Spirit Airlines Launched an Elite Status Match Challenge, But Can Anyone Actually Reach It?

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A few months back I shared Frontier's incredible elite status match. Many in our Award Travel 101 Facebook community thought I'd gone off the deep end. After all, who would possibly pay $49 to be matched to Frontier's top-tier 100K status?

Well, it turns out that many people did. Perhaps it was so successful that competitor and fellow Ultra-Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC) Spirit Airlines decided that chasing after those in the loyalty game might be worthwhile after all.

The question is: can Spirit Airlines woo you with their new status challenge?

Status Match or Status Challenge?

Unlike Frontier's status match, this Spirit status promotion is actually a status challenge. What's the difference, you ask? A match grants elite status in one company just for having elite status in a competing program. A challenge requires meeting certain requirements to earn elite status. In some cases — such as this Spirit promotion — you're temporarily granted an upgraded status while you try to meet the requirements. If you fall short, you'll lose said status.

You can view the exact terms and conditions of the offer, but let's simplify them here. They state:

The Free Spirit Status Match Challenge is an opportunity for you to experience the most valuable benefits of the Free Spirit program. It’s a way to switch your loyalty to Spirit and immediately benefit from our Status levels.

The question is: “Do you really want to?”

Who's Eligible for Spirit's Status Challenge?

If you have status in just about any one of the major domestic airlines, you could be eligible for this Spirit status challenge:

Spirit Status Match
Airlines and how they match

Here are the additional requirements:

  • You have not received a status match or complimentary Free Spirit Status in the past two years.
  • Must have elite status with a qualifying airline that was earned through that airline’s published requirements (complimentary status or status earned through a promotion does not qualify)
  • Must be able to present a document confirming your elite status with an airline listed in the chart.

Unfortunately, if you do not meet the above requirements, you are not eligible for Spirit's Status Match Challenge.

How Long Do I have to Complete Spirit's Status Challenge?

In short, you have 90 days. In that time, you have to meet 25% of Spirit's standard elite status requirements for the whole year. Spirit elite status typically requires 2,000 Status Qualifying Points (SQPs) for Silver and 5,000 SQPs for Gold. But, during the challenge period, you'll need to earn:

  • Free Spirit Silver: Earn 500 SQP on flights operated by Spirit Airlines
  • Free Spirit Gold: Earn 1,250 SQP on flights operated by Spirit Airlines
Spirit Status Match
Status Qualifying Point requirements

How Do I Complete Spirit's Status Challenge?

To earn 1 SQP, you need to spend a dollar on Spirit Airlines. That means to earn Silver status from this status challenge, you'll need $500 of “Qualifying Spend”. Gold Status requires $1,250 of “Qualifying Spend.” Again, in just 90 days.

Listed below are further details of this challenge offer:

  • You will have 90 days to earn ongoing Free Spirit Silver or Gold status based on reduced earning criteria which can be found in the chart below and on our Free Spirit 101 page
  • If you meet the challenge criteria, you will enjoy the benefits of the Silver or Gold program level for the remainder of that calendar year plus the following calendar year (same as members who earn Free Spirit Status)
  • If you do not meet the challenge criteria, the Silver or Gold status will be terminated immediately. You will be returned to the Free Spirit level you held prior to the Status Match Challenge
  • You are allowed one challenge every two years
  • An email will be sent confirming the outcome of the Status Match Challenge

What Does Spirit Elite Status Provide?

The first level of Free Spirit elite status is Silver. Silver members get:

  • bonus points on Spirit spending
  • free Shortcut Security and Boarding
  • same-day standby
  • seat selection at check-in
  • ability to create a Points Pool
  • elimination of redemption fees

Spirit Gold members get all of those perks plus:

  • free Flight Flex
  • first checked and carry-on bag free
  • seat selection at booking (including exit rows)
  • free inflight beverage and snacks

As shown above, status in Spirit can be valuable, especially after achieving Gold status where almost all fees are eliminated. There's just one pesky problem!

The Catch

How the heck are you going to earn enough Spirit SQPs in 90 days?

