Yesterday Mommy Points told me that I should fly the new Spirit Airlines Los Angeles – Baltimore redeye flight that I called the most uncomfortable flight in America. I think she just wanted to torture me (although unquestionably it would be great source material for blog posts here).
- They offer less legroom in economy than the major US airlines (even leaving out ‘extra legroom’ seats)
- Their seats are said to be ‘pre-reclined’ (i.e. you can’t)
I don’t mind paying for carry on bags if the total trip cost is lower than airlines who don’t charge for that. I don’t mind paying for water onboard either, it’s unlikely to tip the value proposition one way or another.
And I actually like:
- Their ads. I think they’re hilarious. They speak to me as still a 13 year old boy at heart.
- Their ‘big front seat’ concept. It’s often a cheap buy up, from $12 to $199 extra. (At 36 inches though it’s not much more legroom than other airlines’ economy plus).
The best thing about Spirit and ‘the Big Front Seat’ is that you get exactly what they promise. You’re buying a big front seat, there’s no expedited security or free checked bags or free food. Your fee gets you a bigger seat at the front of the plane.
And Spirit’s website is really clear about what they offer and what they charge. That’s great. I don’t like the legroom, but the Big Front Seat can still be cheap, so we’ll put that aside.
There are two things I really don’t like about Spirit Airlines. The first is an annoyance that would make me not enjoy the start of the travel experience and the second actually keeps me away.
When flying Spirit you don’t get TSA PreCheck. Not only don’t they have a deal with TSA to grant it to passengers based on status and other date, they don’t even pass through a Global Entry Known Traveler number.
Spirit has not partnered with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to support TSA PreCheck. As we don’t support this, there’s no place when making your reservation to enter your Global Entry number.
Then again, maybe this is just part of their 13 year old boy marketing. Getting groped is the one thing that doesn’t cost extra.
The biggest issue is that they don’t have a big, redundant route network. That’s at the heart of their business model, it’s how they make money. But it also makes them less reliable.
- Only 50% of their flights were on time in June. That’s last among US airlines.
- When a flight cancels or faces a significant delay there aren’t a lot of alternate ways to get you to your destination.
During significant weather events in Dallas, I may miss a connecting flight. American puts me on their next one. Or they send me through Chicago. Delta could send a Detroit connecting passenger through Atlanta or Minneapolis. United might connect in Houston or Denver instead of Chicago, to name just a few.
Large network carriers have redundancies that give you a better chance of getting where you’re going within a reasonable period of time after your originally scheduled arrival time when things go wrong. Spirit offers far fewer such options. And that’s the major reason I don’t want to fly Spirit. When I travel, it’s because I need to get where I’m going, and I have a better chance of doing that with one of the US legacy carriers.