As a frequent flyer, I’m surprised to learn that it’s not Southwest or JetBlue where loyalty pays off the most.
For a few years before (and through) the covid pandemic, I held Southwest Airlines A-List status. That’s not an easy status to achieve or maintain as it takes 25 one-way flights (or 35,000 points) to earn A-List, and in 2020, it literally took an unneeded round trip to essentially nowhere to lock it in.
That seemed worth it to me because for many years I worked for an employer in the Washington, D.C, area and I flew roughly once a month between Florida and D.C. or Baltimore. Having A-List gave me priority check-in, which allowed me to board in the first or “A” group and it let me have unlimited same-day standby.
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That seemed meaningful because since I was traveling for work and there were a few flights each day between Baltimore (where I usually had to fly into) and Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach (the closest airports to my house), the standby option was very valuable. In 2022, however, I lost my Southwest Airlines (LUV) – Get Free Report A-List status because work presented fewer travel opportunities and my personal travel was limited due to the lingering impact of the pandemic.
So, in 2023, I have been flying whatever airline has the cheapest overall flight cost. That has generally meant Southwest, but I have also flown Delta Airlines (DAL) – Get Free Report, Frontier Airlines (ULCC) – Get Free Report, and Spirit Airlines (SAVE) – Get Free Report. I have never been a big fan of Frontier or Spirit because of their a la carte model.
A random bit of luck, however, has changed my mind about one of those airlines and turned it into what clearly seems like the best airline loyalty program.
Spirit Airlines Has A Really Good Offer
People value different things when it comes to loyalty programs. Some people value earning free flights, while others (myself included) prefer getting perks that make my trips better. In the case of Spirit Airlines, people who earn Gold Status — which normally takes earning 5,000 points — get a really robust set of perks that essentially turns the a la carte airline into a full-fare airline.
Gold level Free Spirit members get three major perks that the airline normally charges for:
- A free checked bag
- A free carry-on that can go in the overhead bin
- The ability to select your seat, including exit row seats, when available when you book your flight at no extra charge.
Gold-tier passengers also get some added perks that aren’t fully needed but are really nice:
- Flight Flex (the ability to change your flight once free of charge)
- Free drinks and snacks onboard
- Earlier boarding
- Shortcut security (where applicable)
- And free same-day standby.
I got Gold status during a special promotion Spirit ran, allowing top-tier people with select airlines or hotels to pay $100 for Gold status. That seemed worth a flyer, and not having stepped on a single Spirit flight, it’s clearly an amazing deal. Gold status also comes with a pretty amazing perk that makes it easy to maintain your status.
How Spirit Airlines Gold Status Works
Once my status kicked in (it took about a week) I booked a flight to Las Vegas for June and a flight along with a rental car to Hartford, Conn., for a family event. In both cases, I got to pay Spirit’s very low fares and not have to pay for anything a la carte.
Basically, I got two full-fare roundtrip tickets at super-discount prices, complete with exit row (extra legroom) seats for roughly half what I would have paid had I booked with Southwest. And, had I booked Southwest, I could not have flown non-stop to Las Vegas which I will be doing with Spirit.
Those are tremendous perks that are well worth the $100 I spent but there’s an even better Gold perk that will make keeping my status easy. Spirit Gold membership comes with 10 times the rewards points on your fare and 20 times points on any extras you buy.
One dollar spent on Spirit equals one reward point. You need to earn 5,000 points to extend your status for another year. Since I added pre-paid internet on both my flights, I got 20 times points for that as well as 10 times for my fares. That will give me 5,000 points after I take my two planned flights in June and August.
Basically, anyone who has Gold Status and flies regularly can easily maintain their status. That’s certainly not the case with Southwest and it makes it unlikely that I will move my loyalty back to my previous favored airline.
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