Flying spirit airlines as a family can save you tons of money in travel costs, as the base airfare for Spirit Airlines flights is typically low. As a family, we’ve flown Spirit Airlines many times, and it has allowed us to take more vacations per year and spend more money in the actual destination. This guide provides tips on how to avoid Spirit Airlines fees– from the time you book your ticket– until you arrive at your destionation.
We are fans of Spirit Airlines; however, you have to understand that Spirit Airlines is a budget airline and that you will be nickeled and dimed for every dollar spent, beyond the base fare. Understanding that is key to avoiding Spirit Airlines fees, keeping costs down, and setting reasonable expectations.
Spirit Airlines’ tagline is “Less Money, More Go” and with a little bit of preplanning, patience and flexibility- this can be 100% accurate!
A List of Common Spirit Airline Fees, That Can be Avoided
These six fees are the most important Spirit Airlines fees to be aware of. If you can avoid or minimize these six fees you are doing pretty well.
- Passenger Usage Fee: This is a $22.99 fee assessed per person, per ticket (leg), when tickets are purchased online.
- Reserving Seats: At the time of booking you can pay to reserve seats, in order to ensure that your family sits together, or to ensure you get your favorite seats. Fees are $9-$77+ per person.
- Boarding Pass & Online Check-in: Spirit Airlines charges $10 per boarding pass, if you need it printed at the airport. They’ll also charge you $10 to check in with an agent, if you do not check in on the app, prior to arrival.
- Baggage Fees: See chart below for cost of carry on and checked baggage.
- Snacks & Drinks: See menu below for details on in-flight snack and beverage pricing.
- In Flight Entertainment: You can purchase wi-fi or a wi-fi “streaming package” which would allow you to use your own streaming apps, such as Netflix or Hulu.
How to Avoid Common Spirit Airline Fees
1. Passenger Usage Fee: This is a $22.99 fee assessed by Spirit Airlines, per person-per leg of your trip.
How to Avoid the Passenger Usage Fee:
The first fee you’ll pay is the Passenger Usage Fee. The way to avoid the “Passenger Usage Fee” is to purchase your tickets at the airport. Let’s say you have a family of 5. Purchasing your tickets online will cost you $229.9, for a non-stop round trip flight. And you most likely don’t even know you are paying this fee. If you have a layover in your itinerary the fee *could* be as high as $459.8.
If you purchase your tickets at a Spirit Airlines’ airport location, then this fee is not assessed. Seriously.
I have personally done this, and it’s legit. The trick is finding the time to ‘swing’ by the airport. The time we did this we happened to be driving to Wisconsin and drove by O’hare airport in Chicago. We swung in, I ran into the airport- and purchased tickets for our upcoming trip to Phoenix, Arizona. You’ll be waiting in the same line as the check-in people, so depending on the time of day it may take a while. However, when we did it there was no line, and the whole thing took about 10 minutes.
When you purchase Spirit Airline tickets at the airport, all they give you is a receipt-like a grocery store receipt. However, when you get home you can double check your reservation with your confirmation number, and update any information online.
TWTL Tip: You’ll want to check the hours of operations for your local Spirit Airlines airport location, as you don’t want to show up when they are closed.
2. Pre-booking seats: Booking seats-at anytime prior to departure- will cost you between $1-$150, per person, per flight.
How to Avoid Paying for Seat Selection:
When you are booking tickets the system will ask you if you’d like to purchase pre-selected seats. The way to avoid the Spirit Airlines seat pre-booking fee is to not pre-book seats 🙂
If you do not pre-book seats then you can go onto the app 24 hours before your flight and select seats for free. If you don’t select seats prior to arriving at the airport then Spirit Airlines will likely assign you seats. It’s also possible that when you arrive at the airport the agent won’t have any seats to *assign* and you’ll have to wait until you arrive at the gate to receive your seat assignment. If this happens to you-try not to panic!
I’ve been told by a Spirit Agent that if a family doesn’t purchase seats that they’ll be seated together nonetheless. Having said that, if you do not purchase seats in advance it is *possible* that your family will not be able to sit together.
