What's the Deal?: Putting Spirit's $19 Fares to the Test
Spirit Airlines is an upstart discount carrier that often offers crazy fares. "Can you believe it?" says its current fare sale. "Spirit has (fares) from only $19 each way."
So can we believe it? Is it possible to get a $19 fare? And where do these fares get you?
From Washington Reagan, there is no $19 fare, just a $74 one-way fare to Fort Lauderdale. The two $19 fares are from Fort Lauderdale to both Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas. I put the sale through a test to see whether I could get the cheapest fares to Fort Lauderdale, combine them with the cheap seats to the Bahamas, and come out way ahead. Let's just say, you need to be very flexible to have a chance of getting everything to line up. Quick disclaimer: I tried this out on May 8 and the sale had started May 6, so availability was probably better early on. The sale ends at midnight tonight (Friday).
While the sale is good for travel from May 14-Aug. 19, the cheapest seats are available for Monday-Thursday travel between May 14 and June 18. I tried many different combinations of flight dates before coming up with $74 availability from DCA to FLL departing May 19 and returning May 28. (Hint: You're much more likely to get the fares in each direction if you stay longer. I had little problem getting them if I was willing to be away for 10 days or longer.)
Once I got that fare, I then plugged in the same dates from FLL to Freeport: No trouble getting the $19 fare each way, but the connection times wouldn't work unless I opted for a return flight from Fort Lauderdale to Washington that would cost $70 more.
I then got a brainstorm: Why not see if I could get a cheap flight on another carrier to Fort Lauderdale with better connections? I found a $186 round-trip fare on US Airways that worked: It cost $17 more than the cheap Spirit fare, but I could then make the $19 Spirit flights from FLL to Freeport. Ouch: Once taxes and fuel surcharges were added, those $19 fares ballooned to $136 round trip. But for $322 total, I could get to the Bahamas: Priced directly from Washington, the flights would cost at least $401, so I'd save $79.
But there are downsides. I'd have to either do carry-on only, or lug my bags between carriers. And if my first flight was canceled or late, I could be in trouble since US Airways and Spirit don't have a recipricol agreement.
Personally, I'd rather just pay the extra $79, but if I were traveling with my family, that type of thinking could change. What would you do?
Oh, and one more tip: When you're booking on Spirit, make sure you unclick the boxes that want to add an extra $21 to your fare for travel protection and to become a member of their club.
By Carol Sottili |
May 9, 2008; 12:24 PM ET
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