Spirit Airlines has announced a revamped Free Spirit loyalty program with perks and status levels. Spirit says their new program is the “fastest way to earn rewards and points.”
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Live and Let’s Fly
Free Spirit: A New Loyalty Program From Spirit Airlines
Spirit announced this morning that it has revamped its Free Spirit loyalty program. The shift aligned the program closer to the Big Three with benefits that mirror United and American rather than Frontier and Allegiant.
Spirit is also adding some unique benefits that we haven’t really seen elsewhere. For example, some hotel chains allow guests to use points and cash which utilizes smaller point balances and helps to offset the total cost of the trip. Using Free Spirit points (no longer miles) gives value to guests even if they don’t have enough saved for an entire itinerary.
Earning with partners is not new to the industry but redeeming points on partners is mostly new for airlines. I’ll be excited to hear more about this aspect of the program.
All miles in an account as of January 21st, 2021 when the program is officially re-launched will have a one-year expiration, though as long as there is activity in the guest’s Free Spirit account prior to expiration, the points never expire.
Award flights start at 2,500 points each way.
Some of the benefits are better than the big three. Being able to pool points is a big deal, especially for families. I usually travel with two other family members, sometimes more. Right now, some of those Free Spirit points are orphaned, it will be nice to be able to pool them together (for up to eight travelers.)
- Exit seat assigned 180 minutes prior to departure
- Seat selection at check-in
- Shortcut boarding
- Shortcut security
- Priority phone line
- Same-day standby
- Overweight checked-bag fee waived
Silver Status with Spirit requires 2,000 SQPs (Status Qualifying Points.) The program was spend-based before and remains so, but drops the flight requirements. SQPs are earned 1:1 on base fare (excluding taxes and fees), to earn solely on Spirit flights and extras, you’d have to spend $2,000. There is a waiver for the spend requirement if guests acquire the new Bank of America Spirit Airlines credit card (not all details have been released about the credit card) and spend $20,000 on the card in a year.
For every $10 spent on the credit card one SQP is awarded, so for example, if a guest spends $1,200 on Spirit Airlines flights/products they’d earn 1,200 SQPs. If they spend $8,000 on the credit card during the year, they will be award 800 SQPs and earn Silver Status with Free Spirit.
Truly valuable benefits are earned at the Gold level, however, the requirements are high. Gold Status is awarded following $5,000 in spend on Spirit flights/products or $50,000 on the credit card. I suspect that many will qualify for this level with a combination of the two. For example, those that spend $2,000/year with the carrier and $30,000 on the card ($2,500/month) will have the best benefits.
Free Spirit members that achieve Gold will have all of the benefits of Silver and more. There are two tweaks, exit row seat assignment will occur at booking, not 180 minutes prior to departure, and seat selection is also available at booking not check-in.
Here are the exclusive Gold benefits:
- Flight flex included (one time change 24+ hours prior to departure for free)
- Free drink & snack onboard
- First checked bag free
- Carry-on bag free
Earning status at either level is valid for the rest of the year in which it is earned through all of the next year, much in the way that Southwest offers its companion pass. The earning year is locked with the calendar, January 1st through December 31st.
Benefits for Everyone
Spirit has done a good job with this new rollout for non-status holding members. Some Spirit flyers trying the carrier for the first time will find value that Delta, American, United, and Southwest don’t offer. Those are all fairly unique to the program.
- Expedited points earning for ancillary purchases
- Ancillary purchases count toward spend (SPQs) requirements and earn points
- Points and Cash redemptions
- Earning in a points pool
- Earning and redeeming with partners
- Every seat on every flight is available for point redemption, no restrictions unlike Delta, United and American
How Does Earning Compare In Free Spirit?
In order to know whether this program is of value we need to compare old earnings to new. I will use both an extreme example and an average example.
Extreme Example: Inexpensive – $125 Roundtrip ($89.80 excluding taxes and fees) PIT-FLL
- (Member/Somebody) 90 x 6 points = 540 points vs. 996 miles
- (Silver/Elite) 90 x 8 points = 720 points vs. 1,992 miles
- (Gold/VIP) 90 x 10 points = 900 points vs. 1,992 miles
Normal Example: Average – $274 Roundtrip ($238.80 excluding taxes) PIT-FLL
- (Member/Somebody) 239 x 6 points = 1,434 points vs. 996 miles
- (Silver/Elite) 239 x 8 points = 1,912 points vs. 1,992 miles
- (Gold/VIP) 239 x 10 points = 2,390 points vs. 1,992 miles
Adding A Lá Smart Extras
Let’s add a Big Front Seat for $48 each-way on a roundtrip.
- (Member/Somebody) 96 x 12 points = 1,152 points
- (Silver/Elite) 96 x 16 points = 1,536 points
- (Gold/VIP) 96 x 20 points = 1,920 points
On the cheapest of flights with no extras, the new program is not as rewarding. But if you’re buying anything else at all, most passengers are likely even from the old program. However, unlike other carriers, buying a snack on board, seat assignments, Big Front Seats, or luggage count toward SQPs.
The increase in qualifying requirements represents a 40% increase from the prior Free Spirit program for entry-level status (Elite, now Silver) and 108% for the highest status (VIP, now Gold.) The carrier is built on an ancillary revenue model so encouraging those purchases with points and making those points count for status are smart moves.
Spirit Saver$ Club
From early on in the airline’s inception, the carrier offered discounts on ancillary purchases by purchasing a membership in the “$9 Fare Club.” Initially, Spirit would offer fares for just $9, but the program no longer does but hadn’t changed its name up to now. Going forward, it will be called the “Spirit Saver$ Club” with additional discounted ancillary charges. Currently, the subscription is only offered in 12-month segments but it will add 18 and 24-month options with a $5 and $10 discount respectively.
I use my American Express Platinum Credit Card $200 annual airline credit to offset my membership costs for the now Spirit Saver$ Club.
In many ways, the Free Spirit program is more innovative than any other program in the US. Being able to pool points between family and friends, earning through a combination of credit card spend and directly with the airline to earn status, and waiving overweight luggage fees are really unique and clever. Silver is incredibly easy to obtain, Gold is a little out of reach even for me. However, for those that prefer Spirit’s non-stop flights for families, spending a couple of thousand dollars a year and then $20-30,000 on the credit card could add up to a lot of saving on ancillary charges.
I haven’t been shy about my affection toward Spirit despite top-tier status with both United and American. Its non-stop flights to Florida are sometimes cheaper than my ride to the airport and I only live seven miles away.
What do you think? Will this make you reconsider Spirit? Will you go for Silver or Gold status? If so, which level and why?
image: JT Occhialini / Wikimedia Commons