We’ve flown Spirit Airlines 4-5 times as a family, and we’ve never pre-selected seats, and we’ve always sat together. However, if you do not pre-purchase seats you have to be prepared that your family may be split up. If that happens, and you have to negotiate with other passengers, you will have to contend with passengers who have paid for their selected seats.
|Seat Selection Costs: Per Seat|
|Spirit Assigned Seating at Check In||Free|
|Customer Selected Seat Assignments for Regular Seats (pre-check in)||$1-$50|
|Big Front Seats (in advance)||$12-$150|
|Big Front Seats (on board)||$24-$175|
TWTL Tip: There are restrictions on where children can sit, and also where car seats can be placed. Check out this in depth article on how to select Spirit Airlines seats for families.
3. Online Check In: Checking in at the airport will cost you $10 per person
How to Avoid the Spirit Airines Check in fee:
The third and fourth fees go hand in hand. Avoid the Spirit Airlines check in fee by checking in on the app. In fact, about the only thing you can do on the Spirit Airlines app is check in! Check-in begins 24 hours before departure and ends an hour prior to departure.
This is the easiest Spirit Airlines fee to avoid!
4. Boarding Passes: Having the Spirit Airlines agent print your boarding pass will cost you $10 per person (same $10 as checking in at the airport)
How to Avoid the Spirit Airlines Boarding Pass fee:
You can avoid the boarding pass fee in one of two ways: (1) print your family’s boarding passes out at home, and bring them with you to the airport. (2) Or, you can save them on your smartphone and the TSA agent will be able to scan your boarding passes right from your phone.
TWTL Tip: If one family member is loading all boarding passes onto their phone then all members will have to go through security together. Be sure no one is parking the car, while their boarding passes are loaded on someone elses phone.
5. Spirit Airlines Baggage Fees: The Baggage fees can be the most complex, and the most costly.
How to Avoid the Spirit Airlines Baggage & Carry on Fees
The only way to completely avoid the Spirit checked baggage and carry on fees is to only bring a ‘personal item.’ You will pay an additional fee for a carry on or a checked bag.
Many times checking a bag is unavoidable; however, if you understand the Spirit Airlines carry on & checked bag fee structure you can minimize your overall bag fees!
TWTL Tip: If you must book a bag, pay for it at the time of booking-you’ll get the best price.
A. The Personal Bag
The only ‘free’ bag on Spirit Airlines is the personal bag. One personal item is included with each fare. Spirit Airlines describes the personal bag as something like a purse, small backpack, or a laptop bag.
The Personal bag may not exceed 18″x14″x8″ (including wheels and handles).
Diaper Bags: The only exception to a personal bag is if you have an infant or a toddler, you’re allowed to bring a diaper bag IN ADDITION to your personal bag-at no extra charge.
B. Carry-on Bag Fee
Carry on bags fees vary; however, they are typically between $35-$41; you are allowed to bring one carry-on per person. If you can get all of your items into the carry-on bag then you’ll avoid having to pay for a checked bag.
TWTL Tip: The carry-on bag is more expensive than the first checked bag. If you purchase one checked bag-no carry on bag- and pack the family’s clothes into the one checked bag, you’ll save a few bucks and have more space.
C. Checked Bag Guidelines: General
You are allowed up to 5 checked bags. The fee schedule for checked bags varies depending on route; however, here is a general fee range for standard fares, and bags purchased during booking:
|1st Checked Bag||$31-$36|
|2nd Checked Bag||$40-$48|
|3rd -5th Checked Bag||$85-$90|
No matter what the baggage fee costs they’ll always be cheapest if you purchase the bags during booking. If you are unsure of your baggage needs you can always purchase bags before or during online checking and they’ll still be cheaper than if you buy them at the airport (although slightly more expensive than purchasing bags during booking).
D. What does Spirit Charge for bags?
The answer is that it depends. Here is a case study on bag prices for a flight from Chicago to New York:
Chicago to New York: Base fare is $45.38
|When bags are purchased:||During Spirit.com |
|Before or During |
|Carry On Bag||$30||$37||$40||$47||$55||$67|
|1st Checked Bag||$25||$32||$35||$42||$50||$67|
|2nd Checked Bag||$35||$42||$45||$52||$60||N/A|
|3rd-5th Checked Bag||$80||$87||$90||$97||$100||N/A|
New York to Chicago: Base fare is $79.18
|When bags are purchased:||During Spirit.com Booking||Before or During |
|Carry On Bag||$36||$43||$46||$53||$55||$67|
|1st Checked Bag||$31||$38||$41||$48||$50||$67|
|2nd Checked Bag||$41||$48||$51||$58||$60||N/A|
|Saver$ Club||Standard||Saver$ Club||Standard|
Spirit Airlines has a handy feature that lets you check the bag prices for any existing booking, or prosepctive booking. Check out the Spirit Airlines Bag-O-Tron for exact prices for your route.
