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My Experience on America’s Worst-Rated Airline: Is Spirit Really That Bad?

My Experience on America’s Worst-Rated Airline: Is Spirit Really That Bad?

BY ADAM SCHUPAK Published on March 16, 2024 2 COMMENTS

The aviation industry is dynamic and constantly changing. From the 2000s through the mid-2010s, several aircraft with increased efficiency, including the Airbus A320neo, allowed for the budget airline concept to flourish. One of the most successful is Spirit Airlines, which recently terminated its merger with JetBlue due to regulatory concerns

 

Lately, Spirit has been making news for the refurbishment and implementation of new seats, cabins, and policies onboard their aircraft. To see whether or not the airline has improved, cabin or policy-wise, I decided to give the carrier a try. 

 



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The day is Saturday, May 6 and I'm at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Specifically, I am at Terminal B, comprised of three concourses. Two concourses serve international flights while one serves domestic flights. 

 

I'm flying out of Terminal B's domestic concourse today. International flights depart from gates B51 through 68 while domestic ones, such as mine to Charleston (CHS), depart out of the concourse with gates numbered B40 through 47. 

The curb of Terminal B in the early morning. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

 

Flight Information

 

Airline/Flight Number: Spirit NK 1446 

Route: Newark (EWR) - Charleston (CHS) 

Seat: 3A

Flight Time: 1 hr 25 min

Departure Time: 9:20 AM

Arrival Time: 11:20 AM

 



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Newark Airport (EWR)

 

The check-in hall here in Terminal B is similar to Terminal C, but looks quite dated. The ceilings are high, with windows letting in light. This high ceiling design is something that all terminals at Newark, including the new Terminal A, have in common with each other. 

 

For domestic flights departing out of Terminal B, the baggage drop counters are located on Level 2, which can be accessed via escalators or an elevator from levels 1 and 3. If you don't have any checked baggage (like I do), you can check in and get your boarding pass at an automated check-in kiosk before heading to security.

The self-check-in counters for Spirit Airlines at Terminal B. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak


As per usual for the dated Terminal B (the new Terminal A has a vastly superior security checkpoint), the security situation is abysmal, with it taking just over an hour for me to clear security - and this is not even on an international flight. 

 

Terminal B's Domestic Concourse is abuzz with activity.  Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak



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The domestic concourse at Terminal B, while currently the oldest at EWR, still feels airy and spacious, with plenty of shops for food and drink. As for seating, there are more than enough locations to sit, with plenty of power sockets available to charge electronic devices.  


My aircraft down to Charleston (CHS) is parked at Gate 41B. This Airbus A320-200, registered N606NK, was delivered to Spirit Airlines in February 2011. The aircraft was 12 years old at the time when I flew on it. To learn more about Spirit's history and fleet, click here. Boarding began on time at 08:50 as I headed to seat 3A. 
 

Spirit Airlines A320-200 N606NK at the gate. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

Entering the Aircraft

 

Upon boarding the aircraft, I was surprised to see two happy, comedic flight attendants greeting passengers. The cabin configuration includes the iconic "BIG FRONT SEAT" product in the first two rows of the cabin, and economy seats in the rest of the cabin. 

 



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One strange thing about the seats onboard is that they differ from the rest of Spirit's fleet. The comfier-than-usual cabin is most likely because this specific A320 is leased from CIT Aerospace Corporation. Spirit most likely can't modify the interior of the aircraft past its configuration (different than normal seats) as part of the leasing contract they signed by the airline with CIT. 

The comfier seats present on N606NK. Photo: Aeroxplorer | Adam Schupak

 

Normal economy seats on board Spirit's A320s should look like this:

An image of a more common Spirit Airlines economy seat. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

As for my seat in 3A, the legroom and under-seat storage are amazing. Along with under-seat and bin storage (bin storage costs extra), there is a large leather seat-back pocket. Seat 3A is situated at the forward-most part of the economy cabin with the "BIG FRONT SEAT" in front of it in row 2.

 

An image of the seatback pocket for Spirit Airlines. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

 

This leads to the seat-back being rather strange, with the window and aisle seats having seat-back pockets, and the middle seat having no seat-back. due to the armrest for the "BIG FRONT" seats being situated in front of seats 3B and 3E. Due to the major differences between the economy and "BIG FRONT SEAT" designs, the tray tables for the seats in row 3 are located on the armrests. 

 



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Since Spirit is a budget airline, there are no power outlets or USB ports onboard any of their aircraft. For this flight, it isn't a big deal, as the average flight time down to Charleston is only 1 hour and 30 minutes. The lack of power ports could be an issue on longer flights, as Spirit A320s and other aircraft in their fleet (A319, A320neo, A321) sometimes fly transcontinental and international flights for upwards of 4 hours. 

