Choosing between Spirit and Allegiant for your next cheap flight?
The quick answer is that both Allegiant & Spirit are low-cost airlines passengers with limited customer service and perks. Allegiant has a better reputation and flies into smaller airports more frequently. Spirit is much larger and will offer far more flights and destinations.
That’s the way-too-short answer. We’ll dive into the details to help you determine exactly which option best fits your preferences.
Here’s a short background on the two to get us started:
Spirit Airlines is categorized as an ultra-low-cost-carrier, with origins as a trucking company under the name Clippert in 1964. The air service began as Charter One in 1983, switching to Spirit Airlines, Inc. in 1992. It’s the 8th largest airline in America by passengers carried and has remained independent since inception.
Allegiant was founded in 1997 under the name WestJet Express and rebranded to Allegiant Airlines a year later primarily operating on the West Coast of the United States. It currently serves the majority of US cities and stands as the ninth largest commercial airline in the nation.
Pricing & Extra Fees
Pricing is one of the first important factors to consider when choosing an ultra-low-cost carrier. Lots of money can be saved by booking flights with airlines like Spirit and Allegiant, but it’s important to note how the pricing is broken down and what will cost you extra.
Spirit takes an unbundled approach to its fares, tacking on extra fees for baggage and seat selection later in the purchasing process. This makes it a great option for those looking to travel spontaneously for cheap with limited luggage, but can get pricier if you have more than one bag. This base fare only allows you to carry on one personal item (purse or backpack, for instance) and assigns you to a random seat.
The process starts with a base fare for tickets, averaging around $200 round trip on the East Coast, about $400 cross-country, and around $760 round trip to South America for a single passenger. From there, expect for prices to continue climbing as you add passengers, carry-ons and checked bags.
If you want to bundle the extra fees for bags and other things, Spirit gives you three options in the booking process:
- Book It: this only includes your random seat and a personal item with no extras
- Boost It: pick your seat, get one checked bag and early boarding (fee assessed per flight, anywhere from $50-95 over base fare)
- Bundle It: pick your seat, get one checked bag, bring a carry-on bag, get early boarding, and receive FlightFlex to modify your flight free of charge (fee assessed per flight, anywhere from $75-115 over base fare)
Allegiant has a similar approach that varies a little. They start with a base fare and add extra fees into the total according to the perks you choose, as well. But the booking process will look a lot different. Spirit flies significantly more trips than Allegiant, so Allegiant will feel like a boutique airline in comparison. You’ll notice that flights are not available everyday, making it difficult to reschedule, but cheaper in the long run.
The good news is that all of their flights are one way, with no stops. We found that they typically charge about $175 base fare for a roundtrip flight on the East Coast and about $275 for a cross country flight. Charter flights are available outside the country, but are priced according to your destination and flight time.
The pricing is comparable to Spirit, but their perks are bundled differently. Their offerings for bundling your fare and fees are as follows:
- Basic: this only includes your random seat and a personal item with no extras
- Bonus: pick your seat, bring a carry-on and use TripFlex for free modifications (fee assessed per flight, anywhere from $75-100 over base fare)
- Total: pick your seat, get one checked bag, bring a carry-on bag, get early boarding, and receive TripFlex for free modifications (fee assessed per flight, anywhere from $135-175 over base fare)
P.S. – When you’re done reading this one, don’t miss our other expert airline comparisons:
Spirit, as mentioned before, charges extra for baggage. Expect to pay $65 for one carry-on bag, to pick your seat and to board the plane earlier. Tack on $80 if you also want to bring one checked bag and have the option to modify your flight.
If you need to bring a second checked bag (whether it be another suitcase, a snowboard or skis), that one will cost $44. If you need to bring a third checked bag, the additional cost for that bag is $85. If you’re bringing a bike on the trip, the cost is $75 and the cost to bring a surfboard is $100.
Allegiant baggage fees are similar. One checked bag is included in the “Total” package, but everyone else should prepare to pay $30 per checked bag when booking online. The fee will go up to around $75 per bag if you wait to pay for your bags at the airport.
A carry-on bag can be anywhere from $10 to $75 if not included with your ticket, and depending on the capacity of the plane.
Spirit doesn’t have classes like other airlines, but their Premium Seating is going to be the next step up from standard Economy seating. The cost to upgrade is about $31 per flight and includes up to 11 inches more leg room and a cushier chair.
