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How to upgrade your seat on Spirit Airlines

Aug. 14, 2022
7 min read
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Unlike most other discount carriers, Spirit Airlines has a much more comfortable seat at the front of its planes. And Spirit's marketing of this seat may be the most honest in the travel industry. Dubbed the "Big Front Seat," you get what you'd expect: a big seat in the front of the plane. And it's pretty comfy.

You won't get free drinks or free checked bags with the Big Front Seat. And there aren't any free Spirit upgrades to the Big Front Seat, even for elite members. But, you can buy your way to a nicer seat.

An upgrade to a Big Front Seat isn't as cheap as it used to be, but you may still find the cost reasonable. Even if you're traveling on a small budget and want to buy a Spirit upgrade, you may find an exit-row seat that's in your price range. Here's what you need to know to give yourself the best chance at an affordable upgrade to more legroom when flying Spirit Airlines.

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Buy a Spirit upgrade to the Big Front Seat

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

There are two ways to get a Spirit upgrade to the Big Front Seat. You can purchase a Big Front Seat assignment outright, either during the booking process or after you complete your booking. You can also use Spirit's bidding system to bid on a Big Front Seat, which I'll discuss in a subsequent section.

Discount carrier Spirit Airlines charges a fee for just about everything, including seat assignments. You'll see a seat map with prices attached to each empty seat during the booking process.

(Screenshot from spirit.com)

Once you select a seat and pay for it, you're all set. Spirit advertises a price range of $12 to $250 to select a Big Front Seat. In practice, we typically see a range between $50 and $150, with many popular routes charging $100 or more per flight segment for the Big Front Seat.

As a general rule with Spirit, seat assignment fees are nonrefundable. So, make sure you're very likely to take your trip before committing to an upgrade.

The Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard® doesn't offer any discounts or benefits regarding Spirit upgrades. But you can still utilize many other credit card travel credits to cover seat selection fees. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a $300 annual travel credit and The Platinum Card® from American Express offers an airline fee credit (although you'd need to enroll and select Spirit as your airline of choice before making your purchase).

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The information for the Free Spirit Travel More Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Spirit baggage fees and how to avoid paying them

Buy a Spirit upgrade to the exit row

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

There are several ways to pay for an upgrade to the exit row. The first, similar to the Big Front Seat, is to pay for an exit-row seat during seat selection. Spirit lists the price range for paid seat assignments from $1 to $50 (excluding the Big Front Seat). Typically, you'll pay $25 to $35 to select an exit-row seat.

The other way to upgrade to an exit-row seat is to purchase one of the bundles Spirit offers during the booking process. Generally speaking, you'll be offered two bundles during the booking process. Both the more affordable "Just For You" bundle and the pricier "Bundle It" bundle include the ability to pick any seat on the plane (excluding a Big Front Seat).

(Screenshot from spirit.com)

For folks who plan to bring a carry-on or checked bag, bundle pricing that includes an exit-row seat can provide good value.

Related: How to change or cancel a Spirit Airlines flight

Bid on an upgrade to a Big Front Seat or exit-row seat

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Until recently, the only way you could grab a Big Front Seat or exit-row seat on Spirit was to purchase it. However, Spirit has rolled out a bidding system that may allow you to snag a Spirit upgrade for slightly less cash. TPG's Zach Griff tried bidding on a Big Front Seat and saved 40% on the advertised price.

After you book your flight, Spirit has a webpage where you can bid for an upgrade to the exit row or a Big Front Seat. You won't hear whether your bid was successful until within 48 hours of departure (it may be even closer to departure).

Interestingly, the terms and conditions of the Spirit bidding system also mention something called "Instant Level Up." Instant Level Up is an option where Spirit may offer you the opportunity to purchase an upgraded seat immediately during the bidding process. Spirit's website notes that the Instant Level Up option is only available on select routes.

Related: The 3 biggest things I’ll miss most when Spirit is acquired

Get a free Spirit upgrade to exit-row seating with elite status

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

If you fly Spirit frequently and earn elite status with Spirit Airlines, you'll enjoy a few perks for your efforts. Don't confuse these perks with status on United or American, as you won't find yourself with a free Spirit upgrade to the Big Front Seat. But, with enough Spirit flying, you may be able to snag a free upgrade to the exit row.

The Free Spirit program has two elevated levels you can earn: Gold and Silver. Free Spirit Silver members have a chance at a free upgrade to an exit row, but it'll take a bit of luck. Three hours before departure, Free Spirit Silver members can upgrade for free if an exit-row seat is available. Meanwhile, Free Spirit Gold members get a much more useful benefit: They can select exit-row seats when booking.

Related: What is Spirit Airlines elite status worth?

Bottom line

Spirit has options if you want a more comfortable seat, but many of them will cost you money. The Big Front Seat is the closest you'll get to a Spirit upgrade and you won't get it for free, regardless of whether you carry the Spirit credit card or have elite status in the Free Spirit program.

Now that Spirit has more long-haul flights, the comfort of an exit row seat can be worth the extra cash. I'm intrigued by Spirit's bidding system for upgrades to the exit row and Big Front Seat. Maybe when air travel slows down just a bit, bidding on an upgrade will be a good way for travelers to save a few bucks on the comfort they crave.

Featured image by ZACH GRIFF/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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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
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
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees