Spirit Airlines has just announced the details of its new revenue-based loyalty program and I have to say that I am extremely impressed.
Basics of the Spirit Airlines “Free Spirit” program
“Free Spirit” is the name of Spirit Airlines’ loyalty program and will be completely revised from January 21, 2021. Spirit Airlines is not an airline that people generally choose because they are loyal to the brand, but because they have really cheap fares.
The concept of running a loyalty program with such an airline can be challenging. Can there be enough rewards for people to actually choose Spirit over competitor when everyone else is equal? Well, I would say the new program is as lucrative as it gets.
Ted Christie, CEO of Spirit Airlines, describes the new program:
“Loyalty programs should work for travelers regardless of whether they fly once a year or once a week. You should be rewarded either way. We decided to start with a clean sheet of paper and imagine again what free spirit could be. Points don’t mean anything unless you can actually use them. With our new program, everyone can hold onto their points longer so that family vacationers, frequent travelers and people visiting relatives can take advantage of the new benefits and rewards of Free Spirit. “
Earning Spirit Airlines points
Spirit Airlines’ new frequent flyer program is based on revenue and members can earn:
- 6x points per dollar for tariffs
- 12x points per dollar for incidental expenses such as seating, bags and more
This is kind of brilliant – Spirit Airlines is known for its unbundled fares. So if the airline were to incentivize the selection of additional services instead of incentivizing bookings in the first place. This structure really helps with that.
Collect bonus points for booking the Big Front Seat
Redeeming Spirit Airlines points
Spirit Airlines has revenue-based redemptions without blackout dates. The airline has not yet announced how many points are required for tickets. Only time will tell.
It goes without saying that this is a very important detail, so we must reserve our judgment until the new take-back system is up and running.
Spirit Airlines improves the expiry of points
In the past, Spirit Airlines points expired after just three months of inactivity. This is one of the most aggressive policies of any airline.
With the new loyalty program, Spirit Airlines points expire after 12 months of inactivity, which is much more reasonable. Additionally, Elite Members and those with a co-branded credit card are not subject to this policy.
Spirit Airlines reduces the redemption fees
Spirit Airlines has extremely high redemption fees. Under the old program:
- If an award is booked within six days of departure, a fee of USD 100 will be charged
- If an award is booked within 7 to 20 days of departure, there will be a $ 75 fee
- If an award is booked within 190 days of departure, a fee of USD 15 will be charged
With the new program:
- The redemption fees are only due within 90 days of departure and not within 180 days
- Even within 90 days the fees are lower than in the past (although I haven’t seen exact numbers yet)
Spirit Airlines is improving its miles policy
Spirit Airlines introduces the accumulation of points
With the new loyalty program, eligible members can combine Free Spirit Points with up to eight friends and family members for faster rewards.
This is especially useful for an ultra-low-cost carrier program where you may have multiple casual flyers who don’t independently earn enough points to redeem but earn enough when you combine points.
Spirit Airlines elite status
Spirit Airlines introduces two elite tiers – silver and gold.
Spirit Airlines silver status
Spirit Airlines silver status requires 2,000 SQPs, which you can earn with:
- $ 2,000 in airline expenses
- $ 20,000 purchases made with a Spirit Airlines credit card
Spirit Airlines Silver members receive:
- 8x points per dollar for plans and 16x points per dollar for extras
- Free shortcut security (where available) and shortcut boarding (Zone 2)
- Free standby on the same day
- Free general seat selection 24 hours before departure with availability of the exit row three hours before departure
- Dedicated elite telephone line
- Possibility to create a point pool
- No redemption fees
Gold status from Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines Gold requires 5,000 SQPs, which you can earn with:
- $ 5,000 in airline expenses
- $ 50,000 worth of purchases made with a Spirit Airlines credit card
Spirit Airlines Gold members receive the following in addition to the Silver benefits:
- 10x points per dollar for plans and 20x points per dollar for extras
- Free carry-on bag
- Free first checked bag
- Priority Boarding (Zone 1)
- Free standard seat selection at the time of booking (including exit rows)
- Free Flight Flex, which offers a one-time change with no charge before 24 hours before departure
- Free drink and snack during the flight
I can already try the BuzzBallz and the Chardonnay!
Spirit Airlines’ new program is great
I never thought I’d say that, but Spirit Airlines’ new loyalty program is well thought out. And that’s despite the fact that the airline is transitioning from a distance-based to a revenue-based program.
The reality is that Spirit Airlines’ loyalty program has historically been a joke. Points expired after just three months of inactivity, and redemption fees were often higher than just paying for a ticket directly.
I’ve flown with Spirit before, but never bothered to sign up for the loyalty program … despite the fact that I love loyalty programs.
In contrast, the new program seems very well thought out:
- The airline rewards the ancillary fees disproportionately, which seems to be a smart approach for Spirit
- Points are valid for so long that members are actually engaged instead of caring about it
- Elite members may be concerned with priority security and boarding, as well as vacant seat assignments, flight changes, snacks, beverages, and more. These are benefits I never expected from Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines will launch an impressive new loyalty program in January 2021. The program will be based on revenue, but for an airline like Spirit this makes perfect sense. The program will be particularly rewarding for purchasing extras and offering elite perks that rival (and in some cases even outperform) other major airlines.
Now all we have to do is wait and see what the repayment rates are, but frankly the program is an improvement regardless of what I think given the previous expiration guidelines and redemption fees. Well done Spirit Airlines!
Are you as impressed with Spirit Airlines’ new loyalty program as I am?