Spirit Airlines Big Front Seats are the key to deriving a guaranteed positive experience. For elite flyers, the Spirit experience can be a struggle, unless you find a way to separate yourself from the rest.
Booking just one day prior to departure on our Mystery trip to Cartagena, I was surprised to find a Spirit flight available on Tuesday when it hadn’t been there prior. While phantom space exists in the award booking process, and sometimes there are phantom prices for revenue flights (low-priced flights where the tremendous pricing disappears at ticketing only to re-price considerably higher) – but the phantom existence of flights was something I thought reserved for Bermuda.
Prior to leaving for Florida, there was no Spirit offering to Cartagena from Fort Lauderdale on our desired Tuesday departure. As an alternative to a Wednesday departure on JetBlue we also briefly considered Copa with a 22-hour layover in Panama as we loved that city over the holiday this year. Before booking either option, we thought we would check one more time to see any of the carriers that fly it daily had adjusted their price so close to departure.
Suddenly, not only was a Spirit flight available on Tuesday at a great time (11AM departure, 12:30 arrival), but the price was as low as the Wednesday flight on Spirit and matched the JetBlue price of $155. Better still, by the time I got to checkout and added a pair of checked bags, the price had dropped even further and the grand total came to just $409 for all three passengers, taxes and bags.
Once at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the situation was clear, we needed to secure some first-class seats. ‘Big Front Seats’ as they are called by the obnoxiously yellow carrier, were to separate ourselves from the commoners spilling out of the checkin lines. Standing among the swill, I looked for an opportunity out; the kiosks were my refuge.
Scanning my passport page, I selected the last three Big Front Seats, conveniently in the same row, though this aircraft oddly had two and a half rows of Big Front Seats with the third row split between normal 30” pitch Spirit coach seats and the larger two seat section on the opposite side of the aisle. For a mere $45 each, an increase of more than a third over what we paid for an individual seat with taxes, we would be relieved of the cramped quarters behind.
My metal AMEX Platinum card slid into the kiosk, my Centurion (black card) left at home in the Rolex drawer. It didn’t register in the Spirit Airlines basic computer system and I was back in line with the great unwashed. Our time prior to departure was running short and as tempted as I was to muscle past those just checking in for flights hours later, most with their entire extended family in line with them, I began to grow impatient. My concern was that the ruthless staff wouldn’t allow us to checkin if we didn’t reach the counter 90 minutes prior to departure, despite it being their dated computer system that was incapable of processing my credit card.
We made it there four minutes prior to the cutoff point where the indignant counter agent demanded payment which I had already provided. I clanked the card against the top of the counter and looked away, I couldn’t force a smile given the challenging environment I was made to endure, just to spend more money with them. I set my Rimowa Topas luggage on to the scale, the aluminum reflecting the fluorescent lights of the counter brilliantly.
Following remittance, we proceeded to TSA Precheck where again we found ourselves in rarified air. The line was empty, except for one other passenger in the process and we felt so much more comfortable with the TSA staff to ourselves.
To our chagrin, Big Front Seat purchases do not entitle passengers to board Spirit flights first. Though we were shocked by this, we continued to stand near the front of the gate area as we should have been allowed to board immediately. We considered brushing past the Group 1 passengers, but chose to avoid physical contact instead.
Once onboard, we settled in. The looky-loos from the back of the plane gawked at us like zoo animals. It must be difficult to walk to their cramped chicken coop at the back of the bus while we stretched our legs and avoided eye contact.
Much like domestic first class on the flag carriers, we were not offered a pre-departure beverage, sat in a similarly sized seat and had plenty of room. For our money, it was well worth it to stretch out and feel comfortable, even for the short two hour and twenty-minute flight. There was nothing on the menu worth considering, but after my hot/cold and beguiling experiences with United catering, I am not sure it could have been any worse.
I rang the call button about a half an hour into the flight and requested that a blanket is hung to distinguish the cabins and avoid any confusion on the use of the forward restroom for the 40 plus rows behind the first three. The flight attendant couldn’t figure out how to hang the blanket including the Big Front Seat half row but excluding the others so the matter was dropped. The stench from the back of the plane wafted to the front but dabbing a bit of cologne on my wrists every 15 minutes seemed to solve the problem.
Landing in Cartagena was easy and beautiful, and while we were forced to trudge down the stairs with our luggage (no jetways), the afternoon breeze from the sea was refreshing. My father’s favorite butler always said, “Find the good in everything” and I still carry those words with me today. In the immigration line, we were able to jump most of the queue due to our daughter, I also feigned a limp to get stamped quickly.
This post was tongue-in-cheek because I actually rather like Spirit and found their buy-up process worthwhile – a great value for money. I wanted to poke fun at myself and others that find themselves standing on the red carpet when checking into five-star hotels and whining about the size of the suite we get or the breakfast service on a free upgrade from United.
For clarity, we really enjoyed our flight with Spirit. I couldn’t believe we were able to find availability on such short notice. (Oddly I found out later that the flight had actually been oversold though I knew nothing of this at the time). My family loved the upgrades and thought the pricing and product were more than fair if not (dare I say) a little underpriced. While the above piece was intended to be humorous and oozing with sarcasm, the following are the real elements of our random trip departing Fort Lauderdale for Cartagena:
- The prices are real, and to me, they remain incredible. The three tickets plus two checked bags came to $136.33 per person before $45 for the upgrade to the Big Front Seat.
- My card was rejected in the kiosk and we had to wait in line, but we waited less than 10 minutes and made it to the front quickly. We really were nervous but unduly so.
- The staff were all very sweet and helpful, we haven’t had an issue to date with Spirit staff being anything but friendly, and polite.
- We did have TSA Precheck to ourselves, we really do love that especially as a family.
- We didn’t board first, but it didn’t actually bother us.
- The seating really was 2.5 rows of Big Front Seats, but I never ever asked for a blanket to separate the cabins… Spirit doesn’t carry blankets onboard.
We loved Cartagena and the Spirit service was affordable and cheerful. On JetBlue coming home from Colombia, their equipment didn’t offer a 2-2 seating row and the base price for coach (in a 3-3 configuration) was more expensive than an essentially domestic first class on Spirit. Given the choice, I would choose them again because of price and accessibility to Big Front Seats for very little money.
Have you tried the Big Front Seats on Spirit? Did you enjoy your experience? Were you able to read to the part where I explained I was poking fun at myself for being too posh while still flying Spirit?