Spirit Airlines transformed its Free Spirit loyalty program. Here’s what it’s like to fly with Spirit Airlines Gold status.
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Free Spirit Gold Benefits
Once Spirit Airlines launched its revamped Free Spirit frequent flyer program, I was itching to use my shiny new gold status. Briefly, Free Spirit Silver members achieve the level by accruing 2,000 SQPs, and Spirit travelers earning 5,000 SQPs qualify for Gold. What makes this such a unique status is that ancillary charges not only earn points (they do not on United, American, Delta, Alaskan, or Southwest for example) but they earn them at an accelerated rate.
Additionally, Free Spirit credit card holders (Bank of America revamped that offering too) earn Status Qualifying Points (SQPs) that blend with those earned from Spirit flights. For comparison, status at the Gold level would be unavailable by spend on any other airline. I previously held the Citi Aadvantage Executive card which required $40,000 in spend to earn 10,000 EQMs, or the current JetBlue card from Barclays that provides Mosaic status in most years after $50,000 in spend – both would afford fewer benefits for the same money.
On my flight, my favorite benefit was a free carry-on and free checked bag though it’s nice to have an airline that feels they can manage a snack box for elites in the back of the plane too.
You can find a full review of the new program here.
My family and I flew with Spirit a few weeks ago on a roundtrip. The benefits were still new within the last 90 days so not all staff members had come to understand all of them. Checkin was a breeze, and for good measure, I added a carry-on and checked bag in both directions just in case. This had an unintended benefit. Gold elite members receive Group 2 boarding, but adding a carry-on (even if you don’t have one with you) comes with Boarding Group 1 – and that applied to my party of three.
Our checked bag was over the limit of 40lbs but as overweight luggage fees are waived for Gold, the agent initially tried to charge us for this until he realized it was an included benefit. He was pleasant about it, as were we. He didn’t try to charge us for the bag because we had selected them online in advance.
We used TSA Precheck so we didn’t try out shortcut security, however, only Pittsburgh has a priority lane outside of standard security, and TSA Precheck; Fort Myers does not. Pittsburgh didn’t have a significant line at security regardless.
We boarded in Group 1 and had no issues. As I mentioned in another post, by buying our tickets at the airport, not only did we save the extra fees of booking online but we also had our seating included at that point in time. The program relaunch hadn’t taken place yet so our free assignments to preferred seating and rows had not been applied but were automatically adjusted at checkin – something American and United don’t do (in my experience.)
After takeoff as inflight services began I was able to select a snack box and a drink, though staff wasn’t quite sure how to execute this on their tablets. For my experience, it was a pretty seamless encounter and one that my family enjoyed.
Should You Go For Gold?
Comparing my experience to American Airlines and United Airlines, both of whom I have flown in the last six weeks and both as a top-level elite, I’d call my experience a toss-up vs. Free Spirit Gold. I cleared a first-class upgrade on just one of four flights on United (not offered within Free Spirit) for a 45-minute flight.
I paid $450 for that trip on United compared to a fraction on Spirit but actually got more benefits from Spirit than I did with United. I was able to us points pooling to centralize earnings with friends and family members traveling with me. I would have earned more redeemable points and more SQPs had I spent any money on extras.
Some of these benefits are included in Spirit’s fare club, Free Spirit Savers, for about $60/annually,
I didn’t need to utilize flight flex for my trip (free changes up to 24 hours prior) but it would have been a leg up on American’s antiquated approach. United has a pretty good system for last minute flight changes for elites.
United charges a redemption fee in the form of more points required for near-term bookings, while Spirit does not and in fact, they waive any redemption fees. Not to beat a dead horse [picks up mallet, walks toward carcass] but United can’t give me a box of cheese dip and salami due to COVID (this is now official policy) and Spirit can.
Should you go for Gold? Maybe. Do you fly primarily fly domestically and to Latin America/the Caribbean? If so, it’s probably a yes. If you need to go further afield, Delta, American, and United might be your answer.
The one thing to remember is that while the other carriers spent the last five years requiring more and more spending to maintain the same elite levels, and more points to redeem for the same trip as before, Spirit went the other direction. In the pandemic, Spirit is the one that’s rolling out innovation for its customers, and United is rolling it back. United is threatening more layoffs without a… [checks notes] third [is that right?] bailout while Spirit is hiring pilots and flight attendants.