E. Bundle Packages: Another way to save money on all of these add ons is to ‘bundle’ them.
After you select your flights you are brought to the “Upgrade & Save Page.” Included in your Spirit Airlines base fare is (1) a random seat, and (2) a personal item. If you know that you’ll want to add on items such as early boarding, seat selection, and a checked bag it’s worth doing the math to see if “boosting” or “bundling” these things would be cheaper than adding them on a la carte.
F. Overweight & Oversized Baggage Fees: The weight limit on checked bags is 40 lbs-anything over that and you’ll pay an additional fee.
If you have overweight bags consider your options. It may be cheaper to pay the overweight baggage fee, or it could be the same price as paying for a second checked bag. Price these out, and weigh your bags before departure to see which option is more economical. Paying for a second bag will give you an additional 40 lbs to work with.
|Overweight or Oversized Baggage (per bag)|
|41-50 lbs (18-23 kg)||+$30|
|51-70 lbs (23-32 kg)||+$55|
|71-100 lbs (32-45 kg)||+$100|
|63-80 linear inches (158-203 cm)||+$100|
|Special items over 80 linear inches (203 cm)||+$100|
TWTL Tip: Spirit Airlines will not allow you to fly with a bag that is more than 80 linear inches in overall dimensions.
TWTL Tip: Spirit Airlines will not allow you to check any single bag that is more than 100 lbs.
TWTL Tip: There is no weight limit for personal items, carry ons, or the car seat bag! Meaning you can throw extra items into the car seat bag, along with the car seat!
G. FAQ about Spirit Baggage
- How much is a checked bag on Spirit?
- Purchased during Spirit.com booking: Anywhere from $25-$39 dollars.
- After booking, but before arrival at the airport: Typically $35-$49 dollars.
- At the airport: Typically $50-$60 dollars.
- At the gate: $67
- How much is a carry-on bag on Spirit?
- Purchased during Spirit.com booking: Anywhere from $30-$45 dollars.
- After booking, but before arriving at the airport: Typically $40-$55 dollars.
- At the airport: $55
- At the gate: $67
- What is the Spirit airlines carry-on size: Maximum of 22 x 18 x10 inches (including handles and wheels).
- What size bag can you carry on Spirit Airlines for free? A personal bag. The Personal bag may not exceed 18″x14″x8″ (including wheels and handles).
- How big can a checked bag be on Spirit Airlines? A checked bag cannot be more than 62 linear inches (length + width + height=62’) including handles and wheels. Any bag bigger than that is considered oversized/overweight and will incur an additional fee (see above chart).
- What is the Spirit Airlines baggage weight limit? 40lbs for checked baggage (see chart above for pricing).
- How do I avoid paying baggage fees on Spirit Airlines? Bring only a personal item. If that’s not feasible then purchase 1 checked bag at the time of booking. Carry-ons are more expensive than checked bags, and buying after booking is going to cost you more than purchasing bags at the time of booking.
- Do you get a free bag on Spirit? You get a personal bag for free. Parents with small children can also bring on a diaper bag for free.
- How do I add bags to my Spirit reservation? You can add bags at the time of booking. Alternatively, you can go onto the website and purchase bags at any time before or during check in. Last option is to purchase bags at the airport; however, this is the most costly option.
- Are Spirit Airlines baggage fees refundable? This is the official Spirit Airlines policy on refundable fees, “All purchases of travel, hotel, car rental, leisure activities, booking fees, taxes, baggage fees, and seat fees are non-refundable.”
6. Snacks and Drinks
The cheapest way to save money here is to bring your own food and drink from home. Here is a list of snack ideas for the plane that you can prepare at home.
Snacks onboard Spirit Airlines cost between $1-$10, and drinks cost between $1-15. You can ‘bundle’ food and drinks to get a bit of a discount. Check out the description of food and drinks Spirit Airlines offers on board its flights. Here is a link to the À La Smarte™ Sips + Snacks, which includes photos of items offered.
7. In Flight Entertainment
Lastly, in flight entertainment. According to Spirit Airlines it has endeavored to have 97% of its routes enabled with Wi-Fi by 2021. If you are lucky enough to get a wi-fi enabled plane you will be able to purchase Wi-Fi for $6.95 and use it to stream movies and shows from sites that you already have like Netflix and Hulu.
