Spirit is Truly a Horrible Airline

by Miguel R. Quinones


I have never flown Spirit Airlines and I certainly do not plan to. It seems like everything you read about them is negative. While people can sometimes exaggerate, particularly when it comes to airlines, the numbers do seem to back up that Spirit is truly one horrible airline.

Per this CNBC article, last year Spirit had the worst on-time arrival record of 13 U.S. carriers evaluated. Only 68.98% of Spirt’s flights arrived on time. For reference, the national average for U.S. carriers was 79.9%. Hawaiian, Alaska, Delta and American (including US Airways) all had on-time arrival rates of over 80%. Among those four, Hawaiian was the best with a 88.4% on-time arrival rate. Only two other airlines, Envoy and Frontier, had on-time arrival rates of under 75%

As if that was not enough, it turns out that Spirit also had the highest rate of consumer complaints. According to the previously cited CNBC article, 11.73 out of every 100,000 customers who flew Spirit last year filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation about some aspect of their experience. The national average is 1.9 complaints per 100,000 flyers, which means that the DOT received over six times more complaints from Spirit flyers than they received from passengers of other airlines. Most of the 2,069 complaints filed against Spirit were related to “flight problems”. Other complaints were mostly about reservations, ticketing, boarding and baggage.

Outside of low fares, which can sometimes be deceiving considering how much they nickle and dime you for everything, there is really very little Spirit can hang their hat on. Not only do they appear to have a lot of trouble from a customer service standpoint, but they are unable to run the airline in anything close to an efficient manner as evidenced by their disastrous on-time arrival rates.

What have your experiences flying with Spirit Airlines been like?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


Related Articles


AAindfw February 19, 2016 - 12:29 pm

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Miguel R. Quinones February 19, 2016 - 1:29 pm

That is why I went with the facts!

Aaindfw February 19, 2016 - 1:43 pm

So you fly them with low expectations. You can’t please everyone. I flew them knew exactly what I was getting into and it was fine, no issues and I will fly them again. Don’t write them off until you fly them. Don’t judge unless you have experienced

Jonathan February 19, 2016 - 2:13 pm

I have flown Spirit many times, and yes, with very low expectations. I’ve never been surprised with any baggage charges, and unlike (what seems to be) 95% of the people who fly them, I always knew exactly what I was getting into. When they get you from point A to B, even relatively on-time, you get precisely what you pay for, and that’s enough to get me to fly with them whenever it makes sense.

The problem, however, is when they cancel your flight altogether. They don’t have an interline agreement with any other airline (to be fair, Southwest, which I fly the most, doesn’t either) so you’re left with trying to get them to reschedule you on another of their packed flights (good luck unless you happen to be somewhere with numerous daily departures) or take your (insignificant) refund and re-book elsewhere at last-minute rates.

Luckily those of us in the miles and points hobby have some options in that situation, but for the average traveler – especially one who would fly Spirit – that isn’t always financially feasible.

All-in-all, I would still fly Spirit under certain circumstances, but never from a city with only a few flights a day. Their reliability and subsequent customer service is beyond horrendous, and that can’t be argued away.

Dave February 19, 2016 - 12:40 pm

this article is kind of useless. i wouldnt want a connection (they dont want to either, they want to be point to point) and you must know what you are getting into, but i’ve flown spirit a number of times with no problems at all. it isnt for the novice traveler, but i’d wager that the complaints are from people who didnt read the rules before they bought their tickets.

Miguel R. Quinones February 19, 2016 - 1:28 pm

Dave, you might not agree with the title, but I was simply pointing the facts. Also, keep in mind that the vast majority of travelers are “novice travelers”.

Jake February 19, 2016 - 12:41 pm

“they are unable to run the airline in anything close to an efficient manner”
*checks balance sheet*

Miguel R. Quinones February 19, 2016 - 1:31 pm

I never mentioned anything about their financials.

Jake February 19, 2016 - 1:34 pm

Operational efficiency tends to correlate to financials

Miguel R. Quinones February 20, 2016 - 7:27 am

Normally, yes, but that clearly does not appear to be the case here.

Garrett February 19, 2016 - 12:43 pm

This isn’t judging a book by its cover–it’s judging a book by its content.

DaninMCI February 19, 2016 - 12:50 pm

I don’t even want to say how my experiences have been because then you and bloggers like you will tell everyone how good Spirit actually is and then too many people will be fighting with me over the big front seats which is the only way to fly with Spirit in my opinion.

