Spirit Relaunches Loyalty Program, But The Rewards Are Still Flying On Spirit

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Spirit has relaunched their Free Spirit loyalty program.

A lot of bloggers seem really excited about it and I’m at a loss as to why.

It’s certainly more rewarding, but it doesn’t fix its Achilles’ heel, the reward is more travel on Spirit. That’s hardly an aspirational award and is reminiscent of how I covered the launch of Greyhound’s loyalty program some 15 years ago.

Sure, Spirit has its fans (note to fans, don’t sign away your compensation rights), but I’ve taken more expensive connections to avoid Greyhound of the skies. No really, they put a friend of mine on a bus instead of a flight. But I suppose that’s better than an in-air brawl.

 

 

 

OK, but let’s talk loyalty.

They fixed the 2nd biggest flaw in their program, the 3 month hard expiration date of points. Now points won’t expire as long as you have activity every 12 months. Elite members and cardholders points will never expires.

  • Non-elites will earn 6 points per dollar spent on flights and 12 points per dollar spent on bags, seats, and other extras.
  • Silver elites will earn 8 points per dollar spent on flights and 16 points per dollar spent on bags, seats, and other extras.
  • Gold elites will earn 10 points per dollar spent on flights and 20 points per dollar spent on bags, seats, and other extras.

Members can also pool points with friends and family, so that’s a nice benefit as well.

What is a Spirit point worth?

Picking a random Newark to Fort Lauderdale date shows flights for $22.40 (you’ll get $4 off if you pony up for a $70/year Saver$ Club):

 

An award flight is 2,500 points+$5.60, which means a value of 0.67 cents per point:

 

  • Newark to Las Vegas on 2/27 is $30.49 or 2,500 points+$5.60, a value of about 1 cent per point.
  • Cleveland to Los Angeles on 2/28 is $60 or 5,000 points+$5.60, a value of 1.09 cents per point.

As most of the Newark-Fort Lauderdale fare is tax, you’ll only earn points on the $4.66 base fares and $2.99 Passenger Usage Fee. That variable usage fee is the price you pay for online booking, it’s waived at the airport.

 

So you’ll earn 6 points per dollar on $7.65 of flight spending, which they round down from 45.9 to 45 points:

 

Points from flying count towards status, you’ll need 2,000 points for Silver status or 5,000 points for Gold status. At 45 points per flight, that would mean taking 45 flights to earn Silver or 112(!) flights between Newark and Fort Lauderdale to earn Gold status.

The real play that Spirit is after is for people to earn status on their new credit card. If you get their $79/year Free Spirit Travel More Card you can earn 3 points per dollar on Spirit flights, 2 points per dollar on dining and groceries, and 1 point per dollar everywhere. Those earning rates are low, but you also earn 1 status points for each $10 spent. You’ll also get the $50 close-in award booking fee for flights booked within 28 days of departure waived.

That means you can earn Silver status with $20,000 in card spending, or less when combined with status points earn from flight purchases. Gold status would take $50,000 in card spending.

Silver benefits are pretty boring, you’ll earn more points on flights, get same day standby, get an elite customer service phone line, and get overweight bag fees waived, though you still need to pay for baggage.

Gold status benefits on the other hand are pretty decent. You get a free carry-on, a free checked bag, zone 1 boarding, free seat selection at booking (including exit row seating, but not big front row seating), a free drink and snack when flying, and 1 free flight change when done more than 24 hours in advance of the flight.

But if you’re spending $50,000 a year on your credit card, I’m going to guess that you probably aren’t flying Spirit? And even if you are flying Spirit, you could afford to buy those benefits and then some by putting that $50,000 in spending on a card with a better spending proposition. The opportunity cost of spending on a Spirit card is simply massive.

AirTran Airways used to be have a business class section, with excellent redemption values. But even they offered aspirational travel awards on other airlines that they would purchase, in order to make their program more valuable.

Clearly Spirit is thinking creatively here and I give them credit for that, but isn’t there a disconnect between their product offering and the customer they’re looking for?

Will you spend or fly your way to Spirit Airlines elite status?

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15 Comments On "Spirit Relaunches Loyalty Program, But The Rewards Are Still Flying On Spirit"

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Red neck

Tell us how you really feel!

ray

I flew united this week and my mask was on but had slipped under my nose and I received a written warning from flight attendant I may be added to no fly list if it isn’t immediately covering my bose.

Old timer

Spirit reminds me of Tower Air, back in the late 80’s. They were terrible and abusive towards their paying costumers. They treated their passengers like garbage.

Moishe

Razor sharp analysis, as always.
Thanks Dan.

Zig~Zag

“Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly Spirit”

It gets the job done

For busy people who need a short flight, spirit is just fine. At the end of the day its about taking care of the things you need to take care of not obsessing over airlines. Yeah, a long flight might be difficult, or if you are really tall or have a lot of luggage but if it works, it works.

CLE Rocks

Only good thing about spirit is their what’s app.

morene

Got over 30k points earned LY from the credit card which i canceled after
The award redemption currently does not charge the usual close in fee for flight bookes within 28 days of departuee . It must be a glitch. Award from Baltimore to FLL are so cheap (2,500-5000 points plus 5.60 taxes)
This is a huge improvement
May also be a good idea to buy the Savers club using my Amex annual credit. I think it is well worth it if u will use Spirit few times a year.

dt

I don’t love spirit myself, but I RESPECT them. I once heard their current CEO being interviewed and he explained that unlike the other CEOs who would compare their airlines to Nordstrom, he thinks of Spirit as being more like Dollar General. I appreciate that honesty and truth be told, my last few flights on spirit have not been terrible. On time, masks enforced, super cheap. My expectations are very low every time (particularly because I had a few HORRIBLE experiences years ago) and they are usually met or slightly exceeded. Meanwhile, I’ve had plenty of garbage experiences recently from the big “customer-focused” airlines.

Yitzy

You can point to the fights, but I flew Spirit to Florida 2 weeks ago and there was a mask issue on the way there and on the way back. The flight attendants dealt with each issue with the utmost level of professionalism: showing empathy yet sticking firm in their rules. Negative stories are more exciting than hearing the good, but there’s always more to the picture.

Bob

Is Spirit any worse than Southwest? At least Spirit has that Big Front Seat, at modest premium. And reserved seats, for a nominal fee.

I don’t think most people realize that Spirit is building a network to the Caribbean and upper South America, that may in a few years dominate that market with its US connections. Name another airline that will fly you from Lima, Peru, to within 90 miles of Lima, Ohio. And it has such a fuel-efficient fleet that it can afford to beat every other carrier, on fares. It doesn’t need much of a loyalty program, which is why its current effort is half-hearted.

Ted

I agree with you, Bob. I think it’s time for Dan to re-examine Spirit. Great experience flying from CLE-FLL-LIM and return two years ago. Effortless connection in Ft. L, Big Front Seats, on-time departures. So I pay a couple bucks for food and drink, so what? Meanwhile, my sister got totally screwed by AA on the same itinerary from Chicago.

GF

Spirt is a LCC. if you have flown in Europe on LCC its the same thing. pick BA, LH or AF and pay a big fee to get frills. In the US airlines don’t offer any frills anymore while Spirit is beating them on price all day. Spirit cancels less flights, and if you book at the airport you can get amazing deals. I don’t think service is better now on any of the big airlines in the US. Every airline so far has kicked people off for not wearing a mask. Delta, United, AA, SW, B6, care to name one that didn’t?

Stevereno

I wouldn’t fly Spirit even if was free.

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