Read Before You Click: Spirit Airlines Signs You Up For Club Membership and Travel Insurance

If you buy a ticket on Spirit Airlines’ website, the purchase screen has the nasty habit of prefilling options to buy travel insurance and join the Spirit Airlines fare club. And those fees? Nonrefundable, even if you cancel your membership. How nice.

The insurance tacks on $12 per person. The club may be worse: It charges $9 up front for a three-month trial offer, then it automatically renews for $29.95 a year. If you’re hastily clicking through, you might not notice the extra charges until you get the credit card statement.

“Opt-out” features stink for buyers, but are great for companies that like to prey on the careless or distracted. “Opt-in” is obviously far more consumer-friendly.

So remember to opt out of these features before you click purchase (unless of course you actually want them, in which case, enjoy!).

This is not the Spirit Airlines website and I can’t cancel your club membership… [Upgrade: Travel Better]

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  1. ThyGuy says:

    Always pay attention when buying stuff online, especially since the company already has your damn credit card number. They know people who are in a hurry won’t read this, and honestly, if you click blindly when you buy stuff online, you deserve to get extra charges.

  2. Murph1908 says:

    @Thyguy

    It’s accepting attitudes like that which keep practices like this alive.

    Better yet, when you see something like this, don’t finish the purchase. Email or phone in that you dislike such practices and will take your business elsewhere. A few dozen of those, and they will change.

    Continue to accept it and accept the blame will only make things worse.

  3. Amy Alkon says:

    Thanks — I consider your post a memo to me to never buy a ticket on Spirit.

  4. Amy Alkon says:

    P.S. And even if they stop this practice — the problem is, they were sneaky enough to instill it in the first place.

  5. ptkdude says:

    Anyone else notice their 3-month trial for $9 is actually more expensive than the regular rate? $9×4 = $36 a year, but the normal rate is $29.95. That’s a departure from the typical “we give you a break on price during the trial, then really stick it to you when you forget to cancel”.

  6. chrisgoh says:

    Reminds me of Papa John’s on-line ordering. They always try to sneak a magazine subscription on at the end of the order.

  7. yg17 says:

    And this begs the question….who the hell is spirit airlines?

  8. bonzombiekitty says:

    Hahaha. Fantastic. The $9 three month “trial” is more expensive per month than the normal annual fee. $3/month compared to about $2.50/month.

    But yeah I just got into the habit of automatically unchecking any check boxes I see when filling out any form on the internet.

  9. bonzombiekitty says:

    d’oh it seems PTKDUDE noted the price difference before I did.

  10. Little Miss Moneybags says:

    This is too bad. Spirit Airlines is actually my second favorite airline (after JetBlue, which doesn’t fly everywhere I want to). I have great experiences with them each time I’ve flown, and I can get a roundtrip ticket to see my family for less than $100 with their frequent sales. I don’t remember seeing these opt-out links before, but between this and their new charge for any checked luggage, I may need to switch favorite airlines. On the one hand, $5 a bag plus the fare is still cheaper than any other airline I’ve seen for where I go, but on the other, I REALLY don’t like companies sneaking in stuff like this. It’s hostile to their customers, IMO.

  11. aka Cat says:

    @chrisgoh: Actually, they stopped doing that! At least, it wasn’t on the webpage on Saturday. I hope it’s because people complained, and not just because the contract expired.

  12. mammalpants says:

    why isnt this illegal? any YES answers should not be pre-selected, ever. we have rights to opt into anything and not be forced to participate. companies should be held directly accountable for this type of thing.

  13. zentec says:

    @yg17:

    Spirit is a niche airline that caters to the leisure traveler. Despite this rather nasty little practice (which I have caught because I fly them at least twice per year), Spirit has a new fleet, decent seating arrangements and if you can leave on the spur of the moment, damned cheap fares.

    Added kudos to Spirit in that they have a lot of flights out of Detroit, they’re *not* Northwest and every flight I’ve taken with them has been on-time, and half the time it’s been early.