Spirit is notorious for their low fares and synonymous with high fees! The only status worth obtaining (in my opinion) is Gold since it eliminates all of the fees and provides some additional flexibility for members.

However, let's take a look at why I think this status challenge would be next to impossible for most of us. I'll start with flights from my home airport of Cleveland (CLE) on a non-stop route to Los Angeles (LAX).

Spirit Status Match
Google Flights options

I selected the closest, least expensive dates in March.

Spirit Status Match
Base Fare

Let's remember that the airfare isn't where Spirit generates the most money; it's in the ancillary fees. Checked bags, carry-on bags, priority boarding, seat assignments, and more are where ULCCs earn most of their money. For example, adding a checked bag and a carry-on bag each way adds up to $121 more in fees:

Spirit Status Match
Baggage Fees

Selecting an exit-row seat tacks on another $37 each way:

Spirit Status Match
Seat Assignment fees

The “problem” here (which normally wouldn't be a problem) is that while you're participating in the status challenge, you don't have to pay many of these fees.

How Spirit Airlines Members Earn SQPs

Without status and in the example above, I'm saving $28 in baggage fees for being a $9 Fare Club member. But, even with that savings, there would still be $183 in baggage and seat selection fees. Typically, those fees would earn you an additional 183 SQPs toward status. But, since you'd have temporary elite status, you wouldn't have to pay any of these fees. So, you won't earn those SQPs.

That means you're going to pay just $90 round-trip for all of this while participating in the status challenge. However, you're not even going to earn 90 SQP from the flight. Taxes do not earn SQPs. So, the question becomes, how many SQPs will you actually earn for this round-trip flight?

Spirit fare breakdown
Fare breakdown

How about a whopping 14 SQPs!

So, to earn 1,250 SQP in the 90-day challenge period, you'll need 90 round-trip flights — or one every day — to maintain Free Spirit Gold status. And, since you'd have to pay $90 round-trip for each of these trips, that clocks in at $8,100!

How About Close-In?

The previous example utilized least expensive fares, but what if I needed to leave tomorrow? The base fare is sufficiently higher.

Spirit Status Match
Close-In fare

Add all of the goodies (that you wouldn't be paying for with Gold Status).

Spirit Status Match
Baggage fees

All of these baggage and seat fees are waived with this challenge. So, what are we left with?

Spirit Fare breakdown
Fare breakdown

$229.76 = 230 SQPs. This means you'd need 6 of the most expensive last-minute round-trip flights in 90 days to cross the threshold to maintain Gold status. While not as expensive or as time-consuming as the cheaper flight, you'd still need to spend approximately $2,100 (including taxes) in 90 days to meet the status challenge and maintain Gold status.

Final Thoughts

I'll go out on a limb and say what few other bloggers will: I've enjoyed my Spirit flights. They've all been on or ahead of schedule, and I don't think there's a much better deal than the Big Front Seat (BFS) on domestic flights. I would have no problem hauling my family around on Spirit.

While my experiences on Spirit don't necessarily mirror others, I feel that they have really upped their game over the past few years. On-board service has been comparable to legacy carriers (if not better in several situations), the product seems semi-competitive (much more so in the BFS), and they fly the newest fleet in the US.

However, this attempt at wooing other airline elites falls flat on its face. First, I don't think many other airline elites “aspire” to become a Free Spirit top-tier Gold. Second, I'm fairly certain that if one were wanting to spend thousands of dollars to earn airline status, most wouldn't choose Spirit. Furthermore, members aren't going to be able to fly every single day just to accomplish this. Am I off base, or does this offer completely miss the mark?

Can Spirit Airlines woo you with their new status match?

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Comments

  • Avatar

    Well, I certainly can’t reach it.

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    Doesn’t seem like the juice would be worth the squeeze on this one, so to speak

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    This offer does miss the mark. To this I say no thanks!

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    It is a gimmick to generate more revenue for the airline. Are people actually interested in obtaining Spirit’s “elite” status?

