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Spirit vs Allegiant: Which Budget Airline is Best?

Spirit vs Allegiant: Which Budget Airline is Best?
Latest posts by Ewen Finser (see all)

If you are trying to figure out which dumpster fire budget airline is best, you are in the right place!

Usually for lack of better options, I’ve had the opportunity to fly with a variety of airlines, including ultra-low-cost carriers such as Spirit and Allegiant Airlines.

In this article, I’ compare these two popular low-cost airlines, highlighting their strengths, weaknesses, and everything in between, to help you make an informed decision for your next trip.

Main Differences Between Spirit and Allegiant

These are the key differences between these two budget airlines:

  • Network and Destinations: Spirit Airlines serves a wider network with over 75 destinations in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean. In contrast, Allegiant Airlines focuses on smaller, underserved markets with service to about 120 cities in the U.S.
  • Fare Structure: Both airlines offer low base fares, but Spirit’s “Bare Fare” allows for more customization with optional charges for services like seat selection and carry-on bags. On the other hand, Allegiant’s fares include free seat selection.
  • Baggage Policy: Allegiant allows one free personal item, with charges for carry-on and checked bags. Spirit charges for both carry-on and checked bags, but offers discounts for pre-purchasing baggage allowance online.
  • In-flight Amenities: Both airlines have a buy-on-board program for food and beverages. However, Spirit has more modern aircraft with slimline seats and Wi-Fi on select flights, while Allegiant does not offer Wi-Fi.
  • Loyalty Program: Spirit’s “Free Spirit” program rewards frequent flyers with points for every dollar spent, which can be redeemed for flights. Allegiant’s “myAllegiant Rewards” program is more simplistic, offering points for purchases made with the Allegiant World Mastercard.
  • Customer Service: Both airlines have mixed customer service reviews, but Spirit has made significant efforts to improve its customer service over the last few years.
  • On-Time Performance: Spirit typically has a better on-time performance record (73% on-time in 2022) than Allegiant (66% on-time), but this can vary depending on the specific route and time of year.

A Brief Overview of Spirit and Allegiant Airlines

Let’s start by introducing the two airlines in question.

Spirit Airlines is an ultra-low-cost carrier that traces its roots back to a trucking company named Clippert established in 1964.

It started its air service journey as Charter One in 1983, later rebranding to Spirit Airlines, Inc. in 1992. Today, it is the 8th largest airline in America, serving millions of passengers each year.

On the other hand, Allegiant Airlines was established in 1997 under the name WestJet Express.

A year later, it rebranded to Allegiant Airlines, primarily operating on the West Coast of the United States.

Today, Allegiant serves the majority of US cities and stands as the ninth largest commercial airline in the nation.

Pricing and Extra Fees: What to Expect

The pricing of these ultra-low-cost carriers is one of the key factors to consider when planning your trip.

The base fares of Spirit and Allegiant are often enticingly low, however, they employ an unbundled approach to pricing, with numerous add-on fees that can quickly escalate the total cost of your trip.

Allegiant vs Spirit Ticket Pricing

Spirit Airlines separates the cost of the ticket from other services such as baggage and seat selection.

This means your base fare only covers your flight and a personal item (such as a purse or backpack), with a random seat assigned to you.

Adding passengers, carry-ons, and checked bags will increase your ticket price. They offer three bundling options:

  • Book It: This includes your random seat and a personal item with no extras.
  • Boost It : Allows you to pick your seat, get one checked bag, and early boarding for an extra fee.
  • Bundle It : Includes seat selection, one checked bag, a carry-on bag, early boarding, and free flight modifications for an additional charge.

Allegiant Airlines has a similar pricing structure.

Their base fare also excludes extra fees, which are added according to the perks you choose during the booking process. Like Spirit, Allegiant offers tiered packages:

  • Basic: This includes your random seat and a personal item with no extras.
  • Bonus : Allows you to pick your seat, bring a carry-on, and use TripFlex for free modifications for an added fee.
  • Total : This includes seat selection, one checked bag, a carry-on bag, early boarding, and free flight modifications for an additional charge.

Allegiant vs Spirit Baggage Fees Compared

Both airlines charge additional fees for baggage.

Spirit charges $65 for one carry-on bag and $80 for a checked bag. A second checked bag costs $44, and a third costs $85.

Allegiant, on the other hand, charges $30 per checked bag when booking online, which can go up to $75 per bag if you wait to pay at the airport. The price for a carry-on bag varies, ranging from $10 to $75.

Extra Fees Compared

Both airlines offer additional services at a cost.

