Choosing between Spirit vs JetBlue for your next flight?
The quick answer is that Spirit is an ultra-low-cost airline with limited comforts and questionable customer service. JetBlue is a low-cost airline known for its quality in customer service and comfortable cabins.
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.
JetBlue is also an independent airline making it’s start in 2000 with a focus on comfort and updated technology for a more enjoyable flight. It’s the 7th largest airline in America by passengers carried and a highly rated low-cost airline by the American public.
Pricing & Extra Fees
Pricing is usually the first thing that people consider when comparing airlines while traveling. Airfare is usually one of the major travel expenses, under hotel rates, when planning a trip in the United States or across the world, so it’s important to see how each airline measures up when it comes to tickets and extra fees.
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.
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.
For example, we booked a trip from Fort Lauderdale to New York City in the busy summer month of June. The base fare started at $241.78. This base fare only allows you to carry on one personal item (purse or backpack, for instance) and assigns you to a random seat.
JetBlue pricing will vary by class, but for this example we’ll be using the standard Economy seating in order to directly compare with Spirit Airlines. JetBlue takes a somewhat similar approach to fare bundles, allowing travelers to choose pricing to suit their traveling needs.
The process starts with base fare for tickets, averaging around $250 round trip on the East Coast, about $525 cross-country, and around $765 round trip to South America for a single passenger. This basic pricing – or “Blue Basic” pricing – includes one carry-on bag and one personal item, no advanced seating, no cancellations and you’ll be last to board. If you want more than this, pricing will increase and fees are assigned.
Here’s what’s included in the rest of JetBlue’s fare options:
- Blue: includes carry-on and personal item, and advanced seat selection with general boarding for about $30 over Blue Basic
- Blue Plus: includes carry-on and personal item, one checked bag and advanced seat selection with general boarding for about $60 over Blue Basic
- Blue Extra: includes carry-on and personal item, advanced seat selection, no cancellation or change fees and early boarding for about $100 over Blue Basic
- Mint: is not available for every flight, includes carry-on and personal item, up to two checked bags, advanced seat selection, placement in Premium Seating with early boarding for over $100 above Blue Basic
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. Remember that base fare of $241.78 traveling from South Florida to New York in June? Tack on $65 if you want to bring 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.
JetBlue‘s baggage fees are included for those who select Blue Plus or Mint options on their airfare, but if you want to bring checked bags with other ticket options, the first bag is $35 and the second bag is $45. Oversized bags like bikes and surfboards are a $150 fee per item.
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.
Bypassing security is a fee of $8 per person, sending you through your own “preferred” security line as you enter the airport. This is only available at certain airports, so it won’t always be an option.
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.
JetBlue‘s Blue Basic is most comparable to Spirit and this is where you’ll experience the most fees for extra things. If you’d like to select your seat, it ranges from $11 for a middle seat up to $75 in “Mint” – or premium – seating up front per flight. Bypassing security has a fee of $15, but check-in is free no matter what.
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.
JetBlue has a Best Fare Finder option when booking to help you find the cheapest option available for your flight. It’ll pull up a calendar of options in order for you to select the one that fits you best. Their TrueBlue program is a points system that gives you benefits for flying with them. You can earn points by flying and using their credit card partners, and can spend them on trips for yourself or others.
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 as 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.
JetBlue features typical row seating with live TV screen at each seat. Passengers say that JetBlue has some of the coziest seats available for lower cost flights with larger tray tables and the company prides itself on having the most leg room of any airline’s economy class. Complimentary snacks and drinks are also included.
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.
JetBlue “Mint” seating is situated up front and includes large, comfy chairs that lay into beds with a sliding door for privacy. The seats also have adjustable settings and a massage feature for added relaxation. Seat backs have TVs in the headrest for live entertainment, movies and shows during the flight.
Special attendance is also given by the flight crew and service by Delicious Hospitality Group is exclusive to Mint passengers. This includes a menu of small plates by renowned NYC chefs, a plethora of wine and cocktail options, and even a custom playlist for your meal.
Amenities are also included, like a comfy pillow and blanket, upscale essential toiletries and noise-isolating headphones. Attendants even hand out packages of fancy nuts aa you deplane. Mint is currently only available on certain cross-country flights, trips to Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as flights to London.
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.
JetBlue prides itself on cleanliness and customer satisfaction, maintaining a high rating with the general public on service. With a few exceptions in some of the reviews we read, the majority of passengers prefer the flight experience and attendants on JetBlue flights to other low-cost carriers. The flight attendants have been described as polite and helpful regardless of the flight length and destination.
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.
JetBlue food menus have a wide variety of options, whether you go Mint or Economy. Free Wifi is included in both classes, as well as onboard entertainment. Upgrades to food and drinks come at an expected price, but overall a good value for what you’re getting.
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.
JetBlue sends flyers on over 1000 flights daily and has 267 aircrafts in it’s current fleet.
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.
JetBlue also has a focus on the Eastern US, with hubs in New York City, Boston, Washington, DC and Fort Lauderdale. Using the same example traveling from Florida to New York City, flights seemed to be readily available in the summer months. Booking, cancellations and changes do not seem to be a big issue with JetBlue.
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.
JetBlue has significantly more destinations available in the United States, it’s provinces and in countries around the world. The farthest country available is Bangkok, Thailand. It serves Toronto, Canada, Puerto Rice and the US Virgin Islands.
Other destinations include Central America, the Caribbean, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, most countries in Europe, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and South Africa.
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, while JetBlue has mostly Airbus A320, Airbus A321, and Embraer 190. These particular Airbus models are among the most highly rated planes on the market, never experiencing a fatal crash in their entire existence.
Embraer 190, however, is among one of the most fatal models on the market with a 3% crash rate per 1 million flights, according to a study by AirSafe. The Embraer series is used by JetBlue for their shorter flights to and from small cities and towns with limited passengers.
Most airlines are not free from the occasional minor incident. This very rarely results 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.
JetBlue has also never experienced a fatal crash. The worst reported incident happened to the landing gear in 2005 when landing in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The front wheel was abnormally turned, causing it to skid down the runway in flames. However, no passengers or flight crew members were injured – maybe a bit jarred.
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. Some people may not know that the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is among JetBlue‘s prohibited items, along with most electric skateboards in checked bags.
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 JetBlue has an entire phone line and website dedicated to locating your lost items. However, both airlines have a lost baggage rate of about 2 bags per 1000 passengers, according to a recent report by Luggagehero.
In conclusion, a roundtrip flight from south Florida to New York City during the busy summer month of June will cost one person about $504.76 with Spirit and will cost one person about $545.76 with JetBlue’s Blue Basic option.
If saving money is your only goal, Spirit is the natural choice, but at what cost? The price here does include a carry-on bag, two checked bags, premium seating and easier security checks. You’ll save $40 over JetBlue, but you’ll spend 3 hours of flight time in a relatively uncomfortable seat with no snacks or entertainment and possibly poor service. If your flight gets delayed or cancelled, it may also be difficult to get another in a short amount of time.
JetBlue, on the other and, includes a carry-on bag, two checked bags, regular seating, and easier security checks. It may cost $40 more, but you’ll have a comfier chair, free snacks and drinks, free entertainment and possibly better service. Not to mention that delayed and cancelled flights are easy to reschedule.
Overall, we believe that JetBlue is the way to go for general travel, especially in the Summer and over the holidays when flights are naturally higher across the board. Spirit, however, is a viable option for short or spontaneous trips. It’s also good for cheap flights in months when fewer people are traveling and you can get a better deal on ticket prices.