Spirit Airlines adds comfier seats, even in the middle

Spirit Airlines, which has been on a big customer service push to be known for more than cheap tickets, will add comfier seats this fall.

The airline on Monday introduced contoured seats it said have more “usable” legroom, a thicker seat cushion and, for travelers stuck in the middle, an extra inch of width.

Spirit’s seats don’t recline but come with a pre-recline, and that pre-recline will grow nearly an inch, more in the exit rows, the airline said.

Budget airline Spirit introduces seats it says are roomier. (Photo: Spirit Airilines)

The budget airline is ditching its tiny tray tables for full-size ones and is updating the colors inside the plane from navy to its trademark black and yellow.

The airline’s roomier “Big Front Seats” at the front of the plane, Spirit’s faux first class for a fee, are also getting an upgrade with memory foam cushions and headrests.

Spirit's extra legroom "Big Front Seats,'' which are at the front of the plane and cost extra, are also getting an upgrade. (Photo: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christine said the upgrades are the latest step in the airline’s “Invest in the Guest” project, a series of upgrades that will include fleetwide in-flight WiFi by late 2020 or early 2021.

Spirit, which offers cheap tickets and charges for any extras, including a seat assignment and water, has long had a reputation as the airline where you get what you pay for: next to nothing. Service was lackluster, amenities few.

The airline isn’t abandoning its a la carte model or trying to become the next Delta but is in the midst of a transformation to change travelers’ perceptions of the carrier. 

“We think we can deliver low fares, low costs and high quality,” Christie said in a presentation to airport and airline executives in Las Vegas last month.

Travelers shouldn’t look for the seat changes on their upcoming Spirit flight, or potentially ever on some flights.

The next generation of seats from Spirit’s manufacturer will be introduced on new planes arriving in November and throughout 2020. Spirit hasn’t decided whether it will retrofit planes with the new seats, which would be a pricey proposition.

“We have to evaluate that,” Christie said in an interview. “It’s a different cost/benefit exercise.”

Spirit’s seats tie fellow discounter Frontier Airlines for having the worst seat pitch of any carrier at 28 inches, according to SeatGuru. They have long been maligned as uncomfortable, but Christie said that’s unfounded. He said seat pitch, or the distance between two rows of seats, is an outdated measure of legroom.

“I’m 6’2″, and I sit in our regular seat every time,” he said, calling it “fine.”

Most passengers, he said, have more than enough space, something he experienced on a recent flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Las Vegas.

“There’s a tremendous amount of legroom,” he said.

So what’s it really like to fly Spirit?USA TODAY took seven Spirit flights in five days and had few complaints, even about the seats

Spirit Airlines do’s and don’ts: Don’t freak out about the seats, do sign up for deals

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