Spirit Airlines at one point talked about launching a revamped loyalty program last year. They didn’t get it done in 2019, and then the pandemic hit. It now makes sense to be thinking about and talking about how to use loyalty marketing at the airline going forward.
Today they’ve announced the new program which goes into effect January 21, 2021. They’re launching a revenue-based program, introducing a new elite program, and allowing co-brand cardmembers to earn elite status from credit card spend alone (or through a combination of travel spend and card spend).
This is a real departure for Spirit in loyalty. When Delta announced SkyMiles was going revenue-based Spirit introduced their anti-revenue based program promotion, rewarding customers with more points based on achieving low fares. The cheaper the ticket, the more bonus miles they gave you!
And while Spirit has had two elite levels in their existing program, the benefits of both levels were exactly the same. Strange.
There are a few real improvements here, like 180 day ‘close-in’ booking fees now becoming fees for redeeming points within 90 days of travel (which are lower than the old fees, and waived for cobrand cardmembers and elites).
Here are the key elements of the new program:
- Earning: 6 points per dollar for general members, 8 for Silver, 10 for Gold on airfare and double those point amounts for bags and seats.
- No more 90 day expiration: any transaction (earn or burn) extends expiration out 12 months from date of activity, co-brand cardmembers don’t have expiration. In my view this is the biggest improvement in the new program.
- Redemption: revenue-based, starting at 1000 points for cash and points and 2500 points for free seats. Since points are basically buying flights, all flights are available for redemption with the number of points higher for more expensive tickets. Spirit won’t share now how much points will be worth, and suggests that the value could shift. So we’ll have to see come late January how awards price, with the caveat that we may see great value initially and there’s no reason they can’t scale that back.
- Silver elite: requires 2000 status points (every dollar spent earns a status point, and every $10 on the credit card earns a status point). Benefits include priority security and boarding, free standby and free seat selection at check-in and the ability to create a points pooling account (which general members can join)
- Gold elite: requires 5000 status points. Benefits include free Flight Flex (one change without fee to a reservation), free carry-on and first checked bag, free seat selection at booking (including exit rows), and free inflight drink and snack.
- Points pooling: Elites and co-brand credit card customers can pool points from up to 8 accounts towards award redemption.
- Credit card: comes with no expiration of points, zone 2 boarding, and points pooling. Every $10 spent earns a status point, so $50,000 spend alone is enough for Gold status. Cardmembers receive redemption fee waivers, too. Allowing earning unlmiited qualifying points towards status from spend follows Frontier Airlines pretty closely. There’s also a companion ticket that members can earn but the spend requirement for that won’t be shared until December.
- $9 Fare Club Rebrand: This’ll be called the Saver$ Club and adds discounts on seats, priority boarding and security, and on prepaying for a fligth change (Flight Flex).
For now points can be redeemed only for tickets though they ‘may’ add other travel partners for redemption. They don’t offer redemption for ancillaries like seats, so you can’t use points to access Spirit’s Big Front Seat.
Old miles convert 1:1 into the new program. One dollar spent on fare and ancillaries earn one status credit. Once earned status lasts through balance of that calendar year and the following year. (So status is based on calendar year and no longer six month qualification periods.)
A revenue-based program actually makes sense for Spirit. There’s not a lot of leverage to Spirit’s offerings – no premium cabin (besides ‘the Big Front Seat’) and no long haul international. There’s not very much aspirational about flying Spirit. Instead it’s very strong value transportation. You’re going to earn traveling with Spirit, and in most cases burn traveling with Spirit. Your reward is more Spirit.