Spirit Airlines transformed its Free Spirit loyalty program. Here’s what it’s like to fly with Spirit Airlines Gold status.
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?