carriers here, would it be THAT MUCH different?


Really? How about Sunday, Jan 15 from Ft Myers or Punta Gorda Florida in the evening? Frontier has it for $54. Can you find me two tickets for cheap? Although I’m very nervous, I can’t seem to find a way to get anything affordable.


You’re right that Spirit is not as good, because you get what you pay for.
However, many people would rather pay less and get worse service. Of course it’s not worth it if there will be a big mess up, but you never expect a big mess up even when you fly Spirit.
So to some of you saying “you’re going to end up spending more because of price of staying in hotel for 3 days” – that’s insane, because you took a 1 in 500 story and make it like it’s probable.

Dave S

I completely agree, I will never fly Spirit again, burned to many times with a “too bad”, attitude to boot

Mimi K.

@sam 1 in 5 for delays
1 in 100 for disaster.
Is closer to accurate.
I flew spirit once.
Never again.
And i didnt have a disaster or delay.
Only good thing was no wifi and i made 2 business contacts on the 5 hr flight.
Never qould have happened if we wouldn’t have been bored and too uncomfortable to sleep.


Why don’t you answer that yourself. Just look at the post above yours and let us know if you’ve ever heard such a story with any other airline?

When you are buying a spirit ticket you are taking a gamble, maybe it’s a 1 in 100 chance (but from family experience it’s much higher than that) that the ticket you bought will be worthless, and if you want to get to your destination, you will be left to find your own solution when you’re at the airport.


@marko: they don’t fly from JFK. I’m assuming you mean LGA?




My wife and I won’t ever fly Spirit again. We’ll spend the extra money for JetBlue. In addition to the better service (personnel are always polite and helpful & if there is ever a problem, JetBlue either fixes it quickly or gives you credits), no one has mentioned that Spirit has the smallest and worse seats in the business. I’m a big guy (especially in width)and could barely fit in their seat, and the legroom was so tight my knees were pressed up against the seat in front of me. We couldn’y wait to get off the plane and hurt for hours afterwards. I don’t pay an airline to torture me!


Nechama, I really dislike Spirit and choose not to fly with them. To be fair and unbiased, none of the airlines have a legal obligation to refund your money because of Zika. There are things which are common courtesy/professionalism, and things which are legal. I doubt you looked for a lawyer, and I doubt the lawyer would have been able to do something for you. You would have legally taken the loss for booking with Spirit.


For all you spirit lovers explain to me the 2 star rating on SKYTRAX