Spirit Airlines offers weird status match challenge

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Spirit Airlines Free Spirit is offering a status match challenge for members of the major US airline programs who have elite status with a competing program. You can match right up to Spirit Gold status, which is arguably a great status to have for Spirit fans – but the spending requirement to maintain status beyond 90 days will make it very hard to keep Spirit status unless you’re buying a lot of last-minute flights. Still, if this hangs around until the end of the year, it might be possible to game it for nearly 2 years of elite status, which might just be worthwhile for those who can meet the terms.

The Deal

  • Spirit Airlines is offering a status match challenge awarding equivalent status in the Free Spirit program for those who hold elite status with US competitors. Once matched to Free Spirit Silver or Gold status, you’ll need to earn Status Qualifying Points within 90 days to maintain your status as follows:
    • Free Spirit Silver = Earn 500 SQPs on Spirit flights
    • Free Spirit Gold = Earn 1,250 SWPs on Spirit flights
  • Direct link to this deal

Key Points

Here are the key points in this post:

  • Free Spirit Gold status can actually be pretty valuable
  • It’s cool that Southwest Companion Pass matches to Spirit Gold
  • It will be very hard to meet the challenge criteria for Gold status within the given window
  • If you are able to meet the challenge criteria, you’ll get status for the remainder of that calendar year and the full following calendar year (which may present an option for gaming the challenge if it sticks around)

Who qualifies for the status match?

In order to qualify for this status match, you’ll need to currently hold elite status with one of the other major US programs. Here is how that status will match over to Free Spirit:

What are the benefits of Spirit Airlines Free Spirit elite status?

Spirit Airlines elite status is actually kind of cool if you don’t mind flying Spirit. Gold status in particular is quite useful with benefits like:

  • Earn 8x on base fares
  • Earn 16x on A La Smarte options
  • Free shortcut security and boarding where available
  • Free same-day standby
  • Free Flight Flex
  • Free carry-on and first checked bag
  • Free seat selection at booking (including exit rows)
  • A free inflight beverage and snack and more
  • Ability to create a points pool and more

That’s actually a really nice set of benefits that would make Spirit a competitive choice. Since much of the cost for a Spirit Airlines trip is tied up in bag fees and seat selection, you could likely score some excellent deals without having to pay for those things. I wish you could get a free Big Front Seat (even just a certain number of times per year), but exit row will be plenty of many people. I find it particularly interesting that the Southwest Companion Pass matches to top-tier Gold status with Spirit. Southwest certainly may still be a better option for some people given two free checked bags for everyone with Southwest, but if you don’t ordinarily check two bags this deal from Spirit might make them competitive for your purposes.

Why doesn’t this promotion make sense for most people right now?

The problem here (as One Mile at a Time aptly points out) is that you temporarily get the status benefits for the level to which you match. That may not sound like a problem, but keep in mind that you need to spend $1,250 on Spirit Airlines in 3 months to keep Gold status. Since you will get a free carry-on and free checked bag and free seat selection if you match to Gold, that basically means you’re going to need to buy $1,250 worth of airfare to maintain Gold status. That could be a tall order given the current state of flight prices — even more so given that I think you’ll need to both book and fly within 90 days. You’d have to be flying pretty regularly over the next 3 months to make that happen. Obviously that’s the kind of customer and airline program is trying to attract with a status match, but given the current circumstances that just seems unrealistic for most people between now and June.

Silver status requires a more manageable $500 in Spirit Airlines spend, but that is less exciting given that the best benefits are 8x base fares / 16x a la Smarte options, free shortcut security / boarding, free standby, and free seat selection at check-in. Those things won’t mitigate the larger additional fees you’ll pay when flying Spirit.

When might this promotion make sense?

In addition to potentially making sense for those who are likely to meet the criteria easily with their current travel patterns, I think there are two specific situations where a match might be worth considering:

  • Those who travel in families may benefit from points pooling
  • If the match is still around near the end of this year, you may be able to pull off 2 years of status

Traveling families may find it worth it to go for a status match since one of the benefits of both Silver and Gold status is the ability to create a points pool. That means that a family could then pool all of the points earned from several people into one account. To be clear, those are redeemable points (the ones you use for award flights), not status points, but it means that a family will get to a free award flight faster.

Perhaps more interesting for some readers is the way the terms are worded about how long your status will last if you meet the match criteria. The terms state that once you complete the match challenge, your status will be valid for the rest of that calendar year plus the following calendar year. That’s ordinarily how airline status works, but for a match that could be particularly interesting if it is still around late in the year.

For instance, if you could initiate this match in October, November, or December and complete the requirements in January 2022, I believe your elite status would be valid for the rest of 2022 and all of 2023. That might be a lot more appealing than having status in 2021 and it means that you could effectively get nearly 2 full years of elite status. If you are located in a market that is well-served by Spirit Airlines and you have a Southwest Companion Pass expiring at the end of this year (or a promotional pass from the most recent credit card offer that’s only valid through February 2021), this could be really appealing if it could cover you for the next two years.

Of course, we have no idea if the status match challenge will stick around and it will still be tough to spend $1250 without paying for seat selection or your carry-on or first checked bag. It’s certainly not mileage-run worthy, but for those whose travel has picked up at the end of the year maybe it will make sense. Overall, I find this status match interesting on the surface but likely not practical for most people.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

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