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If you’ve been poking around Points With a Crew for a while, I hope you stumbled upon Dan’s post on Frontier’s check-in and seating system. Read the post to find out more, but long story short: if you wait to check in until close to the flight, you have a much better chance of getting a decent seat (without paying!). If you want to get a good seat on Spirit, the same plan works!
What’s with Frontier and Spirit?
Well…they’re low cost carriers. You knew that. And I knew that too.
So we know they’re going to charge you all sorts of fees. Most LCCs disguise their fee structures as a way to break down the fare, and save you money. There’s merit to this approach, especially for someone like me. Sometimes I’ll fly solo, and I fly without baggage whenever possible. If I can head to the airport with everything I need in my backpack, it’s going to be a good trip. On Spirit, flying without bags means less money out of my pocket.
(Among my favorite fees, Spirit’s Passenger Usage Charge: Skip the fee by buying your ticket at the airport!)
Both airlines will charge you to select your seat, usually between $5 and $15/seat. Middle seats and seats toward the back of the plane are usually cheapest. If you want to get a good seat on Spirit though, there might be a trick..
Spirit Check-in Experience
Right about 24 hours prior to my flight, Awardwallet reminded me to check in. I went through the motions, and there were only seats in the back of the plane available. Plus, I had to pay for those seats if I wanted one. Now, I’m not too picky, but I do prefer the window seat if I have the choice.
I got to thinking… “Well, I’m certainly not going to pay for a seat…and I don’t really care where I sit anyway. Hmmm, I think Dan wrote about something like this for Frontier…” I found the article, and decided to give it a shot for Spirit! To sum it up, he waited until fairly close to his flight to check in, didn’t pay for an assigned seat, and still avoided getting stuck with a middle seat.
I checked a few times throughout the day, and the plane looked like it was filling up. In hindsight, I’m not sure if it was actually filling up, or just Spirit’s algorithm tricking folks into paying for seats. At about 12 hours until the flight, I looked again, and there were no seats for purchase. I only had the option to check in without a seat selection.
So I checked in.
At the Airport
I got to Logan International Airport around 6:45AM, and breezed through security (courtesy of my AmEx Platinum Global Entry). After a quick breakfast at Stephanie’s in Terminal B, I made my way over to my gate.
At BOS, Spirit has two dedicated gates, B37 and B38. They’re located all the way down the end of Terminal B. When I got there, I walked up to the gate agent, and showed them my boarding pass above. I explained that this was my first Spirit flight and that I wasn’t sure how to figure out my boarding zone and seat assignment. The agent smiled and asked my name, and then she promptly handed over a boarding pass.
Zone 4. Seat 16A. Woohoo! A window seat, and toward the front of the plane. Perfect.
Here’s the Catch:
There are a few things you should remember if you want to get a good seat on Spirit for your next flight:
- I didn’t have any carry-on bags. If you did, on a full flight, you might have a real tough time finding overhead bin space.
- I was traveling alone. If you have companions and want to sit together, I definitely suggest paying for your seats. (This may not be an issue, check out some datapoints in the comments.)
- MAKE SURE you check in at least 45 minutes prior (60 minutes prior for international and US Virgin Islands). Otherwise, Spirit may cancel your flight. See the terms for yourself here.
- Probably the most important of all (and thanks to reader A KOCHAR below) – this plan wouldn’t work if the flight is oversold at all! Typically, the latest passengers to check in would be the first to get bumped to the next flight. This is a BIG risk, and if you think your flight could be oversold, I don’t think it’s worth waiting to check in just for a seat near the front.
Have you tried doing this? Let me know if it worked for you!
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You may think you blocked your confirmation code ending in K, but you didn’t.
Mr. Lee, you must have better eyes than I! I’m also terrible at Where’s Waldo though…
No carry on? Did you check a bag or travel with zero luggage?
