Spirit Airlines, the a la carté value carrier, relaunched its Free Spirit loyalty program today along with new credit cards. Spirit is becoming surprisingly competitive with larger carriers. Here’s everything you need to know.
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Free Spirit Reinvented
In October, we announced that Spirit was relaunching its frequent flyer program, but reinventing is a better term. Spirit Airlines’ loyalty program was light on benefits; there was no significant difference in their loyalty tiers. As part of their “Invest in the Guest” mantra, they are intent on becoming the best value in the sky; added benefits are an important part of that strategy.
The new Free Spirit miles are now points and no longer distance-based.
Without going through every new program benefit (there’s more than 20 and we did that in this linked post) I’d rather focus on the key benefits that make the program unique.
Cash and points redemptions start at 1,000 points, another way that Free Spirit will stand out from the competition. This helps those who may have fewer redeemable points find value from them. Like most carriers, points are dynamic and will change with relation to the cost of the flight. You may be shocked to know that Free Spirit points are valued at between 1.0-1.5 cents per point. Other US carriers are valued in the same range.
The value of Free Spirit points is fairly high considering its earning rate. For comparison, top tier elite flyers with American, United, or Delta will earn a maximum of 12 points per dollar spent on the fare. Top flyers with Spirit will earn 10 points per dollar on the fare but 20 points per dollar on ancillary purchases. It’s possible to earn more points of approximately the same value with Spirit.
Another feature of the new Free Spirit program is the ability to snag any seat on any flight so long as it is available – no blackout dates. This benefit contrasts with United, Delta, and American who restrict award space even if there are ample seats available.
Credit cardholders, Free Spirit Silver, Gold elite flyers, and Saver Club members will all have access to Spirit’s new “Yellow Glove Service.” This offers guests special access to dedicated customer service call centers and recognition at the airports. For those that really love Spirit and hold the card as well as status, there is a hierarchy and the most-qualified will receive Yellow Glove Service prioritization.
In many ways, Free Spirit Gold is better than most elite tiers elsewhere. Gold elite flyers have access at the time of booking to preferable exit rows or assigned seats, no fee for carry-on nor the first checked bag, they receive a free drink and snack on every flight, board the plane first, and earn redeemable points at an accelerated rate with access to dedicated customer service lines.
Gold also adds points pooling, expedited security (some airlines include CLEAR), and is accessible from a far lower threshold (5,000 SQPs between flying and credit cards.)
Free Spirit Silver status has most of those benefits from just 2,000 SQPs, easily obtained by a casual flyer and credit cardholder.
Reinvented Credit Cards
There are two new credit cards to accompany this transition. The Bank of America Free Spirit Travel Card has a host of new features as does its big brother, the “Travel More” card. In addition to earning Free Spirit points (not miles), the cards add some considerable value to flyers. The Travel card has no annual fee. The Bank of America Free Spirit Travel More World Mastercard has an annual fee waived for the first year, then $79.
The below is a comparison of benefits between each of the Spirit-branded credit cards. The no annual fee “Travel” card earns a 10,000 point bonus after spending $500 in the first 90 days. The Travel More card earns 40,00o points after spending just $1,000 in the first 90 days.
One key benefit of the Travel card is that on the anniversary of the card, 5,000 Free Spirit points are applied to the cardholders Free Spirit Account as long as they spent $10,000 in the previous year. For Travel More cardholders, they will receive a $100 off companion voucher which works as a discount on the total price of that passenger’s fare. That benefit alone offsets the annual fee and then some.
All the Free Spirit credit cards allow points pooling which helps friends and family members reduce the cost of future Spirit Flights.
Both cards also eliminate any redemption fee of award tickets. Similar benefits are included in Latin America by Promerica in Platinum and Gold cards. The only benefit that the Promerica versions do not include is a waived award booking fee for close-in redemptions.
The App Gets an Upgrade Too
Spirit’s app has had a bit of a renovation as well. Now that status has become a more meaningful experience for the traveler and point of emphasis for the airline, the app adds the ability to track progress toward status. The redesign does a nice job of providing everything you might want to know or need for your trip without cluttering it with too many options. Saver Club members (no longer called the “$9 Fare Club”) can see details of their membership in the app.
The traveler’s Free Spirit status will now appear in the color of the boarding pass that the traveler holds.
Here is a boarding pass example for a gold member of Free Spirit.
The new Free Spirit program offers significant value to both first-time Spirit flyers, and loyal customers alike. Elite tiers are comparable, and in many cases better, than equivalent tiers at other airlines. The new look and feel of the program add to its value, even if I still prefer that I earn “miles” instead of points. For substantially less money spent on flights, guests are treated to an elevated experience, often direct flights, and an airline that is clearly focused on improving the guest experience.
What do you think? Are you a Free Spirit flyer? If not, would you be compelled to give Spirit a second look?
I’ll bite. It’s an interesting concept in that it’s possible to actually feel elite on one of the worst rated airlines in the USA BUT if I was flying back and forth to a city often due to being a contractor, for example, and this allowed me similar amenities to economy class on a normal airline, I would at least consider it. It may help tip some people one way or another.
But also importantly, it may help to push standards of airline FF programs higher rather than the race to the bottom in amenities that Spirit had previously spearheaded. An improvement in FF programs and benefits for passengers is welcome no matter where it comes from.
How hard it is to reach Gold status on Spirit? How much of you that can you do with the right Spirit credit card?
You can get the whole way there with the credit card for $50,000 in spend – a lot for a consumer, not as much for a business. But those work in conjunction with Spirit spend. Spending on Spirit flights earns 1:1 of the dollars spent on fares. Let’s say you spend $1,500 on Spirit flights, you have 1500 SQPs, you would then spend $35,000 on the card to get to Gold. If you spent $4000 in Spirit flights for the year, then just $10,000 on the card would get there.
Very interesting. Thank you.