Is Spirit Airlines’ $9 Fare Club worth the money? Can I get my money back if it isn’t?

I take a dim view of travel clubs that charge an annual fee for access to special prices. Typically, these schemes only benefit the company offering them. But is Spirit Airlines’ $9 Fare Club in the same category?

Without even reading the online discussions about Spirit’s Fare Club, which costs $39.95 a year, I have to admit my bias: this certainly looks like a rip-off. I mean, joining a “club” to get low fares? In a market that’s already flooded by discount tickets? You’ve gotta be kidding.

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And yet, people fall for it. People like Sheryl Sanford, who believed Spirit’s come-on about having access to “incredibly low, member-only fares, sometimes even as low as a penny.” (Offers like that just confuse well-meaning passengers, as we saw yesterday.)

She writes:

I joined the $9 Fare Club expecting and looking for those low fares advertised. They did advertise the lower fares, but after I join the Fare Club, the very flights I was looking at, as you know, did not exist with the lower fares.

I did read the fine print, and realizing the fares were not guaranteed, did it anyway. However, I was expecting to find something as I search but no, nada. In fact the same destinations roundtrip on Delta were $220; AirTran was $170 — Spirit Air was $295. I was ticked!

Sanford wanted her money back. As you can imagine, the airline wouldn’t budge. (See section 3.3 of its terms, which state, “Enrollment fees are non-refundable, notwithstanding Member’s cancellation of membership in the Club.”) Then she found my site with customer contacts for Spirit.

Searching for a way to contact customer service at Spirit Airlines on their page was a disaster. All the links were working but one, and guess which one did not work? Yes sir, you are correct: the link to “contact customer service.”

Well, thanks to your site you listed all the contacts. I love it! I know you commented about contacting the CEO after no response for 6 to 8 weeks. Out of school, I worked for JC Penney’s, the credit regional office, and people complaining only obtained results when they went straight to the top, the CEO, Regional Office in New York.

I sent an email requesting an immediate refund of my monies and that I was very dissatisfied. I sent and copied the email to all of the above. I received a response the next morning from sales support, saying sorry, no can do, and I can cancel if I like.

I emailed her back with comments that I did not desire to cancel (you get nothing back if you do that), but I was requesting a refund for false leading and advertisement. I copied her email and my response to all the above once again.

Within the hour Tony Lefebvre, the senior vice president for customer service, approved my full refund. So, Mr. Elliott, thanks for the victory.

You’re welcome. (A Spirit insider contacted me after this post appeared to clarify that it was Heather Harvey, not Tony Lefebvre, who green-lighted the refund.)

I’m glad Spirit offered Sanford a full refund, but my opinion of fare clubs — of any travel club, really — remains low.

If Spirit really believed its Fare Club offered superior deals, it would offer a full refund on the enrollment fees. Instead, it pockets your $40, whether the deals are good or not.

That’s not good.

Update (1:30 p.m.): More from my Spirit insider, who mentions that there are sales nearly every week that are only available to $9 Fare Club members. The person notes that the club has a “ton” of members, but if you don’t check email regularly, you’ll miss out and consider the club useless. Also, the prime fares (LGA-FLL, ORD–FLL, etc.) sell out fast, so members have to be quick.

(Photo: vnvlain/Flickr Creative Commons)

18 thoughts on “Is Spirit Airlines’ $9 Fare Club worth the money? Can I get my money back if it isn’t?

  1. I’ve been a member of Spirit’s $9 club for 3 years now, and I agree with everything everyone has to say regarding customer service, it is NON-existent at Spiritair. That being said, I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never run into a CS problem in the 3 years. Spirit’s club is what it is folks, low fares.. No frills, nothing fancy..
    Even with the extra fees, most flights will be substatially cheaper than the competition. Anyone who says differently doesn’t know what they are saying, or hasn’t been paying attemtion. In those 3 years I’ve traveled from Fort Lauderdale to Boston on average 5 – 6 times a year at an average total cost (including taxes & fees) of $100 per flight, RT . That same FLL- BOS flight runs $175- $200 on the competition. Usually one flight to Boston repays me the annual fee. Not saying they are perfect, they are far from it, but every airline has their pain in the “neck” employees, and I’ve run into a few at Spirit. But I’ve also run into a couple of especially nice ones too.. 
    In summation, yes you can save $$ by joining the club and watching the emails, and being flexible on your travel times. Especially if you will be traveling frequently. Be prepared to put up with some occasional inconvenience.
    If you travel infrequently and expect to be pampered, please DON’T join this club, you will be disappointed.

  2. I joined the trial $9 fair club, and found that after you add Spirit’s unreasonable taxes and fees, the cost is more than double of what you can book on travelocity or hotwire. 
    I thought I was getting a good deal till I saw the final price on Spirit’s site. I ended up booking the same flight through travelocity at a way lower rate, BUT then Travelocity called me to say it would cost a little more. That Spirit was advertising low fares that did not exist. Hmmm. I don’t think I’ll be flying with them any more.

  3. A co-worker just told me about the Fare club from Spirit airlines because I’m moving to Fl. from NJ and will be wanting to visit in the future. But, is this not a good idea? Will it be a problem to join and get cheaper flights?

  4. I joined this club last year, it wasn’t too bad, I flew with them a few times to make it worth my while.  I got an email a few weeks ago saying my account will be deactivated because my CC was expired.  Fine.  However, this month, they charged me the 59.95! On an expired card no less. How is that even possible.  

    They told me my account was going to terminate, yet they bill me anyway on an expired CC. Wow.  Wish me luck in talking to Customer Service lol 

  5. Folks if you follows all their rules, you will more happier with spirit.  I’ve been flying with them for years and never get one issue.  I flown from dfw to vegas 10 times last year with no issue.  Peoples just got so use to deal with CS and pampered like a 5 stars on others airlines.  come on folks..$50 each way to Vegas.  you can not beat that with any others airlines.  Buy your ticket, sit back and get to point A to B.

