Spirit Airlines oftentimes offers fares that are significantly lower than those of its competitors. Not only that, but it also gets criticized for the quality (or lack thereof) of its onboard service and for its advertising practices.
With that in mind, some people question whether or not the airline is safe to fly with.
The short answer is yes, Spirit Airlines is safe. It never had a fatal accident, and it is, arguably, as safe as any other airline in the United States.
Below’s a longer answer.
Spirit Airlines Has a Modern Fleet
Since retiring their McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and MD-80 aircraft in 2006, Spirit Airlines has been operating an all-Airbus A320 series fleet. Together with the Boeing 737 series, the Airbus A320 series is the most popular and widely used narrow-body aircraft type.
Not only that but, based on Airfleets.net, Spirit Airlines’ fleet is less than 7 years old on average at the time of writing this article. Breaking it down a bit, while its A319s are 13 years old on average, its A321s are less than 3 years old on average.
Just for comparison, the average age of American Airlines’ fleet is almost 11 years old with some of its aircraft being older than 20 years. That is not to say, though, that old aircraft are unsafe. As long as they are properly maintained, to a large extent an aircraft’s age is “just a number.”
Spirit Airlines Is Certified by the FAA
With the airline’s fleet age out of the way, let’s take a look at another reason why you should not worry about flying with Spirit Airlines.
For an airline to be able to fly in the United States like Spirit Airlines does, it needs to meet or exceed safety standards laid out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Naturally, those standards are the same regardless of whether the airline in question is a low-cost carrier or not.
In other words, Spirit Airlines has to adhere to the same safety standards as United Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, you name it.
That said, it does not have the optional IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification. This is also the reason why you Spirit Airlines only has four out of seven stars in AirlineRatings.com safety rating which is heavily weighted towards this certification.
Keep in mind, though, that – as mentioned – the certification is optional and the audit itself comes at a significant cost. As such, many other low-cost carriers like Ryanair in Europe and Peach Aviation in Japan opt not to get it.
That does not mean that the airlines would not pass it, though.
Spirit Airlines Incidents, Accidents, and Allegations
First things first, as of the time of writing this article, a Spirit Airlines aircraft was never involved in a fatal crash or a crash landing or similar. That is not to say, though, that the airline never had an incident or was never alleged to have done something wrong.
Marketing practices for which the airline has been fined numerous times aside, the airline also paid numerous fines to the Federal Aviation Administration for maintenance-related issues like failing to inspect a plane on time or failing to properly display safety signs onboard its aircraft.
For example, the airline’s instructions said that seat cushions could be used as flotation devices even though they would not float.
The airline also had several incidents including some that involved in-flight engine shutdowns and other aircraft-related problems. However, in all of those cases, the situations were handled professionally and the aircraft returned safely to the ground.
How Can Spirit Airlines Be Both Safe and Cheap
Spirit Airlines is able to offer their low fares by lowering its costs in areas where it is perfectly safe to do so and by increasing their ancillary revenues.
As for lowering costs, Spirit Airlines does so by – for example – operating single-type fleets which lowers maintenance as well as crew costs, removing unnecessary “perks” like free drinks and food, and utilizing their aircraft better than the full-service carriers do.
On the other hand, they are able to increase their revenues by selling drinks and food onboard, charging for checked (and in some cases even carry-on) bags, charging for airport check-in, and so on.
Summary: Is Flying with Spirit Airlines Safe?
It’s true that Spirit Airlines doesn’t have the optional IOSA certification and that it has been fined by the FAA for some maintenance-related issues in the past. It’s also true that in some cases, the service onboard Spirit Airlines might not be great or that the airline nickels-and-dimes its passengers.
However, at the same time, it’s an airline that transports millions of passengers a year safely. While it has an incident every now and then, in its more than two decades of operations, it has never had a fatal accident.
As such, I think it is pretty safe to say that Spirit Airlines is a safe airline to fly with.
Before booking your flight with the airline, though, make sure you are aware of all the fees you might have to pay and so on to avoid surprises at the airport.