The $9 Airfare Sale: Is it Real or a Scam?

Published by heather on July 19, 2011

Flight Deals and Loopholes

There are cheap tickets and then there are cheap tickets. We are talking about $9 flight deals. You read that right: nine bucks for a plane ticket.

Spirit Airlines, already known for its rock bottom prices, recently ran a sale for $9 one-way plane tickets from San Diego to Las Vegas to celebrate the new route.

Of course, you don't really fly for $9. Airlines (and airports) have a boatload of extra airline fees that get added on to the cost of any plane ticket, and $9 tickets are no exception.

Airline Fees Add Up

There is the Sept. 11 security fee ($5 roundtrip); the domestic segment tax ($7.40 roundtrip); the passenger facility charge (up to $9 roundtrip); and a passenger usage fee (the $16 roundtrip fee you pay when you book a flight anywhere except for Spirit Airline's airport locations).

This brings the total cost of this super-cheap flight to $55 (and that is before baggage fees – up to $45 for a single carry-on).

So by the time all is said and done, your $9 ticket costs closer to $145 roundtrip (unless of course, you use a carry-on bag to save on baggage fees).

Okay, so the airline fees do make it a little pricier than that flashy $9 price tag, but still, it is a pretty awesome deal, right?

Well, it also depends on when you want to travel.

Flexible Search is Key

The San Diego – Las Vegas flight was only available for five travel dates in September, so you would need to have some flexibility in your schedule in order to take advantage.

In addition, Spirit has a $9 Fare Club that gives members exclusive access to cheap flights, for an annual fee of $59.95. But again, the $9 fares are only available for flights on specific days (days the airline would like to fill empty seats) – not to mention that they are also usually for intrastate flights. So if you need to fly from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale on July 21 – save yourself the four-hour drive and take advantage.

Flight Delays and Cancellations

There are some other non-financial things to consider before booking your uber-cheap flight on an independent airline like Spirit. Because they are not part of an alliance, if your flight should be delayed or cancelled because of bad weather, you would not be booked on the next flight out on another airline.

Bottom Line: It's a Deal, but Read the Fine Print

Still, if the time and place are right, $9 – even with all the added fees and caveats – is a steal. It's all in the eye of the beholder.

Spirit is not the first airline to tout these bargain-basement prices. Other budget carriers have tried similar gimmicks. The now-defunct Skybus Airlines promised ten $10 seats on each of its flights. In 2010, to celebrate its 10th anniversary, JetBlue offered $10 seats to Cancun and the Bahamas. The catch? You had the fly the next day.

There is always a catch.


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