  6. This is a scam. I opted out of the program back in November 2011 on-line. It gave me NO indication if the opt out was successful or not. My renewal is on March 11,2012. I checked my bank account March 12th and Spirit had taken the membership fee out again! After 1 1/2  and 5 Customer Service Agents later on the phone to try and get my money back I was told there was nothing they could do! Everyone stay away from Spirit Airlines!!! They all sounded like Taliban from Spirits Customer Service.

  7. I signed up for the Spirit Air club – but only because they offered me $50 off my current booking if I paid $59.95 to join. So $10 didn’t seem like a bad risk, especially considering I would get $10 off my checked bag on the next flight.

    Of course, actually paying the full $60 when it comes time to renew is another story.

  8. This might be a double post, if so sorry – the login didn’t seem to work.

    I signed up for the Spirit Air club – but only because they offered me $50 off my current booking if I paid $59.95 to join. So $10 didn’t seem like a bad risk, especially considering I would get $10 off my checked bag on the next flight.

    Of course, actually paying the full $60 when it comes time to renew is another story. 

  9. I am about to travel from a New England state to Orlando for the fourth time this year. $60.00 for a round trip ticket each time, as opposed to $200 and up on other airlines. I never choose my seat, but so far have always been assigned an aisle seat. I have been a fare club member for 7 years, and will continue to rejoin. The people who are complaining simply do not understand how the system works. All the better for those of us who do, less competition for the fare club member prices.

    1. When you add up all the things they charge extra for that other airlines don’t, you are saving nothing. The carry on bag fee is going up ( as high as $100 per flight segment) …how dare they charge for that at all! Water costs 3 dollars. A fee to print your boarding pass at their counter. A reservations fee. A fee to have a seat assignment before check in, otherwise pray they don’t overbook. C’mon folks get real!!!! Would you rave about a $3.99 buffet that charges 25 dollars extra to cook it? Ten more for a plate? $5 more if you want a napkin?
      Why would you do business with such a low class outfit? Oh, because you hear “bargain”. Well, I’ll bet Spirit is laughing all the way to the bank. Just look at the name of this club…I will bet Spirit will tell its customers where to go for $9!

      I am going to start the 40 cent fare club. You pay me a fee each month and for some dollars more, I will give you a push in the direction you want to travel in! Wow! A 40 cent fare! Where do I sign up!

  10. I would like some advice as a non USA person not fully understanding all the rules and regs perveying to your air lines.

    I am interested in the red eye flight with Spirit on a Wednesday from las Vegas to Fort Lauderdale.   I pr when looking at sites similar tothey show only thee fares but the Spirit site shows the usual fares and perhaps a saving of $20 per person if you are a $9 club member and also a saving on both carry on and checked luggage.   If I joined for the sample 60 days membership of $20 this would mean a good saving but I am not sure if I could actually get all this done by web site and also do not understand they charges for booking (is there a cost) and some other things which may have associated costs.  Any advice/information is gratefully received

  11. Well they took money out of my account for renewal without warning me my membership was due $59.95, after contacting customer service I was told I could not receive a refund back but they could give me a discount on my next ticket which I had 30 days to use. I was flying into Kingston Jamaica, and the ticket was $550 dollars with flights from the 9 dollars club. The flight had me a 9 hour layover in Ft Lauderdale. I found a ticket on Delta for $432 straight though out of Atlanta. The year before I flew I recieved the same price from spirit but after all the bag fees that you have to pay at time of ticket purchase or they double, I shell out almost $700 dollars for a crappy long flight. They do not have to worry about me using them again.

  12. I’ve flown Spirit twice. I had very low expectations of what to expect both times. They met those low expectations. Satisfactory experience.

  13. While I can concede that I did travel safely and somewhat on time to and from my destination, I will never travel on Spirit Airlines. I’m a pretty low-fuss traveller but all of the extra fees ($3 for a cup of water during the flight!), the difficulty navigating their website, and the complete lack of customer service. There’s no “Contact us” section anywhere on the website, no phone number, and the Help section just sends you in a continual loop with answers to a set number of questions, but no real answers. I thought I signed up for a trial membership of the $9 Fare Club ($19.95) but because the website somehow saved my name wrong (combining my first and middle name into one name – and I’m careful about stuff like that because I know everything has to match up with the passport), the website could not locate me as having a flight even after I purchased the flight, so they charged me the regular $59.95 annual rate. I’m trying to get back the difference now but I have my doubts that that will happen. Every aspect of dealing with them just made me feel like I needed to take a shower afterward. Tried it once. Never again.

  14. Before I joined, I saw several $50 off fares for those in the $9.00 fare club. These offers were for Saturdays from LA to Vegas so I joined and when I went to book tickets there wasn’t a Saturday offer in sight for the next three months. I then tried calling their customer service to cancel one hour later and couldn’t get a human. Finally, my credit card company got a human on the line for me and they refused to give me a refund since “I had to have gone through four warning screens that it was non-refundable”, no Saturday discounts for the next three month notwithstanding. Be careful.

  15. Contacting Spirit is a nightmare. Customer service is nearly non existent by phone. I am canceling my spirit Cred Card. Every other airline usually charge 25 to 30 thousand miles round trip to destinations within the continental US. I wanted to fly from Ft. Lauder to Baltimore round trip sometime late July. They wanted 25,000 mi……….EACH WAY! Any Airline that works as hard as they do to avoid customer contact makes me think that maybe they don’t have the best safety maintenance either! I have asked Bank of America to swithch my card to another major airline! SPIRIT AIRLINE STINKS!

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