Spirit Airlines Vs American Airlines: Which Is Better For You?

When looking to book a flight, you may be trying to decide between low-cost carriers like Spirit and full-service legacy airlines like American. Both have their pros and cons regarding aspects like fares, fees, routes, and amenities.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Spirit tends to offer cheaper base fares but charges fees for carry-ons and other services, while American offers more amenities and route options but at higher base prices.

In this comprehensive guide, we will compare Spirit Airlines and American Airlines across key factors like cost, baggage policies, routes, customer service, and amenities to help you determine which carrier is the best option for your next flight.

Cost and Fees

Base Fare Pricing

When comparing Spirit Airlines and American Airlines, one of the most important factors to consider is the base fare pricing. Spirit Airlines is known for its low-cost model, offering budget-friendly fares to passengers.

On the other hand, American Airlines offers a range of fare options, including basic economy, which can be more affordable compared to their standard fares. It is important to note that base fare pricing can vary depending on factors such as travel dates, destination, and demand.

Carry-On and Checked Bag Fees

Baggage fees are another consideration when choosing between Spirit Airlines and American Airlines. Spirit Airlines is known for its à la carte pricing model, where passengers pay for each additional service, including carry-on and checked bags.

This can result in additional fees for travelers who require more baggage. On the other hand, American Airlines typically includes at least one free carry-on and checked bag allowance with their fares, although additional fees may apply for excess or oversized baggage.

It is recommended to check the specific baggage policies of each airline before booking to avoid any surprises.

Seat Selection and Other Ancillary Fees

Seat selection and other ancillary fees can also impact the overall cost of your flight. Spirit Airlines charges for seat selection, even for standard economy seats, while American Airlines typically includes seat selection with their fares.

Additionally, Spirit Airlines may charge extra fees for services such as printing boarding passes at the airport or for in-flight snacks and beverages. American Airlines, on the other hand, typically offers complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages on most flights.

It is important to carefully review the ancillary fees of each airline to determine which option is more cost-effective for your specific needs.

Network and Flight Options

Destinations and Routes Offered

When comparing Spirit Airlines and American Airlines, one important factor to consider is the destinations and routes offered by each airline. American Airlines has an extensive network that covers both domestic and international destinations.

With over 350 destinations worldwide, American Airlines provides travelers with a wide range of options to choose from. On the other hand, Spirit Airlines focuses more on domestic routes, with a focus on popular tourist destinations and major cities in the United States.

Nonstop Options

If you prefer nonstop flights, American Airlines might be a better option for you. With its larger fleet and network, American Airlines offers more nonstop flight options compared to Spirit Airlines. This can be particularly convenient for travelers who want to reach their destination quickly without any layovers or connecting flights.

Frequency of Flights

When it comes to the frequency of flights, American Airlines again has an advantage. As one of the largest airlines in the world, American Airlines operates numerous flights on a daily basis, providing travelers with more options and flexibility in terms of departure times.

Spirit Airlines, although growing rapidly, may not offer the same frequency of flights as American Airlines.

Aircraft Types

American Airlines operates a diverse fleet of aircraft, including wide-body jets for long-haul flights and smaller regional jets for shorter routes. This allows them to offer a comfortable and efficient travel experience to their passengers.

Spirit Airlines, on the other hand, primarily operates with Airbus A320 family aircraft, which are known for their fuel efficiency and reliability.

Overall, the choice between Spirit Airlines and American Airlines depends on your specific travel needs and preferences. If you prioritize nonstop options, a larger network, and more flight frequency, American Airlines might be the better choice for you.

However, if you are looking for affordable domestic flights to popular tourist destinations, Spirit Airlines could be a great option.

Onboard Experience and Amenities

Seating and Legroom

When it comes to seating and legroom, both Spirit Airlines and American Airlines offer different options for passengers. Spirit Airlines is known for its “Bare Fare” pricing, which means that seats are more basic and have less legroom compared to other airlines.

However, they do offer the option to purchase “Big Front Seats” for an additional fee, which provide extra legroom and a more comfortable experience. On the other hand, American Airlines provides a range of seating options, including Main Cabin seats, Main Cabin Extra seats with extra legroom, and First Class seats with even more space and amenities.

So, if legroom is a priority for you, American Airlines may be the better choice.

Food and Drinks

When it comes to in-flight dining, American Airlines generally offers a wider variety of food and drink options compared to Spirit Airlines. On American Airlines, passengers can enjoy complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages on most flights, and have the option to purchase additional food and alcoholic beverages.

They also have a selection of special meals available for passengers with dietary restrictions. Spirit Airlines, on the other hand, is an ultra-low-cost carrier and generally does not offer complimentary snacks or drinks.

However, they do have a selection of snacks and beverages available for purchase onboard. If having a greater variety of food and drink options is important to you, American Airlines may be the better choice.

WiFi and Inflight Entertainment

In terms of WiFi and inflight entertainment, American Airlines generally offers a more extensive selection compared to Spirit Airlines. American Airlines provides WiFi on most of its flights, allowing passengers to stay connected and browse the internet during their journey.

They also offer a variety of inflight entertainment options, including a selection of movies, TV shows, and music. Spirit Airlines, on the other hand, does not currently offer WiFi on their flights. However, they do have an inflight magazine called “Spirit Magazine” that provides passengers with interesting articles and travel tips.

So, if staying connected and having a wide range of entertainment options is a priority for you, American Airlines may be the better choice.

Customer Satisfaction

When it comes to choosing an airline, customer satisfaction is a key factor to consider. Both Spirit Airlines and American Airlines strive to provide their passengers with a positive travel experience, but there are some differences in their approaches.

Customer Service Channels

Spirit Airlines offers customer service through various channels, including phone support, email, and social media platforms. Their customer service representatives are available 24/7 to assist passengers with any inquiries or issues they may have.

American Airlines, on the other hand, also provides phone and email support, but they go a step further by offering a live chat feature on their website. This allows customers to receive real-time assistance, which can be particularly helpful during busy travel periods.

Loyalty and Reward Programs

Both airlines have loyalty and reward programs that offer perks to frequent flyers. Spirit Airlines has their “Free Spirit” program, which allows members to earn points on flights and redeem them for future travel.

American Airlines has the “AAdvantage” program, which offers similar benefits such as priority boarding, complimentary upgrades, and access to airport lounges. It’s worth noting that American Airlines has a larger route network, which may make their loyalty program more appealing to travelers who frequently fly to various destinations.

Refund and Rebooking Policies

When it comes to refund and rebooking policies, there are differences between Spirit Airlines and American Airlines. Spirit Airlines is known for their no-frills approach, which means their ticket prices are often lower but come with more restrictions.

They have a more limited refund policy compared to American Airlines, with most tickets being non-refundable. However, Spirit does offer the option to rebook flights for a fee.

American Airlines, on the other hand, has a more flexible refund policy. They offer options for refunds, credits, or rebooking in case of flight cancellations or changes. This can provide passengers with more peace of mind when it comes to unexpected travel disruptions.


In summary, Spirit offers rock-bottom base fares but stripping amenities to get there, while American provides more travel comforts and route choices for a higher base cost.

If price reigns supreme, Spirit could be your best bet, but flyers wanting services like seat assignments, WiFi, free snacks and drinks would be better served by American.

Consider your individual travel preferences and needs, use this guide to compare key airline metrics, and choose the carrier that’s right for your next trip!

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