Additional Ways to Save Money on Spirit Airlines Fees
1. Free Spirit Membership:
This is the Spirit Airlines frequent flyer program, it works similarly to other frequent flyer programs, and you can redeem points for Spirit Airlines flights.
2. The Spirit Saver$ Club (Formerly the $9 Fare Club):
Joining the Spirit Saver$ Club will allow you to save money on fares, seats, bags, security shortcuts, boarding shortcuts, snacks, and more. If you were a member of the $9 Fare Club then your membership automatically converted to the new program on January 21, 2021.
Here is the cost breakdown for the Membership:
|Spirit Saver$ Club Membership||Per Member Fee|
TWTL Tip: Spirit Saver$ Club discounts can be applied to up to 8 people when booking a reservation. Meaning that if one person buys the Membership then all people (up to 8) on that same booking can benefit from the membership.
3. Spirit Airlines World Mastercard
If you are approved for a Spirit Airlines World Mastercard you can earn up to 40,000 Bonus Points + A $100 companion flight voucher-if you make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
Flying Spirit Airlines with Kids
1. Flying with a Baby
Flying Spirit Airlines with a baby or toddler is totally doable, and Spirit Airlines allows your growing family to take more trips, and spend less money on getting there. For all the tips and tricks for flying Spirit with a baby or toddler check out-Flying Spirit Airlines with a Toddler: The Complete Review
2. Car Seat and Stroller Policy:
Strollers: You can check one stroller and one car seat per child, at no extra cost. You can regular check the stroller, or gate check the stroller.
Car Seats: If you have purchased a seat for your child you can bring the car seat onboard the airplane. Alternatively, you can regular check or gate check the car seat.
To bring a carseat onboard it must be an FAA-approved car seat, and you should check to make sure the car seat will fit within the Spirit Airlines narrow seats. Like all airlines there will be restrictions on which rows you can sit in with a car seat, and also where you can put your car seat within that row. If you tick the box saying that you are bringing a car seat on board the system will automatically block out prohibited seats-which is really handy!
3. Will Spirit Airlines seat families together?
If you pre-pay for your seats- yes, of course.
If you do not pre-pay for your seats then the likelihood of your family being seated together by the Spirit agent is very likely. However, it is not guaranteed. Also, if you do not like your assigned seats and you try to switch seats on the plane-remember that you are contending with people who most likely selected and paid for their seat selection.
We don’t pay to pre-select seats; however, we understand (and accept) that there is a chance that we may not be seated together.
Don’t let Spirit Airlines fees disuade you from flying Spirit Airlines. With base fares so low, you are likely to save money even if you pay some of these fees. The trick to flying Spirit Airlines is to acknowledge that it is a budget airline, and to be intentional in how you use Spirit Airlines. With an open mind, patience, and managing your expectations you can make Spirit Airlines work for you- so that you have more money where it counts-on vacation!
Do you have any other tips or tricks for avoiding Spirit Airlines fees? If so, drop them below in the comments!
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5 thoughts on “How to Avoid Spirit Airlines Fees and Charges: The Ultimate Guide”
Hi, I want to travel by Spirit Airlines and would like to avoid ‘Passenger Usage Fee’ by booking from airport instead of online. My question is: Spirit offers discount codes online, would those discounts apply at the airport too?
That Passenger Usage Fee sounds totally barmy to me, how crazy that you pay so much more for NOT booking at an airport!
For the rest, it’s similar to our European budget airlines, so people are really familiar these days on those added fees and how they can add up!
I’ve not traveled using Spirit before but they remind me a lot of RyanAir in Europe. Budget airlines can be amazing ways to escape for a short time on the cheap, but the fees often do surprise people when not prepared. This is a great guide to helping flyers navigate the nuances of Spirit! I don’t think I would’ve figured out an “easy” workaround to the Passenger Usage Fee, so the shout out there was great.
I appreciate these practical ways to navigate all the hidden fees and upcharges on Spirit. However, I find it soooooo annoying when airlines do this, that I’ve largely opted to simply not fly Spirit or Frontier and just stick with my beloved Southwest (especially since my daughter has a companion pass).
Great post! I had thought about writing one, but this is very detailed! I use Spirit upon occasion and have good luck avoiding fees. Thank you! These are some additional good tips.