Seriously if your an experienced flyer and need a nonstop on a route they run (that other airlines don’t) and you don’t mind paying $25 or so for a big seat then there is no better domestic airline hardly. The people I see complaining are either inexperienced flyers that are shocked that they have to pay for bags or the “Carnival” media (you know the ones, the Carnival cruise line haters) that exploit the news on the random irop events, etc.

My only major worries about Spirit is the low checked baggage weights, lack of redundant aircraft on certain remote routes (a small mechanical could turn into a big deal) and small number of “big front seats” that can sell out. Oh and if you want to use the miles from their program you better get the Spirit credit card to even have it make sense.

Miguel R. Quinones February 19, 2016 - 1:30 pm

Are you not concerned about their on-time arrival numbers?

JEM February 19, 2016 - 2:25 pm

Hmm… The average US carrier was late 2 out of 10 times. Spirit was late 3 out of 10. Not such a huge difference…

So far this year my on time performance with Spirit is higher than with UA. To be sure, the randomness of the weather has been far more important in that statistic than the operational efficiency of either airline, but it’s true nonetheless. Of course, if I have a crucial need to be on time, I take DL or AS.

DaninMCI February 19, 2016 - 4:26 pm

I can only go by my own experiences. Every Spirit flight I’ve been on left the gate early (I know hard to believe). They have a good if no excellent boarding process. They are far from perfect for sure like any airline.

Vman February 19, 2016 - 1:02 pm

Are they still in business? I personally think Southwest should swallow them.

Mark D. February 19, 2016 - 1:49 pm

I tend to agree with the commenters that look like they have actually flown the airline. I have no issues with Spirit thus far and plan to keep flying them for short non-stop flights and maybe some long direct flights if I can get the Big Front Seat.

If you read the complaints, most are about the fees they clearly state when you are booking.

The only legit concern is for those destinations they are not flying everyday. I wouldn’t want a flight cancelled and then be stuck somewhere for a week. That is why I always check how often they fly to a destination before I book.

As far as on-time goes, I know going in it isn’t great so I don’t make plans to do something as soon as I land. Also, we are really just talking about 7 out of 10 flights on time vs 8 out of 10 flights on time average. I’ll take that in exchange for being able to book a rt flight FL from PA for $2500 in spend.

Ted February 19, 2016 - 2:10 pm

Last June/July operations where bad, if you have listen to the last quarterly call they have said they will not stretch the planes that thin again.

Expectatio is important, I don’t use NK for any business travel or personal travel when I need to be somewhere at a partucluar time. I alway buy ticket at the airport. And no flight >2 hrs.

They are a great airline to invest in, because no matter now much people complains and swears off never flying them again, they always come back. They are just cheap, they will be more apparent when the fuel prices goes back up again and AA/DL are not able to get close the CASM of NK.

John February 19, 2016 - 3:30 pm

Flew Spirit one time, which was just a few weeks ago. We were delayed 3 times. You know, kept getting this emails about “a new departure time” while we were sitting at the terminal. Once on the plane, we sat there for 1 hour…yes 1 frickin hour!!! we ended up getting to our destination (ORD—>FLL) at 1230am. The original arrival time was 1030pm. During the flight, they were handing out cc applications for the Spirit credit card. They were offering an additional 5000 points just for signing up on the plane (making the offer 20k points). I’m usually all about points, but me and my wife looked at each other and thought “NEVER AGAIN”…seriously, never again!

Our tickets cost us 72ish dollars combined. We each had 1 carry on which cost us 80 bucks. What a joke.

Mark D. February 19, 2016 - 4:05 pm

Same thing happened to me on a except 2 am instead for my original 10:30 planned arrival. I don’t swear off an airline after one bad experience that may not even be in their control.

Mark D. February 19, 2016 - 4:07 pm

Should be AA not a

Ray February 19, 2016 - 4:48 pm

reminds me of this song… https://youtu.be/HPyl2tOaKxM

Wendy February 19, 2016 - 6:39 pm

I’ve flown spirit many times. Flights have always been on time. I fly out of DTw and refuse to fly delta because of problems in the past. The big front seats are worth the extra expense.

Brodky February 19, 2016 - 7:30 pm

My lone Spirit experience was so bad, that I drove 90 minutes out of my way to another airport to avoid flying them on the return. In addition to the common issues (which I was prepared for) the aft lavatory smelled so bad from lack of cleaning between flights that the rear third of the airplane reeked, and the flight attendants were openly contemptuous of their passengers, their airline & their management.