    Nevertheless, this opt-out nonsense is ridiculous and Spirit is just one of many companies that try to get as much money out of the customer as possible, even if it’s by dubious means. Now that I’m a rant, next time I fly (probably December), I’ll be sure to voice my displeasure.

  14. bostonguy says:

    Since I just purchased tickets through Spirit last week, this is something I actually have experienced.

    Again, it comes down to a split between corporate bullsh*t & personal responsibility. When I got to the conformation page that listed the cost of everything on my itinerary, in big bold boxes (like the screenshot shows) to the right of the breakdown of the costs, were the 2 check boxes.

    If you make it a habit to just click through these things with paying attention, you’re gonna get bitten. In this case, it certainly wasn’t hidden in any way. It was pretty bold and easy to see.

  15. zentec says:

    @Scarfish:

    I was livid when Spirit started the $5 checked bag fee. And it ends up being closer to $7-$10 because the fastest way to get your bags through the airport is to use a skycap service, which adds money to it.

    However, after thinking it through, the $5 fee is actually a cute way to get people to pack lightly. Why should I, who always travels light, subsidize some old woman who is bringing four 50 pound bags on a three-day holiday to Florida?

    I thought that it would make exiting the aircraft a nightmare because it would encourage people to bring big bags as carry-on and you’d have to wait for people to struggle these heavy bags out of the overhead compartments. But Spirit, surprisingly, actually *enforces* their rules about carry-on.

    I hate to sound like a company shill, but after the horror stories on Northwest (Northworst) and American, an airline that just meets expectations is a welcome change of events.

  16. NJAntman says:

    Having just purchased Spirit tickets last week, here are two other surprises from their webpage. First, having used Orbitz to book and choose Frontier seats at time of purchase I got caught out by Spirit’s policy that seat selection cannot be made until 90 days before the flight. Second, their 1st class is called “Big Front Seat”, economy is “Deluxe Leather”. Are the flight crew “Maids and Man Servants” and will they be handing out mints after the complimentary peanuts?

  17. Shadowman615 says:

    It’s really pretty shady if you ask me. I know it’s fairly commonplace, but that’s no excuse. Spirit does this for the sole purpose of making a few extra bucks off of the customers who click before they realize the boxes are checked. Do they really need to trick their customers into buying these add-ons?

  18. Seldon says:

    Anyone making a purchase, signing up for a service or filling out any sort of form should always read through everything, paying special attention to check boxes and other indications of options.

    Yes, it’s bad consumer relations to default options like this, but it’s also irresponsible to not watch for things that we know companies will try to pull.

    If something upsets you, then by all means contact the company about it. Sometimes you’ll even get a discount or some other compensation for voicing your opinion. Just also try to keep in mind that whoever you’re talking to about it is most likely not someone who has any influence on decisions to do things like this and will be more likely to try to help you if you’re polite.

  19. Gena says:

    Try $10 per bag for checked bags (had to pay it not two weeks ago)…no pillows or blankets on an overnight flight, and oh wait – water is the only complimentary beverage they offer. Spirit is the Greyhound of the airline world and ‘summer leisure travelers’ (AKA clueless folks who have lived under a rock for the last few years and haven’t heard anything about liquids, carry ons, or airline security) should be banished to airlines like this. For someone who travels on a regular basis or has any understanding of what good airline service can be, Spirit Airlines is something akin to the seventh circle of hell.

  20. balthisar says:

    This article actually drove me to check out Spirit to see where they fly and how much they cost (I usually fly AA). I went through their little hand-holding process (why do we need fscking wizards for everything???) to select my tickets and flights, and it was perfectly obvious that there was insurance and a $9.00 club in the final bill. I knew (from this article) that it was easy to get rid of them, but here’s the kicker: I’m so adept at filtering out web ads that I couldn’t find what is otherwise a glaringly obvious box with the options. I was stumped as how to get rid of these two things for almost a minute as I searched the screen and ignored the “ad” on screen.