Spirit offers Premium Seating for about $31 per flight, priority security line access for $8 per person, and early check-in for $10 per person.

Allegiant charges up to $80 for seat selection and up to $12 for priority access. They also charge a fee for booking with a travel agent and for printing your boarding pass at the airport.

Ways to Save

Despite the numerous extra fees, both airlines offer ways to save on your flights.

Spirit Airlines has a ‘Deals’ section on their website, offering discounted flights and other promotions. They also have the $9 Fare Club, which provides exclusive discounts on flights and fees for an annual fee of $69.95.

Allegiant Airlines also offers deals, accessible from their homepage. They have a rewards program through their Allegiant World MasterCard, offering points for purchases that can be used towards flights, hotels, and car rentals.

Seats & Flight Experience

The overall flight experience is a crucial factor when choosing an airline. This includes the comfort of the seats, the cleanliness of the plane, the friendliness of the staff, and the quality of the food served.

Class and Seating

Both airlines only offer one class of seating, with the exception of Spirit’s Premium Seating.

Spirit Airlines’ economy seats are slim and lightly padded, which can be uncomfortable for long flights. Their premium seats, referred to as “Big Comfy Seats,” offer more legroom but are only slightly more comfortable.

Allegiant Airlines offers more comfortable economy seats, with standard-sized tray tables and adequate legroom. However, they do not offer premium seating.

Staff and Customer Service

Spirit Airlines has a reputation for low customer service ratings, with minimal service from flight attendants and pilots.

Allegiant Airlines has received better reviews overall, although there have been complaints about gate attendants and customer service representatives.

In-Flight Experience

Neither airline includes snacks, drinks, or in-flight entertainment in their base fare. These can be purchased separately during the flight.

Availability and Routes

Spirit Airlines has a larger fleet and offers more flights per day compared to Allegiant Airlines.

Spirit focuses mainly on the Eastern United States and also offers international flights to Central & South America and the Caribbean.

Allegiant Airlines has a smaller fleet and primarily services smaller regional airports. They fly to 119 different destinations within the United States and offer charter flights to Canada and Mexico.

Allegiant vs Spirit Pet Policies

Both airlines allow pets in the cabin for a fee.

Allegiant charges a $50 non-refundable fee and allows cats or dogs on domestic flights.

Spirit allows dogs, cats, domestic rabbits, and household birds for a fee of around $125. Neither airline allows pets to be checked with baggage.

Allegiant vs Spirit Safety

Both airlines primarily use Airbus planes, which are considered one of the safest ways to travel.

They meet all safety regulations and undergo regular maintenance and monitoring.

Neither Spirit nor Allegiant has reported a fatal crash or serious incident harmful to passengers.

Allegiant vs Spirit at a Glance Summary

Here’s my high level summary of Allegiant vs Spirit Airlines:

Key Features Allegiant Airlines Spirit Airlines
Network and Destinations Limited destinations, focusing on smaller markets Extensive network, including both major and minor destinations
Fare Structure Low-cost fares, with additional fees for extras Ultra-low-cost fares, with additional fees for extras
Baggage Policy Charges for both carry-on and checked bags Charges for both carry-on and checked bags
In-flight Amenities Basic amenities with additional charges for extras Bare-bones amenities with additional charges for extras
Loyalty Program “myAllegiant Rewards” with points for purchases “Free Spirit” based on dollars spent, not miles flown
Customer Service Better in-flight service, mixed gate agent experiences Reputation for poor customer service all around
On-time Performance 66% on-time performance 73% on-time performance 

Other Top Spirit Airlines Competitors

Our editorial team has also compared Spirit to some top competitors.

These are peers that I often see competing on similar routes, so worth considering as options:

So Should You Go With Allegiant or Spirit Airlines?

Choosing between Allegiant and Spirit Airlines for your next trip mostly comes down to where you want to go and some personal preference.

Allegiant offers a more boutique experience with better customer service and overall comfort, although they have fewer flights available.

On the other hand, Spirit offers more flights per day and potentially quicker rescheduling, but with a reputation for lower customer service and less comfortable seating.

Bottom Line Summary: here’s how I think about which to go with when flights are available from both…

  • Want a slightly betting flying experience? Go with Allegiant as they have a better reputation for in-flight service and slightly more comfortable seats in my experience.
  • Likelihood of delays? They aren’t separated by much, but Spirit does have a 7% better on-time performance rating.

In other words, do you want to get there more or less on time but have some unpleasant interactions? Go with Spirit! Otherwise, Allegiant is less problematic.