Cheaper Flights – The Spirited Way

March 23rd, 2012  |  Published in General  |  3 Comments

Many people like to travel during retirement but the cost can be prohibitive. There are many ideas out there in the ethernet on how to save on plane tickets, including:

*Buy them ahead of time. At least six weeks early, if you can do it.

*Use discount sites like Kayak, CheapoAir and Cheap Tickets. (Add .com to each of these to access their site.)

*Deal directly with the airline. Some, like Southwest and Air Tran, don’t list their fares on discount sites. Others feature website specials. Look before you book.

*Use an airline that gives you more for your ticket. Want to check bags for free? Southwest is the spot to do it. Looking for a heftier snack? Frontier’s been more generous than others — and offers fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies on some flights. (Their coffee’s not bad, either.)

But if you’re looking for the best rock-bottom price on plane tickets, consider a Spirited approach.

Spirit Airlines began in 1980 as a charter airline to vacation spots — and half its destinations are still to places like the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Latin American countries like Mexico. But it also flies to Denver (starting May 3), Los Angeles, Montreal, Portland, New York City…and at stunningly low prices. An April ticket from Boston to Chicago, for example, will set you back about $50 each way. It’s about the same price for Detroit to New York City — or Las Vegas. There’s no doubt about it; flying this airline will save you money.

There are drawbacks, of course, and the primary one is extra fees. (Spirit calls them “optional.”) Not only does Spirit charge for checked bags (a common approach now, sadly) — but it also charges for carryons. (It does allow one ‘personal item:’ carry a large tote bag and pack it full to minimize the sting.) The ‘overweight’ fees start at 41 pounds, instead of 50, like many other airlines.

Spirit charges to book your flight online. (Go to an airport counter to do it for free.) It charges if you choose your own seat. It hits you for a $125-150 in ticket changes or cancellations. (Ouch.)

And it charges for drinks and goodies. (Buy them on the concourse before you board. Snacks, too.)

That being said, Spirit offers an even more tempting way to save: the $9 Fare Club. Members of this program ($59.95 fee yearly) not only get price breaks on bags and carryons, but also on flights. To top that off, Spirit also offers $9 one-way fares a few days a month. Think of it — Peru (or your grandma’s) for $9! And yes, you can also book these ahead of time.

If you’re planning more than a few flights this year, or have to make a last-minute reservation because of a funeral, wedding or family event, the $9 Fare Club could save you big bucks. In any case, Spirit Airlines is a worthy addition to your suitcase of low-cost travel tips.

This is a post by staff writer Cindy Brick. You can visit her at CindyBrick.com or her personal blog.

  

Responses

  1. Cherleen @ yesiamcheap says:

    March 24th, 2012 at 3:56 pm (#)

    I will be flying off to California on December to reunite with other family members and relatives whom I have not seen for many years. I will check with Spirit Airlines what they can offer. Thanks for the information!

  2. Cindy Brick says:

    March 25th, 2012 at 5:36 pm (#)

    You’re very welcome, Cherleen!
    We’re going through this ourselves. My family needs to make a quick trip to Grand Rapids MI for a family wedding in June. Spirit doesn’t fly there (darn it), but it does go into Chicago, which is 3 hours drive away. We’re debating right now whether it would be smarter to fly via Spirit and rent a car — or just drive the whole thing (18 hours each way). With gas prices rising, the Spirit approach seems increasingly smarter…especially if we can snag something with the $9 Fare Club.
    Thanks for visiting, and writing.

  3. Steve says:

    March 31st, 2012 at 12:47 pm (#)

    Thanks for the post. You have got to love the airline industry – so many different fees and gimmicks to sort through when making a purchase decision. The in-depth info on Spirit is appreciated, perhaps they’ll get a look the next time I go to book a flight.