Silver Airways vs. Spirit Airlines: One Trip, Two Different Experiences
For the first time in my few years of flying anywhere, I took two airlines for one trip, and I lived to tell the tale. Okay, I’m joking. It wasn’t that awful but it did give me the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison of two “budget” airlines.
I took a weekend trip to see my favorite (and only) aunt after her double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery (Fuck you, cancer!). Because of timing and doctors who couldn’t seem to get on the same page with scheduling, I booked my ticket at what felt like the last minute – three weeks out – missing a few good deals. Back in the day, I booked air travel as part of my job, and I had a system – six weeks in advance, through the airline, after plenty of research to get the best schedule and the best price. Since it was corporate travel, the “best” price was relative. My personal budget is muuuuuuuuuuuch smaller.
These days, if I fly at all, I need the cheapest flight, schedule be damned.
That’s how I found myself on an 8:30 p.m. flight to Fort Lauderdale on a Friday night and a 10:00 p.m. flight back to Tampa on a Monday night.
Silver Airways: Lots of Pink and Propellers
The first time I heard of Silver Airways, John was coming to visit me in Fort Walton Beach and needed a quicker ride than a 13 hour motorcycle ride. The ride sounds cooler and more romantic than it is. That’s a long damn time to ride a bike down the interstate.
A little bit of searching, and we found one of the few airlines that offers direct flights within Florida without breaking the bank. They don’t fly to Fort Walton, but they do fly to Pensacola, and that was good enough for us.
My first experience was a quick trip to Orlando for business. I thought with a name like Silver, their colors would be, ya know, silver. Nope, pink and black. Something about that always makes me smile.
Then I saw the propellers. Holy hell. I was still relatively new to flying, and I was used to jets. Did planes still operate with propellers?! Apparently so.
So, Silver is an airline I know. (Had I booked a week earlier, my entire flight would have been Silver for around $100.)
The flight to Fort Lauderdale was exactly as I expected, except that there were only a dozen of us. I’m assuming people didn’t travel to South Florida because of Tropical Storm Erika – the storm that wasn’t. We were all asked to sit at the back, but we could take our pick of seats.
Silver is a decent airline, no worse or better than most others. Their people are friendly. They tend to run on time. Their prices are good. But there’s one reason I really, really like them.
There’s no chance I’m getting stuck in a middle seat.
One side of the plane is a single row so you’re both window and aisle seat. The other side has two seats.
Pro tip: don’t sit at the very front. You might be sitting near the propeller and that’s a very noisy ride.
Yes, it’s a very small plane – a bit like riding in a tin can, but I never feel like I’m being crowded.
All in all, Silver Airways gave me the trip I expected. They even valet checked our carry on bags so I didn’t have to wrestle with the overhead bin – a definite plus.
Spirit Airlines: Cheap but with a Catch – and a Sense of Humor
When I started looking into Spirit Airlines, as I finally prepared for my trip. (Life got a little crazy with back to school stuff and I wasn’t even packed until an hour before I left the house that day), I realized a big something.
You pay for Every. Single. Thing. on Spirit Airlines.
- Want to pick your seat? At least $5
- Want to bring your luggage? Could be $40 or as high as $100
- Need to have someone print your boarding pass? $10 please
- Want to board early? That’ll be $5.99
Your airfare pays for your seat and a personal item, like a purse. Which is why the return trip was only $45. Silly me, I figured I hit a fire sale or something on Expedia.
Because I didn’t expect the additional costs and didn’t realize how the airline operates, I was seriously annoyed. I brought carry-on luggage to avoid fees, thank you very much. I’m a woman on a tight budget over here!
As with all things, the moment I voiced a complaint about the airline to friends and strangers, everyone I encountered had a complaint, too. I was prepared to hate them and was grateful my trip was short.
- I UPS’ed my luggage home – saving $10 over what I would have paid through Spirit and the hassle of lugging my stuff around the airport. That was an unexpected bonus.
- I paid $5 to pick my seat because, unlike Silver, each side is three seats across – which means I could get stuck in the middle seat. Not just no, but hell no.
But I was still annoyed.
Even the UPS guy warned me that Spirit was the most uncomfortable flight of his life. Oh Lord.
I got lucky.
The plane wasn’t full. Yes, I had two people next to me but they were thin and didn’t take up a lot of room so I didn’t feel crowded.
The crew had a sense of humor.
I’ve seen the viral videos of flight crews who make their safety announcements into a comedy routine. This wasn’t that, but only just.
They poked fun at their own policy of charging for everything by making sure we knew to have our credit card handy if the oxygen masks were needed. An actual laugh out loud moment.
Then they told us to choose our favorite child in the event of an emergency. And make sure we fixed our hair after we put on the life vest.
It was a pleasant experience.
Even better, the pilots did more talking about when we’d take off, land, and our flight time than I’ve heard from any other airline. I like that.
It was a short ride on a half-filled plane. Despite being unprepared for the extra charges, it wasn’t bad.
How Do Spirit and Silver Compare?
If the right deal comes along, I’d take Silver any day. I know the airline. I’ve had multiple good experiences with them. They offer excellent deals throughout the year – without need to use Expedia. They’re a consistent and solid airline with direct flights from my city and good prices. (Oh, mobile boarding passes are only available in Florida right now, but that’s okay with me, too.)
But, if I’m on a really tight budget (which is always), I’ll look at Spirit and see if their Bare Fare (with add-ons) offers a better deal. One point in their favor – if you book early enough, you can purchase the good seats for around $12 extra. These are the seats at the front – you know, when you look longingly at first class as you walk by before going behind the sad curtain meant to keep out the riff-raff. On Spirit, there’s no curtain. If the trip is long, that option alone might be worth any additional cost. The comfort of first class without the cost? It’s something to consider.
I was prepared to be miserable on my return flight, and I was pleasantly surprised.
At the end of the day, I’d go with either one – until they give me a reason not to.
No, I wasn’t paid to plug either airline. But I’m rarely in a position to offer a side-by-side comparison either. Figured I’d share my experience and let people decide for themselves. (If, in the future, I ever review a product and receive compensation, I will make that very clear. Not just because it’s the law, but because it’s the right thing to do.)