Getting into the priority security line costs $8 per person. This is only available at certain airports, so it won’t always be an option. If you choose to book your flight on the phone with a rep, the charge is $35 – best to do it online.
Lastly, you can check in to your flight in the airport or online for free – OR you can choose to pay $10 per person to check in early. And if you want traveler’s insurance, this particular example will cost you $71.68 for all passengers.
Allegiant will charge up to $80 for seat selection, depending on the destination, and up to $12 for priority access, or that special security line. TripFlex will cost between $29 and $45, which is a great investment since rescheduling with Allegiant can be a hassle on its own.
You’ll be charged $15 for booking with a travel agent on the phone, as opposed to booking online. Allegiant will even charge each person a $5 fee for printing your boarding ticket in the airport instead of at home.
Ways to Save
Spirit has a page on their site dedicated to getting you the best deal possible. Search under the “Deals” tab and find a range of round trip and one way flights to mainly US destinations for sometimes as low as $25. They also have coupon codes and other discounts available when applicable. You’ll find more of these during slower seasons, so this is a great way to save on a spontaneous trip – if you don’t mind the additional fees for baggage and odd flight times.
Spirit also has the $9 Fare Club which gets you exclusive discounts on flights and fees. The annual cost is $69.95, but could end up saving you money if you fly several times a year with Spirit Airlines, specifically.
Allegiant has a highlighted deals tab if you scroll down their home page. They’ve also got a rewards program through their Allegiant World MasterCard. The card has a $59 annual fee and promises points for purchases that can be used toward flights, hotels and car rentals with Allegiant.
The catch, however, is that these points are only worth one cent each, so the savings may not add up like they would on other travel rewards cards and loyalty programs.
Seats & Flight Experience
Experience is almost always the number one factor in determining which airline is worth the value. Do you want to be sitting in an uncomfortable seat for 4 hours? Not only is comfort a factor, but the overall cleanliness, friendliness and food served help make the experience excellent or terrible.
Spirit economy seats are some of the slimmest and least padded seats on the market. Some have compared the experience to taking a public transportation bus in the air; in other words – they’re not comfortable. This could be ok for short flights, but definitely something to consider for cross-country flights.
The tray tables are very small, as well. In general, the room can be a tight squeeze and most people might not fit comfortably.
Allegiant economy is slightly more comfortable according to many passenger reviews. The tray tables are standard size for economy class and the leg room seems to be fairly standard, as well – especially when compared to Spirit’s ultra slim seating and spacing.
Spirit has a great option for bumping up from economy class with large roomy seats. However, the “Big Comfy Seats” are the only upgrade you’ll get from standard Economy and they are only slightly more comfortable. You’ll be offered the same menu and the opportunity to purchase Wifi with your extra 11 inches of leg room. Essentially, Spirit’s Premium seats are like sitting in the exit row for an extra $31.
Allegiant has the exact same seats across the entire plane, so there is no way to book a premium spot on the aircraft. Each traveler is treated exactly the same and will have access to the same amenities and perks with associated fees.
Spirit, by many reports, is the “worst airline in America”. Whether you choose to believe this or not, the customer service ratings are very low – so low, in fact, Spirit is often compared with third-world country airlines that have terribly similar ratings.
Everyone’s experience will be different, and of course, your attitude helps to determine the outcome of the flight. But generally, the Spirit flight attendants and pilots do the bare minimum on your flight, so most travelers will view this as poor service. With Spirit, you get what you pay for and should expect as much going in.
Allegiant has received overall better reviews of their flight attendants and pilots, though there are occasions where some have been less than friendly or helpful. The gate attendants and customer service reps receive the worst complaints, but in the air the service is more accommodating.
The chief complaints come with nickel-and-diming passengers for extras on board, but if you go into the flight expecting this, it won’t be an issue.
Spirit does not include snacks and drinks on the flight, so prepare to bring them with you or pay extra in-flight. Entertainment is also not included on your flight, so bring it with you, unless you’d like to pay the $6.50 for Wifi access to streaming services.
Allegiant will include free water on the plane, but all other drinks and snacks will be somewhere between $2 and $7 per item. They also offer snack and drink combos that can climb to $16 and cocktails around $9. Allegiant doesn’t have inflight entertainment either, so it’s best to bring something to do while you’re traveling.
