I Flew the Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat: A Whole Different View of Travel

I finally had my first taste of the Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat. On my way home Chicago O’Hare to Austin after United Airlines Media Day I flew Spirit Airlines. I bought my one-way in a “Big Front Seat” (a domestic first class-ish seat without extra benefits) for $118.29. A coach seat on American or United would have been $225 and I’d have had to wait around the airport two and a half hours longer for either. Spirit seemed like a no-brainer.

There are some things that are just different about flying Spirit. Not only are there checked bag fees but there are also carry on bag fees. I’d only been gone for one night so I didn’t need a carry on bag, just my laptop bag. So I really was comparing apples-to-apples in price.

I also downloaded the Spirit Airlines app so I could do mobile check-in. Check in at the airport also costs a fee with Spirit. The day of my flight I went to check in and the app kept failing. I’d quit and start over again. This went on half a dozen times before it worked. There was no way I was going to pay for a boarding pass at the airport

spirit airlines app error

spirit airlines app crash

United had a bus that took everyone to O’Hare’s terminal 1 at the end of the event. I walked over to terminal 3. Another passenger on the bus was flying out on American, but the driver said “I was just told one dropoff.”

My Known Traveler Number was in the reservation, so I had PreCheck. When Spirit signed on with PreCheck that made it much easier for me to consider flying with them.

The other things that in theory should make them more reasonable to choose are that their operation has been much more reliable, and that they’re adding internet to their planes. The internet project was supposed to be almost done at this point – but not a single plane yet offers internet in commercial service. That was the biggest drawback for me.

The Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat doesn’t come with a meal, but the 8 p.m. American departure wouldn’t have come with one either. (Spirit doesn’t come with free snacks or drinks either.) It’s O’Hare though and I’m going to prefer a Tortas Frontera sandwich over anything the airline is serving anyway.

I eventually made my way to the very far end of Terminal 3’s L pier for my Spirit departure.

chicago o'hare gate L11

My boarding pass showed boarding 45 minutes out. They boarded 40 minutes prior to departure, but I didn’t need any overhead bin space so I made sure I was one of the last to board.

spirit airlines a320 cabin

Once on board I discovered that my Spriti Airlines Big Front Seat was just like the rest of the seats on the plane in that it doesn’t offer recline, or in Spirit’s parlance it’s “pre-reclined.” That cuts down on maintenance and of course for most of the seats is part of how they cram seats so close together. My seat belt was hidden under the seat cushion as well, the cushion had to come off the seat to find it.

spirit airlines big front seat

spirit airlines big front seat legroom

The flight ran 10 minutes late because our Airbus A320’s center tank fuel pump was inoperative. There were no announcements about a maintenance issue until we were underway.

During the flight attendant’s welcome announcement the cabin was told that they accept only electronic payments for drinks and snacks — and that passengers aren’t allowed to drink any alcohol they may have brought on board. Know your audience.

The flight was largely uneventful. I had brought my own bottle of water on, so I was set, I didn’t need anything from the flight crew. Forty five minutes to arrive they announced the “unlucky middle seat” 5000 mile drawing. And that was followed by the Spirit Airlines credit card pitch. They explained passengers would receive 1000 miles for their application even if they’re rejected for credit. Again, know your audience.

Once we arrived in Austin a woman two rows behind me got on her phone and called either a boyfriend or husband. She learned he wasn’t there to pick her up, and so she told him she’d be leaving with the guy in the seat next to her instead.

In the end Spirit Airlines – and the Big Front Seat – wasn’t just great value, it was better inflight entertainment than I’d expected too.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. fly spirit all the tome
    always cheaper even with a bag .
    i check on at airport kioes no cost, no trouble.

    who the hell wants to get some gross airline sandwhich even for free.. yuk .
    worstcarticke ever
    also flights are always on time or early.

  2. I just flew from Boston to Myrtle Beach on Spirit Airlines. I have done that route and flown Spirit every single time. This time I flew alone, i am disabled and in a wheelchair and the gentleman at the gate was so rude to me that I will never fly Spirit again and I am passing the word for no-one to fly Spirit. I got off the plane and was in tears. Plus I wrote to Spirit and have not received a response as of yet.

  3. I’m a bigger guy and I purchase a big seat too and I was comfortable next time I fly to Vegas or anywhere I will be purchasing the seat again

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