The legroom on Spirit Airlines. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak


During pushback (at 09:05 A.M.), the head flight attendant announcing the safety demonstration cracked numerous (non-offensive and funny) jokes such as "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome onboard this Spirit flight to Chicago...just checking if you're listening. Wow! Not a good group of listeners. Welcome onboard this flight to Charleston!..." 

A view of the Port of Elizabeth upon takeoff. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

When flying out of Newark (EWR), it's always cool to check which runway the airport is using for departures. Depending on what side of the aircraft you are sitting on, you will have a view of Manhattan in New York City. If EWR is departing traffic from Runway 4 (Left or Right), you will have a view of New York City if seated at an F, J, or K window seat. 

 



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If EWR is departing traffic from Runway 22 (Left or Right), you will only have a view of New York City depending on the direction of your flight. If on a northbound or transatlantic flight, you will have a view of NYC from an F, J, or K window seat. If on a south-bound flight, an A window seat will warrant a view of New York City.  If on a westbound flight, you won't have a view of New York regardless of the seat you are sitting in. 

View of NYC shortly after takeoff. Photo: Adam Schupak | AeroXplorer
(Old) FAA sectional chart of Newark airport. Runways are bold black lines; airport orientation is shown concerning true north. (North Pole) | Photo: fly.faa.gov


After following EWR's confusing departure procedure that involves a zig-zag pattern with multiple turns shortly after takeoff, we headed south towards Charleston (CHS).  

Heading south over the New Jersey coast near Asbury Park. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

Despite the chronic lack of power ports (outlets and USB) onboard, I was surprised to find that a 12-year-old aircraft on a budget airline has Wi-Fi. The prices, while average for a U.S. carrier, were quite high in my opinion for a flight of just 1 hour and 30 minutes. If the Wi-Fi is the same price on longer duration Spirit flights, such as a 3 to 6-hour journey, then the price of $5.99 becomes a good deal. 

 



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An image of Spirit Airlines' wifi pricing. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

In-Flight Experience

 

The cabin lights were dimmed before takeoff and for most of the flight. After takeoff, the cabin crew came around with Spirit's buy onboard service. Due to Spirit being a low-cost carrier, it serves no free food or drink onboard. 

 

The descent over rural South Carolina. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

 

Around 45 minutes before landing, the previously mentioned cabin crew member who was cracking funny jokes during pushback, began to slowly turn the cabin lights on. While the lights slowly lit up the cabin, he was singing his own rendition of "...rise and shine...". 

 



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To complement this, the way the comedic cabin crew member pitched Spirit Airlines' credit card proposal was Oscar-worthy. He began the proposal of Spirit's mileage member and credit card offer plan with “Ladies and gentlemen...we have a very special proposal...” 

 

He pretended to propose to the other cabin crew member up-front, and then jumped on his feet and turned towards the passengers saying "...a proposal of Spirit Airlines' "FREE SPIRIT" mileage program and credit card!...". The entire cabin, including myself, burst out in laughter.  

 

Landing on Runway 15 in Charleston. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

 

Shortly after this hilarious moment, we began our descent and landing on Charleston International Airport's runway 15. 

 

Conclusion

 



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To sum up my experience on Spirit Airlines - the airline has improved drastically. From the last time I flew on the carrier in 2021, the airline has implemented better cleaning policies as shown through the aircraft I flew on. 

 

Arriving at the gate in Charleston. Photo: AeroXplorer | Adam Schupak

 

Along with this, my flight had better seats than what Spirit is usually known for, bare-bones seat design. The aircraft offers Wi-Fi. The wonderful cabin crew only added to my overwhelmingly positive reception of an airline that typically has an undeservedly bad reputation. 

 



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Despite the lack of power ports, I don't believe they are necessary on such a short flight. I would rate this flight an overall 10/10. Typically, Spirit Airlines is the cheapest carrier on the Newark to Charleston route. While you can fly this route with United for only $150 to $200 more, it is not worth it, as the only extra service you get, besides a slightly worse seat, is a bag of chips and a drink. 

 

If you don't have luggage, I'd suggest flying on Spirit Airlines.  While each person's experience on the same airline is always different, it is definitely worth your money to fly Spirit, even if it's only $150 cheaper than the competition. 

 
 

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Adam Schupak
Hey there! I'm Adam, a passionate avgeek absolutely obsessed with everything that flies. I'm a student glider pilot, but have the ultimate ambition of become a commercial airline pilot. Besides aviation, I'm also passionate about urban design, civil engineering, and trains.

Comments (2)

Freaking love Spirit!,!
33d ago • Reply
Freaking love Spirit! Spirit doesn’t deserve the bad reputation that the media likes to portray. It’s the safest airline in the country. Spirit has never crashed a plane or killed anyone in its entire history. The crews are professional and accommodating. So what if they charge for add ons, every airline is doing it now.
33d ago • Reply

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TRIP REPORTS Spirit AirlinesSpiritAirbus A320Trip ReportCharlestonCHSNewarkEWRNew yorkReview

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