Danny February 19, 2016 - 11:51 pm

First time I flew Spirit there was a massive delay. Second time they lost my bag. Now I’m going to small claims court because they offered me about 20 percent of the replacement cost. If you want to fly on the cheap and don’t care to arrive on time or with your bags – good luck!

John Montgomery February 20, 2016 - 2:23 am

This post adds another blog to ignore on Boarding Area. To post an over the top headline like this without actually having flown the airline on a routine basis is, frankly, ridiculous. Having flown them in the past, Spirit is not an airline I would fly regularly. But for many it provides a more affordable way to travel that lets people actually…well…travel that wouldn’t otherwise.

To each their own, but for a lot of people Spirit is far from horrible because they can arrive at their destination with more cash in their pocket to spend.

And I gotta say — after being a 1K for United for 6 years running, I’ve had some pretty horrible experiences on that airline….

Miguel R. Quinones February 20, 2016 - 7:30 am

So let me get this straight John, if I had flown Spirit once or twice and had bad experiences it would have been OK to use this title, but because I instead based the title on stats from tenths of thousands of flights which show that Spirit is by far the worst U.S. airline in two very important categories, it is not OK to do so?

Ben Komenkul February 20, 2016 - 8:39 am

@Miguel, You are right about this being a horrible airline. It’s not just inexperienced flyers. Last time I flew Spirit, I was advised about their baggage fee and to check in at home. However, and I showed up at the airport they failed to tell me on their website ,that they do not have an agreement with TSA pre-check. This would add another 25 minutes to clearing security. Secondly, no mention if you don’t pick one of two big seats, you are stuck in a un-reclineable seat for 5 hour red eye flight. Also if you drop your phone while sitting in that seat, there is no pitch space for you to bend down to reach it. Make sure to round up fellow passengers to help you. Also, they don’t tell you when you reach baggage claim that they use mules to bring your bags since it takes 45 min in Detroit or LAX for your bags to get there. That wasn’t just me but the entire flight waited that long. If they put that on their website, I’m sure that would drive millions of passengers to use them again. Many of the Spirit flyers I met says this was their first time, and maybe last…

Shannon February 21, 2016 - 1:14 am

@Miguel do you really have to be so offensive? Is Sprit really a terrible airline? Maybe. In my humble opinion based on my experience, it is not great but it is cheap. So I will fly Spirit if I have to. The problem is the title you chose is too misleading. It like you are making a statement or something but at the end you just quoted the other media. This is sensational and very tabloid style. Don’t forget you still have some social responsibilities, even as a micro media.

Miguel R. Quinones February 22, 2016 - 7:50 am

Shannon, I am sorry if you feel the title is too misleading or sensational. That is certainly not what I was trying to do. However, when I see two different rankings of U.S. airlines in which Spirit is dead last by a lot, particularly in one of them, is that not “horrible”? Not sure how else I could describe it. I would be ashamed if any entity I was associated with did so poorly.

Kyllian February 21, 2016 - 2:25 am

Comparing the on-time stats is apples and oranges. Spirit doesn’t pad their schedules like the legacies do – a Spirit flight leaving at the same time to the same destination will have an earlier scheduled arrival time than AA/UA/DL. (This is because FAs are paid based on scheduled time, not actual.) If you know how they work, Spirit has its uses.

Bill February 22, 2016 - 7:02 am

I flew Spirit once, on a Priceline deal out to Vegas. I saw the baggage fees and grimmaced, but went with it, and bought into their club for the reduced baggage fees.
On the departure flight, the flight left three hours late. We actually boarded the plane and they wouldn’t let the plane leave the gate due to some required maintenance, so we deplaned and waited until we could leave.
Once in the air the flight was fine. The return flight, never happened. The flight was cancelled, no reason given, and we were given the opportunity to rebook on the next flight that had available seating. Not the next day or two days, but as they were working their way through the passengers we were looking at spending the rest of the week.
About the only thing that they did right was they refunded the value of the fare and the baggage fees paid for the return flight. Based on the one experience, I requested a credit for their club since I would never go through that again and their response was that it was non-refundable, period.
I find it comical that there’s a Spirit business credit card because I would question my business person if they thought Spirit was acceptable for business travel with their record.


Leave a Comment