Yes. Yes, you should go for Gold.
Don’t let my snark cloud your impression of my experience. I found Free Spirit Gold to be an excellent customer experience and on par if not exceeding some aspects of United 1K. You’ve read that correctly. It’s also not for everyone. Some customers will fly long-haul flights abroad utilizing a bevy of partners and extensive needs beyond even what their primary carrier provides. However, for those flying closer to home maybe it’s time to reconsider which airline deserves your attention. It’s pretty clear who does and does not want it.
What do you think? Have you flown Spirit with an elite level? How has your experience been?
Why would I fly Spirit after this and several other incidents involving small children???
“Four-year-old Arkansas boy with autism kicked off flight for not wearing mask – despite doctor’s exemption note” A young boy with Autism was kicked off of a Spirit Airlines flight after he was unable to wear a mask due to his disability, and had a doctor’s note to vouch for that.
On Monday, March 15th, four-year-old Carter Kimball was left devastated when both him and his father were removed from their return flight home because Carter was unable to wear a mask.
The note explaining Carter’s reason for not wearing a mask however was accepted on the flight to their destination, creating a double standard by the company.
KTHV-TV spoke with Carter’s mother, Callie Kimball, who told the outlet that her husband and son, were allegedly kicked off their return flight after visiting family in Las Vegas.
According to Callie, their family has flown multiple times with their son, who is severely autistic and is non-verbal, as Carter has a love for airplanes.
The Blaze reported that Carter’s physician supplied them with a letter to carry while traveling that explains Carter is exempt from mask mandates because of his disability. According to Callie, when Carter wears a mask “he starts freaking out,” “holds his breath,” and “will harm himself.”
Callie explained that the family has often flown on Spirit Airlines, and has never experienced any issues until this past Monday. According to reports, after the family boarded the aircraft, an employee on the airline allegedly said:
“autism’s not a disability”
The employee also allegedly notified the family that:
“he has to wear a mask or he has to get off the plane.”
As if a father and his autistic son being kicked off of the plane was not bad enough, the family utilizes a babysitter for Carter to assist them during travel, and the sitter was not allowed off of the aircraft with the boy.
Carters father was left with little options while being stranded in Dallas, and was forced to spend $1,000 out of pocket in order to board an American Airlines flight to get home.
The Kimball family attempted to regain the money they spent on their Spirit Airlines flight home, but have still not received an answer to their refund request from the company.
Callie Kimball told KTHV:
“So we’re out all of our flights, a thousand bucks and we have a son who’s just distraught now that he like threw all of his airplanes down,”
Unfortunately the discrimination of disabled children is not an isolated incident for Spirit Airlines.
The Blaze reported that last September, a Chicago family said the airline sent them a letter banning three-year-old Cebastian Lewis after he kept removing his mask on a return flight home.
According to the Lewis family, during a layover, a Spirit Airlines employee made the entire plane de-board, and allegedly filed a police report against the family.
According to WFLD-TV, Spirit argued that the family was using profanity and being uncooperative.
The outlet reported that the airline justified their actions in the Lewis family incident, stating:
“Spirit released a statement, saying they require face covering during the entire flight. The only exceptions are children under 2. Travelers unable to wear them for any reason, including medical, won’t be able to fly Spirit.”
Spirit Airlines is not the only airline to kick families with children off of an airplane due to an inability to wear a mask. Earlier in March, Law Enforcement Today reported that Frontier Airlines crew members removed a Jewish family from a plane, and then celebrated because the 15-month-old would not wear a mask. Here is that full story.
Spirit may have made improved their program on the spending side, but it’s now *much* harder to earn points because they switched to points for dollars spent instead of points for miles flown. I have put up with their cramped planes and miserable customer service because my frequent round-trip flights earned me 5000 points by spending $30-100 (depending on whatever sale they were running at the time of purchase). Now I will only earn a few, nearly worthless points, so I think it’s time to use what I have and switch carriers.
Does the free checked bag and seat selection extend to everyone that is traveling with me. I read somewhere it did but when I tried to book it looked as if there was a charge for my partner.
Just the Gold member.