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Is the Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat worth it?

Aug. 14, 2021
9 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


The term 'Spirit Airlines' evokes lots of emotions, especially in light of some of the airline's recent operational challenges. But, while that was a pretty terrible run of events for the airline and its passengers, during times of normal operations, Spirit can be an affordable and underrated way to get across the country (and beyond).

Flying Spirit can be a solid choice even if you decide to sit in the admittedly cramped economy seats. But, Spirit also has bigger seats at the front of the plane that it calls Big Front Seats. And if you book these Spirit seats, you can fly in what is essentially a domestic first-class seat for at least 50% off the regular cost on most traditional airlines.

Spirit's Big Front Seats are in the first couple of rows of each aircraft. And if you've never flown in them, you may be surprised by the experience -- in a good way. They are essentially the same as other domestic first-class seats available on most U.S. airlines but are usually available for a much lower price.

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What are Spirit Airlines Big Front Seats?

On Spirit Airlines, every advance seat assignment costs extra whether you pick the last row or the first row. The difference, of course, is how much the various seat assignments cost. Unquestionably, Big Front Seats cost several times more than any other seat on the Spirit aircraft.

Spirit's Big Front Seats are covered in leather, have 36 inches of pitch and are 18.5 inches wide. This means you have an additional six inches of legroom beyond Spirit’s standard seats and they are two across per side of the aisle instead of three with the regular seats.

As with all Spirit's seats, Big Front Seats come “pre-reclined.” So, you can't change the recline on a Big Front Seat.

Related: Review of flying Spirit Airlines

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To put this another way, on Spirit, you can have this:

Standard economy seats on Spirit Airlines (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Or, you can have this:

Big Front Seat on Spirit Airlines (Photo by Javier Rodriguez/The Points Guy)

I’ve flown in both types of seats with Spirit — multiple times.

Historically, the easy advice to give is that, yes, Spirit’s Big Front Seats are absolutely worth it. But, since that’s just too easy of an answer (and prices seem to have recently increased), I’ll be slightly more nuanced.

Related: 8 thoughts after first Spirit Airlines flight in several years

When are Spirit's Big Front Seats worth it?

If the flight is short (less than two to three hours), you are on the smaller side and every dollar counts, skip Spirit’s Big Front Seats if you can’t justify the cost.

For a family of four, even a $60 Big Front Seat upgrade would result in $480 of additional charges, based on round-trip travel. This is not a small amount, especially if you're traveling on a budget.

Spirit’s Big Front Seats don’t get you any included bags, snacks or other perks besides the larger seat. So keeping that cash safely tucked in your wallet can sometimes make sense. After all, you're probably flying Spirit because it’s cheap, not because it’s luxurious or comfortable.

But on the other hand, if you can fly in a nice, big seat for far less than the cost of an economy ticket on another airline, it's worth considering.

I’ve found that when you fly in the Big Front Seats, you are often with small business owners and relatively frequent flyers who largely put on their headphones and sleep or work (since the trays are actually large enough up there for a laptop). In that way, it ends up feeling a lot like every other airline.

It can also make sense to book the Big Front Seats if you want more space. My husband is a taller guy and while he doesn't get especially excited about flying Spirit, he will agree to it if -- and only if -- we book the Big Front Seats. On our recent flight home to Houston from Las Vegas, Spirit had a good departure time and a much lower price than United, even when factoring in the additional $68 fee per seat Big Front Seat assignment. So we booked Big Front Seats and didn't look back.

Happy kids in Spirit’s Big Front Seats. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

How much does the Big Front Seat cost?

The price of a Big Front Seat upgrade varies based on your flight and if you have elite status. I've seen the price for a Big Front Seat cost a little bit less for those logged in with Gold elite status, but only by a few dollars.

While you can see the number of available Big Front Seats when pricing out Spirit flights, you don’t see the actual upgrade price until much further in the booking process. I’ve seen these upgrades start at around $20 per person on shorter flights in the past. But currently, the lowest prices I'm seeing are in the $40 to $60 range.

(Screenshot courtesy of spirit.com)

In test searches done for updating this article, the cost to select a Big Front Seat is currently much higher than it used to be.

In fact, on many of the routes I tested, Big Front Seats now cost $100 or more per flight. However, I rarely found routes higher than $100 even just a few weeks ago. In my recent tests, I found a handful of shorter routes (such as Los Angeles to Las Vegas) priced at under $100 for the Big Front Seats. But on average, the prices were twice what I used to see and can frequently be in the $100 to $140 range.

(Screenshot courtesy of spirit.com)

Here’s a current real-life example.

A month from now, Spirit Airlines wants $54 to fly in a standard seat without a specific advance seat assignment from Houston to Las Vegas on a Saturday night. Going for an assigned Big Front Seat adds $135, for a total of $189 for a pretty comfy nonstop ride to Vegas.

United wants $242 for the same route at about the same time on a basic economy fare that also wouldn’t come with an advance seat assignment. A regular economy ticket with a seat assignment on United costs $281. United’s domestic first-class seat, which is basically the same as Spirit’s Big Front Seat, rings in on that flight at $510 — over 2.5 times the cost of Spirit’s similarly sized seat.

Related: Style vs. savings: Comparing JetBlue’s Mint Studio and Spirit’s Big Front Seat

That's a pretty good example that even with higher prices for the Big Front Seat than I'm used to, it's still possible to save real money over the traditional air carriers’ cheapest economy tickets while still sitting in a much larger Spirit Big Front Seat. Of course, there are other trade-offs to factor into the equation when deciding to fly Spirit. But on a seat-to-seat comparison, Spirit's Big Front Seats are often one of the best values in the sky for those looking for a little more than just the cheapest available seat.

It's also worth noting that in Spirit's new frequent flyer program, you now earn 12 to 20 points per dollar (depending on your status level) for ancillary charges such as Big Front Seat assignments. TPG values Spirit points at 1.1 cents each, which means that you'll essentially earn a 13 to 22% return in Spirit points on any money you spend to reserve Big Front Seats.

We've also experienced Big Front Seat purchases counting towards cards' annual travel and airline fee credits with cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express (enrollment required). If you have a card like that in your wallet, that's a way to potentially enjoy some extra space when flying with Spirit without spending as much out of pocket for the 'upgrade.'

Related: Why Spirit gives Delta a run for its money in our head-to-head comparison

Bottom line

You may not always need a larger seat to get where you’re going with Spirit. Sometimes, the cheapest available ticket is the best one for the situation. However, if your budget can accommodate the added cost of a Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat, your back — and perhaps your mood — will probably thank you for the extra investment in the journey.

If I'm flying with my two kids, it sometimes makes more sense for us to sit three across in less expensive seats than spend several hundred dollars more on the Big Front Seats. But on the flip side, if I'm flying by myself or just with my husband, who really appreciates the extra space, then paying for Big Front Seats can make sense.

Featured image by (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023