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free spirit loyalty program

Spirit Unveils New Free Spirit Loyalty Program (Plus Status) for 2021

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Yes, even ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines have frequent flyer programs. And Spirit’s program is getting a massive overhaul in 2021.

The new Free Spirit program takes flight Jan. 21. And there are some massive changes in store for the budget airline’s loyalty program, including how you earn points, how you can redeem them, how long you have to use points before they expire, and more. Oh, and Spirit is even introducing airline status. You’re full of surprises, 2021.

On the whole, these are fairly good changes for frequent Spirit flyers. But it’s not without some potential problems, so keep reading as we break them down.

 


 

Earning Points with the New Free Spirit Loyalty Program

Miles are out, and points are in.

Flying Spirit today, you earn miles based upon how far you fly. Come Jan. 21, it’s a new revenue-based program in which you’ll start earning points based on how much you pay. It works like this:

  • Everyday travelers earn 6x points per dollar on airfare, while travelers with Silver status (more on status later) earn 8x points and Gold statusholders earn 10x points.
  • Critically, you’ll also start earning points on the extra fees you pay flying Spirit – that’s not the case today. Normal flyers will earn 12x points on these fees, while Silver members will earn 16x and Gold members will earn 20x.

Here’s an example. I could book a $75 round-trip flight for next month from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Las Vegas (LAS). Because I’d earn 50% of the miles flown, today I would earn about 1,300 Free Spirit miles.

After the changeover, I’d earn just 450 points on the same base fare. That’s a downgrade to say the least.

But let’s say I add a carry-on bag (another $35 each way), decide to splurge for the Big Front Seat on the way to Vegas (a $67 upgrade, in this case), then pick a window seat for the flight home (an $11 fee). With the 12x multiplier on fees like these, that adds up to another 1,776 points – compared to the 0 extra points I’d earn on those exact same purchases today.
 

free spirit loyalty program 

This gets to the heart of Spirit’s change. Spirit’s business model – along with pretty much every low-cost carrier – is built around low fares, using bags and seat selections as optional add-ons to pull in more money.

“The program that we’re moving into really is reflective of our model. We’re proud of our brand and we’re proud of our company,” Spirit Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Matt Klein said. 

Free Spirit is also introducing Points Pooling, which allows up to eight friends and family members to combine their points balances together. Any Free Spirit member can join a pool, but you’ll need Spirit status or a Spirit credit card in order to start one.

Got Spirit miles in the bank currently? Don’t worry: Those will change over to Free Spirit points on a 1:1 basis come Jan. 21.
 

Points Won’t Expire So Soon

If there’s one massive win behind this change, it’s this.

Currently, Spirit miles expire in just 90 days with no account activity – if you don’t earn more miles or put a charge on a Spirit Airlines World Mastercard. That’s one of the most punitive policies among any frequent flyer program, period.

Come Jan. 21, that will change to a year-long expiration period. Taking any Spirit flight to earn more points or redeeming points for an award will reset that clock.
 

free spirit loyalty program 

And holding the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard means your points will never expire so long as you keep the card open.

 

The Great Mystery: What Will Awards Cost?

Earning points is one thing, but what about using them? Well, Spirit isn’t saying much about that.

What’s clear is that Spirit will use dynamic award pricing, where the price of an award can change based on the cash price, demand, time of year, and other factors. And while there will no doubt be deals – awards will start at 2,500 points each way – it makes it hard to know exactly how far your Spirit points will get you come late January.
 

free spirit loyalty program 

Spirit officials wouldn’t address what a Spirit point might be worth towards airfare, insisting only that most flyers will come out ahead – without providing much evidence of that on the redemption side. In its promotional materials, Spirit says that “a guest who finds a great deal in cash will also find a great deal in points.”

“We’re not necessarily putting a specific range out there because it’s also part of our strategy,” Ghosh said. “We are in a very uncertain time, in terms of what travel is going to look like. We’re trying to keep maximum flexibility in our hands.”

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to redeem Free Spirit points for extras like upgrading to a Big Front Seat or paying for bags. On the bright side, Spirit will introduce a Points + Cash option, where you can use as few as 1,000 points to reduce the cost of your airfare.

 

Now Flying with Spirit? Status

Earning airline status is a tricky world. For most travelers, it’s rarely worth it – but that’s not always the case.  And even Spirit is getting into the game.

On paper, Spirit has actually had something like status for years. There were three tiers, from your everyday “Somebody” members to “Elite” flyers to “VIP” members. But no matter how far you climbed, the benefits beyond earning more miles flying Spirit were, in the words of Spirit itself, “pretty much nonexistent.”

“It was seldom used and not particularly well-known,” said Rana Ghosh, Spirit’s vice president of Omnichannel. 

But Spirit is replacing it with two tiers of bonafide status that are far easier to reach than your average airline statuts. You can attain Spirit status from spending money with Spirit as well as putting charges on the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard from Bank of America.

Every dollar you spend on Spirit flights or fees gets you 1 Status Qualifying Point (SQP), while you’ll earn 1 SQP for every $10 you put on a Spirit Mastercard. Here’s a quick look at the two new tiers of Spirit status, and what you get with each.

Spirit Silver Status
  • Attain Silver Status by earning 2,000 SQPs in a year
  • Earn 8x points on airfare and 16x points on extras like seat fees and baggage
  • Free seat selection during check-in, with access to available exit row seats starting three hours pre-departure
  • Get free Shortcut Boarding and Shortcut Security
  • No redemptions fees when you book an award
  • No extra fees for overweight bags
  • Fly same-day standby free
Spirit Gold Status
  • Attain Gold Status by earning 5,000 SQPs in a year
  • Earn 10x points on airfare and 20x points on extras like seat fees and baggage
  • Free seat selection during when you book, including exit row seats
  • Free checked bag and free carry-on
  • Free snack and drink on your flight
  • Get free Shortcut Boarding and Shortcut Security
  • No redemptions fees when you book an award
  • Fly same-day standby free
  • One-time free change to any flight up to 24 hours before departure

 

Status with Spirit will last for the rest of the year in which you earn it and the next full calendar year. So if you earn Spirit Status in February 2021, you’ll have it for the rest of 2021 and all of 2022.

 

Say Goodbye to the $9 Fare Club

Au revoir, $9 Fare Club. Say hello to its replacement: The Spirit Saver$ Club. 

This is Spirit’s annual membership program, where you pay about $60 a year and get discounted fares, better deals on bags, and more. The new Spirit Saver$ Club will get even more benefits.

But mostly, the change is about clearing up confusion about the name … since it’s not really unlocking $9 fares.

“It made a lot of sense for us when we had $9 fares…” Ghosh said. “It’s making less sense for us nowadays.”

But beyond the name change, there are some new benefits, too. Spirit Saver$ club members will still get discounts on fares and bags, but they’ll also get access to discounted seat fees – including exit rows and the Big Front Seat. You’ll also get discounts on Shortcut Security, Shortcut Boarding, and Spirit’s Flight Flex packages that allow free changes.

 

Bottom Line

As with almost any change to an airline mileage program, this is a win-some, lose-some scenario.

Most flyers should come out ahead with changes to how you earn Spirit points. And the new 12-month expiration period is a massive change for the better. But the mystery surrounding what awards will cost with Spirit leaves some massive questions unanswered.
 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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