Yup, buying your Spirit ticket in-person at the airport is actually cheaper. According to the travel site One Mile At A Time, buying your ticket IRL saves you about $19 per trip. Considering how low Spirit’s fares are in the first place, those are some a pretty good savings.
One Mile At A Time broke down the reason why this weird hack exists in the first place: When you go to book a Spirit flight online, the ticket price is composed of a few different charges. There's a bunch of government fees, the price of the flight itself, and this item called a “passenger usage charge,” which is priced at $18.99.
Here’s a list of charges for a one-way flight from LaGuardia in New York to O’Hare in Chicago.
According to One Mile At A Time, this charge is only imposed when you book online or over the phone. Because the “passenger usage charge” is a fee, Spirit doesn’t have to pay the 7.5% federal excise tax on it. So Spirit actually ends up avoiding some taxes, while still being able to rack in nearly $19 per ticket.
In order for this to actually qualify as a fee, there has to be a way for passengers to skirt the charge. Thus, by letting customers book in the airport, Spirit can get away with charging this fee online and over the phone.
If you do decide to take advantage of this hack, though, make sure you don’t get your boarding pass printed by a flight agent; that’ll cost you $10. Instead, you can print it out for free at home or at a Spirit kiosk in the airport.
While waiting in line at the airport is no one’s idea of a good time, it can score you some major savings. After you get your cheap ticket and make it through security, you can saddle up to the airport bar with your savings to relieve some airport stress.