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      Considering how much you can really save in add-on fees, it’s certainly valuable – if you don’t mind flying Spirit

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    Wow! What a joke earning 14 points for that trip. There has to be something missing. One flight a day to earn status?? In most situations I’d say you missed a decimal place but… Spirit… so that’s probably correct. They couldn’t give me status for free to fly with them.

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    Sounds like the “super road warrior” is may be exactly who Spirit is going after, the sort of person who makes face to face meetings all over the map every day, and so flies every day. United Airlines gave special public recognition to their highest miles earning member a few years ago, letting him smash a bottle of champaign on the nose of a United 747 on camera at O’Hare Airport, because he earned 10 MILLION Mileage Plus miles, all from flying. He was just that kind of a road warrior, because he had to make daily face to face meetings in different cities across the country for his job. But . . . United would drive him across the tarmac in a luxury vehicle from check in to every one of his flights, before everyone else gets to board. I don’t imagine Spirit doing this.
    Disclaimer: I am biased, because I believe airline elite status is worthless anyway, because most of the perks can be had for low fees, especially if, like me, you competitively bid your air travel, taking into account the fees needed for premium/extra legroom experience.
    So, I guess I agree with this post; it is really unclear who Spirit’s status match will most appeal to. Maybe the super road warrior would have to compare the numbers in this post to their own numbers in their current elite status, and if they still save money . . .

    • Avatar

      And, those “super road warriors” just spent a year plus learning how to effectively work from home, without all those face to face meetings. As a result, I would expect that some meaningful number of that subgroup will not return to flying so robustly.

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    Haha very interesting article! I wonder how many people with Spirit status are there anyway…

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    I half kid, but the question may not be “can you do it,” but instead “why would you do it?”

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      Honestly, I think Spirit has made a compelling elite status program for what it is. Being able to save on bag and seat fees can mean real savings. But, the question is if someone should focus all of this spending on Spirit.

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    I know a lot of bloggers are snobby about Spirit and act like the airline is all ghetto but I’ve flown it a few times out of ATL to LAS and it was actually a fun, relatively easy flight. I haven’t flown it in several years because my home airport of BHM or HSV doesn’t have flights but would jump all over those super cheap flight deals to the West Coast…I think the last trip I took was a girlfriends trip to Vegas with a special of like $29 RT so I drove over to ATL and met friends. I can live with a bad seat for 4 or 5 hours for a $29 ticket bc that leaves me more money to shop with on my trip, its a no brainer. I can’t say I’d go out of my way and spend a few thousand to get status with them but if it were easy and not a huge amount I wouldn’t mind getting status or I’d even pay for status if the price was right.

    • Avatar

      Great points! I was sure that BHM had to have LAS service. And they do, but those Southwest flights aren’t cheap at ~$140 each way! But I guess it depends on how much you’re going to buy in LAS! 🙂

  • Avatar

    I’m certainly a fan of status challenges and I am starting another one very soon due to a change in my work destinations, however, I’ll definitely pass on this one. The article outlines excellent reasons why it would be difficult. I also have no interest in moving my spend from the legacy airlines to Spirit. For vacations, I have had perfectly acceptable experiences with Spirit. However, one thing that people often overlook with the low cost carriers (and Southwest, which is not a low cost carrier) is the lack of interline agreements. When things go wrong, they don’t have the ability to put you on another airline. Only their own airline. Whether one is traveling for business or vacation, a mechanical issue on an airline without interline agreements could mean no options for several days or a refund so you can buy a walk up fare on someone else. By using carriers with interline agreements, there are many more options and this flexibility has meant that I arrived at my destination (on another carrier) only hours late rather than days late.

    • Avatar

      Exactly. The ULCCs are great for low fares. But, when things go bad, they go bad! I had a TPA-ATL leg on Spirit cancelled a few hours before my morning flight – blaming weather although there was no weather and all other carriers were operating that route. Spirit simply booked me on their next flight 11 hours later. I had a flexible schedule at the time, but that could mean an entirely lost day on a leisure trip or a ‘trip in vain’ on a business trip!