Earlier in the week, Ed Pizzarello from Pizza in Motion highlighted a deal from Spirit of $62 roundtrips from Pittsburgh (new market) to Las Vegas. While Spirit isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, casual travelers from another site Matthew and I contribute, Pen & Passport, could find a great deal for a weekend trip. But when I went to evaluate the fare, something interesting happened.
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It Starts at $83
The fare populates at $83/roundtrip (Google Flights rounds up) and the availability is impressive. Just look at the availability, July, August, even weekend flights work.
Then Drops to $40 Roundtrip
It’s not new information that sometimes the fare drops when you insert the return date on Google Flights, but what I haven’t seen before is “Book Spirit With Google”.
It turns out that this feature has been around for a little while but is a fairly recent development. Spirit isn’t the only airline that is bookable through Google, Lufthansa has also popped up but many airlines still are not.
Why does it matter? Because the fare dropped which I like, always. I checked Spirit directly on their website and they too carried the fare first at $83 and then it dropped to $40 as well. That gives me the comfort that Google has some ninja tricks to make sure I am always paying the lowest price, even over booking direct. I also like the idea of Google Flights evolving.
Basic Economy vs. Spirit
Google Flights also made clear that the United flights (more than 4x as expensive) do not include any of the perks, they list the same disclaimer as they do for ULCCs. I have an upcoming post this weekend about the Spirit Effect on flight prices, but until then it does look like United has depressed their fares to get closer to the competition. Frontier doesn’t match the Spirit flights under any stretch of the imagination.
For those without status anywhere, you are paying for checked bags no matter who you fly so that comparison is moot. But really, the three carriers are the exact same in terms of what they offer the customer including charging for a carry-on or excluding it entirely (United).
What I found interesting, despite status I hold on United and American, their fares aren’t even close even if I dress this fare up to the hilt. I’m not going to check a bag for a weekend in Vegas, I just won’t need it. If I add their Fast Lane which will get me agent assistance, a carry-on, and a preferred seat, I still don’t break $200 on the roundtrip.
People Are Still Defending Southwest
“Bags Fly Free” they’ll say when stating why they always fly Southwest. Just look at the highway robbery Southwest is charging you for the privilege:
Adding just a carry-on to Spirit and playing Russian Roulette with the seat assignments still keeps roundtrip prices under $100. That’s crazy cheap and I can’t beat it on any of the airlines which include it for me for free. If I could sneak away, I’d book this and I’ll definitely watch out for more fares like this in the future.
Would you fly Spirit roundtrip if it was more than 75% cheaper than comparable options? Would you bother to dress it up to a more reasonable experience or leave it as is and save a boatload?
Depending on the savings, sure. I have no problem traveling right, and frankly, for $40 roundtrip, I’d just as soon screw the seat assignment and large carry-on and save the money for blackjack. It really is very route-specific, though. I once flew DFW-TPA for $34, no add-ons, and have no regrets. But the return on Southwest to DAL was only $43. That’s not compelling enough to forego no carry-on restrictions, two checked bags, and an extra 5″ of seat pitch. DFW is a weird market, though, so probably not representative of what you find in PIT.
What I do think potentially changes the math is the unwanted but widespread proliferation of Basic Economy in markets where the legacies compete with Spirit. At least out of DFW, AA used to get fairly close to NK on pricing, but now those fares have been downgraded to Basic Economy. No way I’m even going to consider Basic Economy over Spirit, whether I have elite status or not. Why pay more for the same substandard product? Might as well take the money and buy a nice dinner wherever I’m headed.
@Meanmeosh – I agree with you wholeheartedly. I am perhaps a little more precious than you are when it comes to premium cabins and how crabby I get when they aren’t handed to me for free, but I remember in Europe not whining once about £10 one-ways on RyanAir, and I just wouldn’t complain about this one either. I might check a bag, especially if I am traveling with others, or pay for a rollaboard but that’s the end of it for me. Take your cheap flight and run!