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Oh Spirit.  We love Spirit.  We also love to hate them….This week, I decided to I’d buy Spirit tickets at the airport.  I’ll let you decide if this is a love letter or hate mail.

Why are Spirit Tickets at the Airport Cheaper?

One word.  Fees.  This is really the only word I use when talking about Spirit Airlines.  As long as you know there are fees, and you understand what you’re paying for (or not paying for), any savvy traveler should be fine on a Spirit flight.

Spirit charges a $19.99 Passenger Usage Charge for flights booked online or over the phone.  Guess where else you can book a ticket?  That’s right, you can buy Spirit tickets at the airport!  Back in the day (or so I’ve heard), it was fairly common to purchase tickets in person, but that’s changed drastically with the rise of phone purchases, and ultimately internet transactions took the lion’s share of flight purchases.  Before this week, I’ve booked 100% of my airline tickets online.

Here’s the price for the flight I was looking at.  Check out that Passenger Usage Charge, ringing in at a whopping 23% of the total cost!

I benefit from having an airport very close to my city center.  Boston Logan is under 2 miles from downtown Boston, or in my case, only 40 minutes on the T from work.  So on my way home from work on Tuesday, I decided to stop by the airport.  I hopped off the bus at Terminal B, Spirit’s home at Logan International.

Buying the Ticket

I walked over to the Spirit counters at about 6:20PM, and this is what I saw…

Oh man…I was not prepared for this…

The line was ridiculously long!  Having never flown Spirit before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  A long line seemed normal, though I was hoping for a fast, easy ticket purchase.  Spirit runs a total of 6 counters at Boston Logan’s Terminal B, and only 3 were open at the time I arrived.  There were two lines.  One line was reserved for customers departing on a 7:39PM flight for Myrtle Beach.  That line moved quite a bit faster than the general line, which makes sense.  I think everyone made it to their gate on time.

So at this point, I’ve been in line about 45 minutes…just when I start thinking to myself, “is this worth saving $20?”  Probably not, but this was an interesting experiment for me, I wanted to give it a shot!

At that point, they called anyone on the Las Vegas flight departing at 8:05PM into the expedited line.  Two more Spirit agents came out of nowhere and opened up two additional counters, and the lines really got moving.  When I finally got up to the counter, dodging overweight bags to Las Vegas, I asked if I could buy a ticket.

“No.”

Wait, what?  I waited in line for an hour and I can’t even buy a ticket?!  Thinking they must have updated their policy or something, and trying not to sound too dumbfounded, I ask the gentleman again, noting that I already have the flight numbers written down and everything.

“I have to get these people to Las Vegas first.”

Ok, that’s fair.  I wait off to the side.  A few more customers go by, the Las Vegas line thins.  A few friendly people wish me luck after checking their bags.  Nothing holding them back at the counter anymore.  Free as a bird.  I wait some more.  Only 2 parties left in the Las Vegas line.  It was now around 7:35PM, and I’d been waiting over an hour.  Boarding should have started right about now for that Las Vegas flight everyone’s waiting for…

You’re telling me, Spirit…

So I keep waiting to buy Spirit tickets at the airport…

After what I think is the last person in line for Vegas (I seriously doubt they made their Las Vegas flight), I see my opening.  I go up to the open counter, not the same one I went to the first time.  She saw me coming, and before I even got to the counter, “Sir, you’ll have to wait in the line.”  There was no convincing her, and I didn’t want to hold up everyone else in the line too.  I go back to my spot, and longingly look at the counters.  The first guy notices me, and gives the nod to his other colleague.  I walk up to the counter full of anticipation.

I hand over my credit card and license, “I want to buy a one way ticket, Boston to Orlando, flight 227, on Friday August 31st.  Departs Boston at 8:20AM.”  Remembering my manners, I follow up with a quick please, and she takes my card and starts looking on the computer.

I wait another 5 minutes while she looks the flight up.  The Spirit agent quotes me a price of $119.  $32 more than I saw it for online that afternoon, and almost double what I was expecting to pay in person!!  Shoot, price must have gone up.  Ok, plan B.

“Wow, that’s more than it was online.  Uhhh…what about the same flight, but on Sunday September 2nd?”

Score!  $66.20 total, and the $19.99 Passenger Use Charge is nowhere to be found!

I walked back to the bus for the commute home, no worse for wear.

All in, this was a successful experience.  Like Lucky, I was able to score a good deal on a flight I needed.  Unlike him, I had to jump through some hoops to get there.

My New Rules for Flying Spirit:

After going through this whole process, I developed two rules for flying Spirit

  1. I’ll never fly Spirit with a checked bag.
  2. I will never go out of my way to buy Spirit tickets at the airport.

Listen, I get that Spirit is inexpensive.  Sometimes, they’re your cheapest option even despite the fees.  But personally, I never want to wait in a Spirit line again.  I have no desire to use up valuable Priority Pass lounge time at the airport (don’t forget to tip!) when I could book a slightly more expensive flight on another airline, and typically get my checked bag included.  In my experience, the lines are better and the process is smoother with other companies.  Plus, every other domestic carrier that I use in Boston has far more than 6 counters and 3 agents working on a regular night.

Was it worth going out of my way to buy the ticket?  Well, if you consider my total time was about 2.5 hours, to save $20…my hourly rate was $8/hour.  Under minimum wage in Massachusetts!  Not worth my time.  But I do love saving a bit of cash, so don’t be surprised if you see me at the Spirit ticket counter before my next flight from Boston!  I just won’t be making a separate trip to do it.

I’ve never flown Spirit, so this is a whole new world for me and I’m sure I’ll have more to share with you guys after my flight.

Hopefully, it’s good news, not bad!

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