Just a personal item! No checked luggage or carry-on bag. Stuffed my backpack under the seat in front of me 🙂
So true! The longer you wait, the better chance of a better seat. Spirit is an airline I love to hate. I’m diamond on Delta and obviously 99% of my flying is with them. However, on a personal trip when using points, sometimes Delta is totally outrageous with what they want to charge. Last week I had the option to do 50,000 sky miles roundtrip CLE-LAX with a connection or $100 round trip on spirit non stop. It’s just a no brainer. Also, this is not my 5th time flying with a companion on Spirit, and have never once paid for seat assignments. I have ALWAYS been put next to my companion… I’ve never had an issue with the automatic seat algorithm assigning random seats. My theory is that if its on the same confirmation number, the system puts you together. Obviously a small sample over the years, but has always worked true for me! I think it is definitely worth the risk!
Interesting! I’d love to see more datapoints on same PNR sitting together. Readers, chime in if you have one!
We flew round trip from MSP to Boston twice this summer with 6 passengers and all 4 times the 6 passengers were in the same row seats A through F. We did check-in online after the 24 hour window.
Very cool Kurt! Maybe I won’t be so nervous to fly Spirit with the family then…
We were on Allegiant and they put my wife and I together. We did not choose seats. The thought of waiting on check-in to get a better seat is interesting.
Been married for 42 years. We can certainly sit apart if it saves us a few dollars. Besides, I get 2 hours not being told what to do. Generally the planes are so loud it is hard to talk.
Although I love traveling with friends and family, solo flights are some of my favorites! 2 or 3 hours of virtually uninterrupted reading, writing, listening to music, or whatever else I want to get done!
I’ve had the same experience on Frontier and (unofficially) I’ve heard that their algorithm at least prioritizes this. I think airlines use it as a scare tactic to get you to pay for seats. And of course, the more people you have on your PNR the harder it would get.
Just checked in 2 hours before flight and got the previous to last row. Checking in later had worked the past few times.
Your plan will work great, if and only if the flight is not oversold. If it is oversold, check in time matters as to who is bumped first; you risk never getting a seat assignment because their are no more seats. Spirit has only one class of airfare meaning bumped passengers are only sorted by check in time.
Very, very good point. I’ll add that to the post so nobody gets the short end of the stick on waiting.
We flew twice and were assigned side by side seats without a problem. We even got window seats on our way back from LAX. So I guess if the confirmation number is same you don’t have to worry about begin assigned separately. True to its name though bare bone you gotta pay for everything else.
I am flying tomorrow with my two toddlers ages 3 and 5. I didn’t pay for seats and am really hoping for something toward the front. Went on here to see if people thought it was best to check in asap or last. How can I tell if the flight is oversold? The seat map is completely open. If I go to check in, can I see what seats they will assign me without completing the check in process and then try again later if I don’t like them? Thanks 🙂
Samantha, I haven’t flown Spirit personally so don’t know about checking in first or last but if you check in you’ll get seats and then won’t be able to try again.
I also would temper your expectations about sitting near the front. Be thankful if they put you together anywhere on the plane. I think that they will (most airlines do) but I wouldn’t hope for anything more than that
I’d have to agree with Dan here, I think sitting together with young kids is more important than getting to the front of the plane!
Would spirit actually separate you from your toddler tho if you didn’t buy your seat in advance?
I was assuming the algorithm would put a person with young kids together no matter what. Kept my eye on the seating chart for a few hours and sure enough they fill up the back of the plane first. I got row 6 even though that was in front of other available rows. Maybe they want the kids up front. Obviously we understand sitting together with our kids is more important than getting to the front, but maybe this would be useful for others wondering the same thing.
Thanks for sharing your data point and glad it worked out for you!
I fly as a family of 5 and I always check in ASAP and get seats together in the back. Today, I decided to wait. I checked the seat map and there were many seats together but they split us up completely. As far apart as could possibly be. So I’d recommend not waiting if you are more than a family of 3.
Yeah I just tried this and the guy just pointed everything out on my boarding pass
I always check in very early like as soon as the online check-in opens and I always get seats in the single figure range (5-9). Only if you’re traveling as a group and they want to try to put you guys to seat together that you end up at the back. To think they always insist you pay for seats which sometimes are usually available mainly at the back but turns out you get free front seat if you don’t succumb.