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Much to the shock, amazement, or disbelief of many in the miles and points world, I redeemed (my dad’s) points to fly Spirit Airlines yesterday.  Sure I have miles to fly on a variety of carriers, but this was only 2,500 miles for a non-stop flight from Las Vegas to Houston at the time I wanted to fly.  Flights on airlines like United were selling for $300+ each way, so this seemed like basically flying for free.  Spirit Airlines is the airline everyone loves to hate, and many have a horror story or two to back that up.  The stories are usually something like my cousin’s boyfriend was once stuck for three days in Florida because of that ^$@#$ airline, or something along those lines.

Given the horror stories, I was a little worried about how Spirit would handle irregular operation situations such as maintenance or weather delays, but because I have a variety of other miles and points, I knew I could get out on another airline if it came to that.  Otherwise, I was ready to be a bit more cramped than normal and see what all the Spirit fuss was about.  I may love leveraging miles, points, and upgrades for fancy lie-flat seats and hotel suites, but at my heart I am a “cheap” traveler who mainly cares about getting from Point A to Point B.  It was time to put my points where my mouth was and fly Spirit.

My parents had blazed the trail on Spirit a year or so before I did, and shared their experiences here.  So, instead of writing another report similar to theirs, I wanted to share the Ten Best Things about flying Spirit Airlines.

10.  Everyone is admitted to the Spirit Airlines Party Lounge. 

If you have ever felt left out because you didn’t have the elite status, credit card, or membership necessary to get you in the airline lounge?  Fear not when flying Spirit Airlines, because everyone is admitted to the Spirit Party Lounge (er, gate area).  There is even complimentary entertainment in the form of musical chairs.  Don’t worry if you lose and don’t get a chair on the first go ’round, just wait until someone lines up for cheese steaks and steal their seat!  At least that is what everyone else seemed to do…

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If that still doesn’t work, then simply sit on the carry-on baggage measurement contraption.  It may not look comfortable at first, but it is the perfect way to prepare for your seat on-board the aircraft!

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9.  Free entertainment at boarding if anyone gets busted with a $100 whammie trying to smuggle on a carry-on that is larger than a “personal item”!  If they get busted you get to watch them get nailed with a $100 bonus carry-on fee.  I’m sure that could result in a very made-for-reality-TV exchange.  I was a little worried this guy in front of me was going to get whammied with a $100 bag fee, but he sailed right on-board without being thrown in the dreaded carry-on measurement penalty box!  In fact, everyone somehow sailed right by without any carry-on whammies despite some pretty large “personal items”.  I was too terrified to push the limits, so I just packed for my overnight trip in a large purse.   Clearly I’m the Spirit novice!

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8.  Save calories!  Spirit Airlines is fighting the national obesity epidemic by reducing the calorie consumption of those on-board by not providing complimentary sugary sodas!  In fact, even water comes with a fee.  This calorie-saving move is pretty smart since it will help folks fit into the teeny tiny seats.  Interestingly, everyone I saw on the plane was of average size or smaller.  Their strategy must be working to improve the health of our country!

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7.  Splurge on “fun wine” from a can!  If you happen to have a few calories (and dollars) to spare, you can drink a can of fun wine!  Yes, drink a can of “fun wine”.  That sentence is almost too good to be true, but I assure you it is real!

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6.  Get in an eco-friendly mood by serving as clean-up crew on the plane.  When boarding the plane I noticed some food on the floor and empty wrappers on the seats.  I thought that perhaps the cleaning crew had forgotten to clean this plane, but I later realized the previous passengers simply didn’t fully understand that they were the cleaning crew.  When the flight attendant passed by with the trash bag for the 18th time and made an announcement that in order to save time and money, we needed to pick-up after ourselves I got it.  The passengers are also the cleaning crew!  Save the environment airplane!

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5.  Check out the latest trends in advertizing.  Everything from tray tables, to luggage bins, to flight attendant aprons has advertizing space available, so be sure to see what’s hot these days in advertizing!  Seems to be Fremont street hotels and Mexican resorts are the rage for Spirit customers.

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4. Do research for your sociology paper while you fly.  I thought people watching was good in Vegas, but a Spirit Airlines flight leaving from Vegas is amazing for getting to see all types of folks and hear all kinds of conversations!  They were kind enough to not put on a movie or offer any in-flight entertainment distractions so that you can hear some very good conversations at close-range.  There has to be plenty of material ripe for some Sociology 101 papers on these flights.

3.  Have hours of work-free enjoyment.  On some airlines your flight-time is still pretty protected from work because of the lack of WiFi, but Spirit Airlines thinks that isn’t good enough.  They want you to be totally free from work responsibilities, so they made sure that a laptop cannot really fit between you and the seat in front of you.  Start and end your trip work-free with no guilt!

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2.  Put your yoga skills to good use.  Since the seats are absolutely the smallest and most crammed together I have ever seen, you will get to put your yoga skills to good use when you get in or out of the seats…or even just sit still.  You can use expert yoga skills if you happen to be blessed with the middle seat!

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1.  Feel much, much better about the cleanliness of your bathroom at home!  Sometimes I feel bad that my bathrooms may not always be in tip-top five star hotel shape, but feel much better about how well you take care of your bathrooms by visiting one of the lavoratories on Spirit Airlines!  If you think the previous passengers did a bad job keeping the cabin clean, then wait until you see how many loads of passengers skipped cleaning the bathroom.

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I’m pretty sure the dust on the walls was an inch thick in some parts, and I’m doing everyone a favor by not showing anything lower than the walls.

So How Bad Was It?

While those top ten favorite things about Spirit Airlines all were more or less true on my flight, it honestly wasn’t terrible.  It just wasn’t very good.  The plane was on-time, my seat appeared clean, my seatmates were nice, and the flight only cost 2,500 Spirit miles (since my dad has the Spirit credit card).  I wanted the full experience this time, so I didn’t pay extra for a seat assignment, but if I did this again I would “cheat” and pay the $49-ish to sit in the “big front seat” which is exactly the same as many domestic first class seats.  This would eliminate all the space-related issues, and could still be a good deal at 2,500 miles + $49 for basically the same seat you would get in first class on many airlines.

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The exit row seats also looked to be pretty roomy, so that may be a less expensive way to gain some extra legroom.  I knew I would be pretty cramped on the flight, and I am glad it only lasted 2.5 hours.  I wouldn’t want to be that cramped for much longer than that.  The only thing I didn’t realize in advance was how dirty the plane would be.  I think it is pretty inexcusable that things like food wrappers are left out on seats between flights, and the bathroom had clearly not been really cleaned in a very long time.  It was not a mess that was created in a day, or even a week.  It would not surprise me if the walls in the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned since the plane went into service.  Seriously.

As you may have guessed, I’m not exactly itching to fly Spirit again in the near future, but I would fly them again if it turned out to be the best way to get from Point A to Point B…I just would spend an extra $49 and would be sure to not use the restroom.

If you’ve had the exciting opportunity to fly Spirit, I’d love to hear if my experiences line up with yours.  If you haven’t yet flown Spirit, are you now more or less likely to give them a try after having a peek at some of top ten reasons to give them a try!

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