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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:
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
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!
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).
I selected the closest, least expensive dates in March.
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:
Selecting an exit-row seat tacks on another $37 each way:
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?
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.
Add all of the goodies (that you wouldn't be paying for with Gold Status).
All of these baggage and seat fees are waived with this challenge. So, what are we left with?
$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.
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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