It’s important to note that most airlines have set schedules, usually sticking to specific cities on certain days. Major cities will almost always have good availability, but more obscure cities and international flights might be harder to come by. If you’re looking to travel spontaneously, it’s helpful to know which airlines are most accessible.
Spirit has 157 aircrafts in it’s current fleet, shuttling travelers on over 500 flights daily.
Allegiant has 111 aircrafts in the fleet and primarily services smaller regional airports only a few times per week.
Spirit focuses mainly on the Eastern United States. In our previous example, traveling from Florida to New York City, plenty of flights were available when booking ahead of time for the busy summer months. Spirit runs a point-to-point network system and doesn’t have a hub like other airlines. They also don’t have deals with other airlines, so it may be difficult to reschedule your flight if the flight is cancelled or delayed.
Allegiant flies to 119 different destinations within the United States and carefully choose which airports they’ll fly to based on the expected cost and number of passengers they’ve booked each week. It may be a bit tougher to schedule or change flights with them due to this. Allegiant currently maintains hubs in Orlando, St. Pete/Clearwater, Fort Myers, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Spirit currently shuttles passengers as far as Lima, Peru. The countries on their international list primarily focus on Central & South America, reaching two destinations in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.
They also reach islands in the Caribbean, including Aruba, Saint Maarten, Saint Croix, Saint Thomas, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Allegiant does not currently offer international flights beyond the United States. However, it does pilot charter flights to Canada and Mexico on special request and/or seasonally.
Lastly, all commercial airlines are extremely safe and major incidents are very, very rare. Percentage wise, cases such as these don’t happen often at all. But it’s worth noting which airlines have the best safety measures in place because safety during air travel is extremely important.
Both airlines are pretty standard regarding aircraft makes and models. Airbus supplies planes to a good number of airlines across the world and the aircrafts they build come equipped with a “Skywise Reliability” program which reports safety concerns automatically to the airline.
Spirit has mostly Airbus 319, Airbus 320 and Airbus 321, and Allegiant also has Airbus 319 and Airbus 320. Allegiant initially began the company by purchasing used aircraft from manufacturers or other airlines, then began purchasing Airbus new within the last five years.
This brand of Airbus models is considered one of the safest ways to travel and receives maintenance and monitoring frequently.
Most airlines are not free from the occasional incident. Emergency landings are not terribly uncommon, along with wing panel or landing gear trouble. For the most part, this does not result in any major harm to the passengers, but we’ll touch on the worst incidents each airline has experienced.
Spirit has never had a fatal crash and accident reports have not shown anything major in the last 35 years they’ve been in business. The worst incidents have happened during maintenance on the planes as they undergo routine inspection, when passengers are not present.
Allegiant has also never reported a fatal crash or serious incident that proved harmful to the plane’s occupants. The only noteworthy incident was a somewhat bizarre “emergency” landing in 2015, for which the pilots were reprimanded afterward.
When it comes to safety, both airlines strictly follow the TSA guidelines for prohibited items aboard the plane. They also adhere to the standards of each country they fly in to during international travel and will have each traveler complete a form stating that they have not brought any prohibited items in their checked bags or carry-ons, which are subject to search. It’s helpful to review each airline’s baggage requirements before flying.
As far as losing baggage goes, checking directly with the airline in the airport should be your first step. Second, Spirit will ask you to call customer service for help, while Allegiant will send you through their Baggage Service line direct number. Neither offers the highest satisfaction possible in this situation, but you can’t expect too much from these ultra-low-cost carriers.
In conclusion, Allegiant usually seems to be less of a hassle for most travelers, though they may not have quite as many flights available on a daily basis. Pricing will be very similar across the board between Allegiant and Spirit, but experience will almost definitely be the determining factor while you choose between airlines.
Allegiant will give you a more boutique experience, since the airline is so much smaller and they frequently use smaller airports. You’ll always have a one way flight, customer service will assuredly be better and the overall comfort inflight will be worth it. The only down side is that changing flight times and rebooking will be more difficult.
Spirit will offer more flights per day and could potentially get you on another flight faster, but dealing with the staff may be a bit of a pain in this instance. The seating is far less comfortable, unless you upgrade to the “big comfy seats”. If you’re going to have to pay extra for things like baggage and beverages, we’d rather go with Allegiant.