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Why this Florida-based flyer will be taking a closer look at Spirit Airlines in 2021

Oct. 23, 2020
7 min read
Spirit A321neo Economy LGA-FLL
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I moved to the state of Florida in 2007 and became a resident of St. Lucie County in May 2009. And in the 11+ years that I've lived equidistant from both Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, I have never taken a Spirit Airlines flight.

That doesn't mean I'm not a traveler. When not in the midst of a global pandemic, I typically take at least 30 domestic flights in a calendar year — split between business travel and weekend getaways with my family. This isn't anywhere near the road-warrior days before my daughter was born, but it does cement my place as a relatively frequent flyer.

And with the recent announcement of Spirit's new loyalty program, here is why I plan to take a much closer look at Spirit Airlines in 2021.

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Extensive service

I always knew that one of Spirit's main gateways was Fort Lauderdale (FLL), and I also knew that the carrier offered a variety of flights from Orlando (MCO). However, I had never really dug into Spirit's modern-day route map — which includes more than 60 unique, nonstop destinations across these two airports (I ignored the route between the two cities since it's one I'd never take, and this is also based on a shift to more "normal" service in 2021).

Most importantly, Spirit flies the routes that I take most frequently — in a normal year, that is.

I typically need to travel to Charlotte (CLT) for business a few times a year, and the same holds true to visit the TPG office in New York City. I also have family just outside of New York, and with multiple daily flights from both Florida gateways to New York-LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark (EWR), it's easy to reach the tri-state area.

Related: JFK vs. LaGuardia vs. Newark: Which NYC airport should I fly into?

I was also unaware of how many flights Spirit offers to the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

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This includes well-known destinations like Cancun (CUN) and Aruba (AUA) but also more off-the-radar cities — including Managua, Nicaragua (MGA) and Bucaramanga, Colombia (BGA). And before COVID-19, it had plans to grow even further while investing in its onboard hard product at the same time.

Of course, this route network has largely been there for some time, but it's Spirit's newest announcement that is bringing this into the front of my mind.

New program enhancements

The existing Free Spirit loyalty program that will disappear in Jan. 2021 has a couple of features that are unappealing to many points-and-miles enthusiasts:

  • Your miles expire after just three months without any earning activity.
  • As a non-elite member, you earn miles at a rate of 50% of the distance you fly — with no additional earning opportunities on extras like bags and seats.
  • Redemptions are capacity-controlled — and can sometimes be a phenomenally-poor value (see below).

Under the newly-announced program, you have a year to either earn or redeem additional points to keep them active (the current program only extends the validity period when you earn miles). You'll also earn points based on the amount you spend on both tickets and extras -- with the "extras" coming in at double the rate of the money spent on airfare.

Related: How to fly without bag fees on Spirit Airlines using the free personal item

The new Free Spirit program promises no blackout dates for award tickets and will base redemption levels on the ticket price. We don't yet know exactly what this translates too, but hopefully, it'll be a notable enhancement over awards like this:

If you're keeping score at home, these one-way flights from Orlando to Newark would be $17.10 or 25,000 miles plus $13.10 in taxes and fees — giving you a redemption value of 0.016 cents per point.

Elite status that's attainable

Generally speaking, legacy airlines have taken notable steps over the last several years to make it harder to earn elite status, including introducing revenue requirements and the imposition of restrictions on partner flights. Meanwhile, Frontier is the only low-cost carrier in the U.S. that offers anything resembling a "traditional" elite status program — and even that requires flying a minimum of 20,000 miles or 25 segments to obtain.

Spirit's new program is a major enhancement, creating a full-fledged approach to rewarding the carrier's frequent travelers — and putting it within relatively easy reach.

Related: Comparing Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines

Under the new Free Spirit program, you'll need 2,000 annual Status Qualifying Points (SQPs) to earn Silver status and 5,000 SQPs to reach Gold — with one SQP earned for every dollar spent on Spirit fares and extras on your flights. You can also earn one SQP for every $10 you spend on an eligible Spirit Airlines credit card. That means the following:

  • Silver: Earned after $2,000 in spending with Spirit, $20,000 in card spend, or some combination of the two.
  • Gold: Earned after $5,000 in spending with Spirit, $50,000 in card spend, or some combination of the two.

Yes, Spirit's base fares are quite low, and we still don't have complete details on what the "enhanced" credit cards will be. Nevertheless, given my usual flying activity, both of these thresholds are within reach.

And that's when things get interesting ...

Related: Everything you should know before flying Spirit Airlines

Perks that belie the low-cost carrier

Free seat selection is just one perk coming in January 2021 to new Spirit elite members. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

One of the major reasons Spirit has rarely registered on my radar is because it's unabashedly a low-cost carrier. Base fares are incredibly low — but then the extra costs really add up. You pay for carry-on bags, seat assignments, checked bags, food and drinks onboard and for even for the privilege of redeeming your points (if they haven't expired, that is).

And if you have status in the current Free Spirit loyalty program, none of that is covered.

That is changing on Jan. 21, 2021.

For starters, Silver members will be able to pick their seats at check-in, can be assigned exit row seats within three hours of departure and will earn a 33% point bonus on flights (8x) and extras (16x) — all nice perks. However, Gold members come out with a lot of extras, including:

  • 67% point bonus on flights (10x) and extras (20x)
  • Seat selection at booking (including exit rows but excluding Big Front Seats)
  • Free Flight Flex
  • A free carry-on and checked bag
  • Free drink and snack onboard

These in-flight perks essentially create a legacy-like experience with the discounted fares of a low-cost carrier — a level that I may pursue once travel begins returning to normal.

Related: How to pack only in a Spirit Airlines free carry-on bag

Bottom line

Of course, there are remaining questions about the new Free Spirit program — like details on the credit card offerings and how the new Saver$ club (currently known as the $9 Fare Club) will work. However, those uncertainties pale in comparison to one topic: award tickets. How exactly will these be priced? A "no blackout dates" policy sounds great in theory, but if redemption levels aren't affordable, that may change my plan for 2021.

Nevertheless, count me as one Florida resident who is extremely excited about this new loyalty program.

Featured photo by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy

Featured image by (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
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

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
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.

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.

Pros

  • 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
Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    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

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

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.

Pros

  • 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