The key to happiness, some say, is to keep low expectations. You may agree with that sentiment, you may not, but when you’re planning a trip on Spirit, it definitely helps to have that frame of mind. Its tickets, which are (affectionately?) referred to as “bare fares,” are just that: means for you to get from point A to point B. You’ll have to pay extra for everything that you might possibly want on a plane — including drinking water — but if you know what you’re getting in to, you’ll tolerate Spirit at the minimum. If you can play its game and avoid making some far-too-common mistakes, you’ll easily save a lot more than what you would on a legacy carrier. Your fatter wallet alone can be worth those frustrating, tacked-on fees, and while the travel experience itself is far from perfect, who cares at prices like these? #FlyHigher indeed.

I learned all of this — and gained a new appreciation for Spirit — on a series of recent trips between Washington and Boston. Despite being Executive Platinum on American, there’s a limit to my loyalty… as there should be! For such short hops up and down the East Coast, it just doesn’t make sense to pay triple the amount for a seat on your preferred carrier, even when you add in those notorious ancillary fees. You shouldn’t be intimidated by them though, and hopefully after reading this mini trip report, you’ll have a clear idea of what is and what isn’t possible when you travel with Spirit. You might be surprised!

spirit airlines sample route bwi-bos
Unless you have a STRICT schedule, there’s really only one viable option here…

For obvious reasons, this report will be far different from its predecessors. For one, this subject is a far cry from the more premium products typically featured on THF; unless you consider $7 Buzzballs and a cup of noodles bougie, you’re not going to be seeing haute beverages and gourmet meals here.

spirit airlines soft on board snack
Doesn’t get much more fancy than this on Spirit!

The format will also be somewhat different. While there’s only going to be one written review, it will cover two separate flights. Because the soft product is so consistently, um, minimalist, writing two reviews would be overkill. The quality of Spirit doesn’t fluctuate too wildly, except for when you’re sitting in the “premium” seats instead of the standard ones with 28 inches of pitch (!!!). I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the differences between the two.

spirit airlines hard standard seats
Some seats look like this…
spirit airlines hard big front seat
…Others look like this. There’s a big difference!

I’m also including a “How To” guide, which documents, outlines, and explains all of the intricacies of the carrier’s fee-driven business model. Spirit gets a bad rap for a number of reasons — some of which are justified, others not so much — but it would be a shame if you wrote the airline off entirely because of its reputation. Potentially excellent values await those who are willing to brave the more frustrating aspects of the experience, and getting a good deal can be just as #HigherFlyer as sitting in a first class suite. It all depends on what your goals are, after all, and perhaps Spirit can provide a worthy solution. On a couple of flights to Boston, it sure did for me!

Anyway, the route map is relatively uninteresting…

spirit airlines route map bwi-bos
Baltimore Washington to Boston Logan and back

…but when considering what it cost…

  • $56 to go to Boston, plus an exit row seat ($18), a carry on ($35), two Buzzballs and a cup of noodles ($17 for the combo) for a total of $126
  • $100 to go back to Washington(-ish), plus a Big Front Seat ($28), priority boarding and security ($11), and a Buzzball ($8) for a total of $147

…Spirit is an interesting value proposition to say the least. It was definitely the better deal in my situation, especially compared to the legacy carriers’ offerings and price points on my specific travel dates. Of course, thanks for reading, and thanks for supporting The Higher Flyer!

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