When researching prices for a upcoming flight, I discovered the three airlines that flew between the two cities were all low cost carriers. If I wanted to fly non-stop, my choices were Southwest, Frontier or Spirit. I’ve compared these airlines against Delta, JetBlue and American before but I’ve never had to compare them against one another. We’ve flown on both Southwest and Frontier with no problems. I’ve never given Spirit a serious look but I decided that for this experiment, I’d at least check them out. Here’s what I found.
I looked for options that would give us the same flight experience. Since Southwest allows two checked bags and a free carry on bag, I found fares on Spirit and Frontier that allowed the same.
Southwest has several daily departures, giving us a choice of flight times. A morning flight was the best for us (and also meant we could get on a later flight if something went wrong). The fare on Southwest was $142.12 per person ($333.96 total after taxes and fees).
We’d get these features included with all Southwest flights:
- Two Checked Bags per person
- One Carry On bag and one personal item
- Open seating – no charge for seat assignments
- Optional Wi-Fi for purchase
- Ability to change, rebook or cancel ticket without paying a fee
- Onboard drinks and snacks (but no peanuts)
Frontier only had one daily departure and it wouldn’t land until late. Having to work the next day, we would need to leave the day before, which was not idea but at least acceptable to us. The airfare cost was $98.20 per person ($196.40 total)
To get a comparable experience I’d need to pay $74 each for the PERKS bundle which includes the following:
- One Checked Bag
- One Carry On Bag
- Seat Selection (including STRETCH seating and exit row if available)
- Priority Boarding
The total cost would be $196.40 + $148 = $344.40. That’s more than Southwest and with Frontier we’d lose our last night in the city.
I said before that Frontier’s flight was arriving late in the evening, but that’s early compared to the Spirit flight which was actually landing early the next morning. Like with Frontier, we’d need to leave the day before if we took this flight, which is Spirit’s only non-stop of the day between the two cities.
This was my first time going to Spirit’s website so it took me a while to figure it out. When booking, the airfare was an almost unbelievably low $39.19 per person ($78.38 total) which included $9.99 for Spirit’s Passenger Service Fee charged for online bookings.
In order to even consider Spirit, I’d need to get the Thrills Combo for $63.99 per person. If purchased separately these extras could cost up to $168.
- One checked bag + 10 lbs. extra allowance (up to 50 lbs.) – other airlines allow up to 50 pounds but Spirit’s limit is usually 40 lbs
- One standard carry on bag
- Pick your seat (including exit rows if available but not Big Front Seats)
- Shortcut Boarding
- No change fees up to 24 hours before departure (you do need to pay the difference in fare, just like with Southwest)
The total for two tickets with the Thrills combo would be $206.36, over $100 less than Southwest and Frontier.
Now it was decision time.
We went with Southwest. We discovered that for enough savings, we actually considered flying with Spirit. If the flight time was better, it would have been more difficult of a choice. Spending $127 extra for a flight is a tough pill to swallow but I’m trying to be frugal and smart at the same time. This is one of those times where spending a few extra dollars is worth it for a better flight time, an extra night to spend in the city and less chance of problems getting home, like a flight getting delayed or cancelled and having to spend the night at the airport.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary