How I strategically saved 40% on Spirit’s Big Front Seat upgrade

Oct 12, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Thanks to frequent fare sales and a plethora of promotional offers, it’s quite easy to find a deal on a Spirit Airlines flight.

In fact, I flew the airline’s inaugural domestic flight from Miami to Newark last week, and the mid-morning Wednesday departure cost just $22.90.

Though it’s a great deal on paper, Spirit, like its ultra-low-cost rivals, charges separately for all ancillary fees, including seat assignments, carry-on bags, and flight changes. These extras vary in price depending on the route, day of travel and other factors, and they don’t go on sale or get discounted as flight fares do.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

That’s why I was especially curious when I received an email after booking my Newark flight with the headline “you’re just a few clicks away from a super comfy ride at a super comfy price.”

(Screenshot courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

I’ve recently been flying with Spirit more than ever, and have really enjoyed my flights in the airline’s Big Front Seat. Each of the carrier’s yellow Airbus jets is outfitted with a handful of domestic first-class recliners arranged in a 2-2 configuration, available for roughly the same cost of an extra-legroom coach seat on major network airlines. 

The extra width and added legroom of the Big Front Seat make flying with Spirit so much more comfortable. This year, I’ve exclusively flown in the first two rows on my three Spirit flights.

However, I originally decided to forgo paying for a seat assignment on my Newark flight. After all, the flight cost just $23, and I couldn’t justify paying $55 — double the flight price — for a Big Front Seat upgrade for the three-hour journey.

So, when I received the email about scoring access to a discount upfront seat, I wanted to learn more. Turns out, Spirit has contracted PlusGrade, a digital upgrade solution platform, to allow travelers to submit bids for better seats.

Spirit’s Big Front Seat offers both extra legroom and a surprising amount of comfort. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If Spirit can’t fill its Big Front Seats at the going rate of $55, why not make some money on them instead of leaving them empty?

That’s where PlusGrade comes in. The service allows flyers to make bids for either a Big Front Seat or an exit row. All these seats were vacant at the time the email came through, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.

I decided to bid the lowest possible offer, $34 or roughly 40% off the going rate, for the Big Front Seat. I was then told to expect an email between 48 hours and two hours before departure informing me of the outcome of my bid. I couldn’t specify my preferred seat (the window), but I could submit separate bids for the Big Front Seat or the exit row (I only submitted for the former).

Related: Is the Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat worth it?

In the coming days, I monitored the seat map. Six of the eight Big Front Seats remained unoccupied, so I was confident about my bid, despite the fact that it was labeled as having “poor” odds of being accepted.

Had more seats been occupied, I probably would’ve increased my bid by a few dollars, since you can modify or cancel your bid until two days before departure.

Forty-eight hours before my flight, I hadn’t heard anything from Spirit. There were still six unoccupied recliners available for sale, so I had a good feeling.

Lo and behold, I woke up the day before my flight with an email from Spirit congratulating me on the bid being accepted. I quickly refreshed my reservation to see that I was assigned seat 1C, a bulkhead aisle — my least favorite type of seat. A 30-minute call to the airline’s reservation team got me moved to my preferred seat, a window in the second row.

(Screenshot courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

For $34, a $21 savings compared to the going rate, I was happy with my purchase. Sure it still cost more than the flight itself, but it made my inflight experience much more pleasant.

And at $57 all-in for the flight and a first-class recliner, I’d call that a big win in my book.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.