Spirit putting the 'free' in its updated loyalty program

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After Jan. 21, the Free Spirit program will include the possibility of earning free checked bags and other perks.
After Jan. 21, the Free Spirit program will include the possibility of earning free checked bags and other perks.

Spirit Airlines will overhaul the Free Spirit loyalty program, including offering more redemption opportunities and allowing customers to keep points for longer.

For the first time, the carrier will also offer free seat selections, carry-on bags and checked bags to members who achieve the required loyalty status level. 

The changes will take effect Jan. 21. 

Related report: Loyalty programs make changes to stay relevant

Under the revised program, Free Spirit members will earn points based on how much they spend for tickets, ancillary purchases or with a Spirit co-branded credit card. Every seat on every Spirit flight will be made available for points redemption, with redemption prices correlating to the cash price of a flight. 

Points will expire after a Free Spirit member goes 12 months without account activity. 

The program will differ sharply from what Spirit currently has in place. At present, Free Spirt members earn miles based on how far they fly. The redemption price is also based upon the distance of the flight. And Spirit makes only a portion of its seat inventory available for rewards redemption. 

Miles expire after just three months of inactivity. 

Related report: American adjusts elite status requirements for 2021

The revamped Free Spirit program will also offer new redemption options. Members will be able pool their points with up to eight friends and family members. They will also be able to use points in combination with cash to reduce the price of a ticket. 

"We decided to start with a clean sheet of paper and reimagine what Free Spirit could be," Spirit CEO Ted Christie said in a prepared statement. "Points don't mean anything unless you can actually use them." 

Spirit is also introducing Silver and Gold loyalty status tiers. They'll replace the carrier's current Elite and VIP tiers, while offering new benefits.

Related report: Delta extends benefits and adds reward ticket flexibility

Flyers will attain Silver status by spending $2,000 on flights, $20,000 on an eligible Spirit credit card, or a combination of the two. Silver members will receive free seat selection 24 hours before departure and free same-day standby. Other perks will include early boarding, an exemption from the carrier's mileage-redemption fee of $10 to $50 and quicker points accrual.

Flyers will need to spend $5,000 on flights, $50,000 on an eligible Spirt credit card, or combination of the two to attain Free Spirt Gold status. Gold members will receive all the Silver benefits, plus a free carry-on bag, a free checked bag, free seat selection at booking and a free inflight beverage and snack. 

Free Spirit's current Elite and VIP status designations offer quicker mileage accrual and priority boarding, but little else. 

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