Spirit Airlines – Myth vs Reality from DFW to LAX 

pic credit: fortune.com

We’re all looking for ways to be cheaper when flying. I am a Dave Ramsey fan which means I’m more frugal than the average person although my close friends might refer to me as cheap.  In my frugal nature, I researched the cheapest flights to and from Los Angeles. I also looked at on-time ratings using Flight Aware considering I needed to be on the ground and in a rental car as quick as possible to make an appointment.

I read so many scathing articles about Spirit Airlines prior to my trip from DFW to LAX.  Some of the articles were so bad that I even thought about paying more to fly other airlines – mainly American which was only $50 one way to include one personal item and a carry on. This article will hopefully set the record straight for Spirit.

The flight I booked was only $38 one way. That’s so frugal that I couldn’t believe it at first which made me nervous.  The flight even got cheaper over the three weeks I watched it. The lowest fare I saw two days prior to departure was the $34.10.  The price steadily climbed over 48 hours as the plane filled. Last price I saw was around $180. The funny thing is the seat directly beside me was empty, the row diagonal behind me only had one person lounging across three seats, and four other rows had empty seats for our 6:30 am flight. Considering the dramatic change in price, I would guess the increase was generated by an automated system to catch those in need of last minute flights.

The Luggage

My black backpack “personal item” storage location

Spirit has strict limits on luggage which is part of the way they keep fares low.  I packed a small backpack for my day trip so I could avoid any carry-on or baggage fees. My backpack (pictured) falls into the free “personal item” category – no extra fees.  My backpack was also technically two inches too long according to Spirit website guidelines, but I took a chance since it is very thin.

I lined up to board the plane and nobody questioned or measured my backpack. Some carry-on items (not personal items) of other customers were being measured at the gate while I boarded, but I was never given a second look. As you can tell from the pictures, the bag fit well under the seat in front of me which is the required for personal items.

The Splurge

I’m 6 foot 4 with long legs so confined spaces are not my thing. I originally expected to take any assigned seat until I researched that Spirit seats are the tightest of any airlines at 28 inches between seats (back to front). They gotta make money somehow so I can’t fault them.

Considering I was testing Spirit on this flight and didn’t know what I was getting into, I upgraded online the day before my flight for $20 so I could sit at the exit row. Even with long legs, I had plenty of space on the exit row!   The only issue with my long legs was the food down table being mounted lower than normal causing it to sit on top of my knee. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember having that problem with Delta and American Airlines A320 jets.

Food tray mounted low – sitting on top of my knee

Point to note: our equipment for this flight was an A320 which accommodates two exit rows – one directly behind the other. I chose the second exit row which means the person behind me was in the smaller 28″ seats. I had plenty of leg room in my exit row, but I felt someone else’s knee pressing into my back a few times during the flight. If you’re booking an exit row on the A320, choose the first row.

The Verdict

Overall, I have to say I was impressed and this was a very pleasant flight for an extremely low $38.  Flight attendants were very nice and polite, and the captain communicated well.

Spirit does business well. I expected a WalMart style airline based on the reviews I read prior to flying, but Spirit is straight up like their website claims. This leads me to think most of the complaints I saw online were riders who either didn’t read policies before flying or thought they were special and could get away with breaking the rules. That’s just not my style.

As for me flying out of DFW to Los Angeles, I will most likely book American next time simply because they normally charge $50 for a similar flight, offer a free carry-on item, plus a personal item, free snacks, and because I have a prior relationship with them even though they previously broke a brand new checked bag of mine… errr. Still bitter, but they credited me after 30 minutes of me being a donkey at the luggage counter.

Back on point, Spirit is exactly what they claim: no frills and cost saving. You’ll be fine as long as you follow the guidelines on the Spirit Airlines website which includes printing your boarding pass at home plus showing up at the specified check-in time.

The Details

In case you wanted to know, this article was based on flight 867 on February 23, 2016.  We had an on time departure and arrival.  By appearance, customers were 60 percent families / 40 percent professional.

The 2nd Exit Row