Spirit Airlines is in the midst of a fleet renewal that will see some of Airbus' newest jets join its already young fleet.
The A320neo family offers additional fuel efficiency for the airline and a quieter, more modern cabin for passengers.
I flew on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo from Newark to Boston and saw what it was like to fly on one.
Say what you will about Spirit Airlines but one complaint that can't be levied is that the airline has an old fleet.
The average age of Spirit's fleet of over 150 Airbus A320 family aircraft is just 6.5 years old, according to Planespotters.net, and there's a good reason for that. Newer planes help keep costs down and ultra-low-cost airlines like Spirit rely on every penny of savings as fares on the airline are notoriously low.
In January, Spirit placed a 100-aircraft order with Airbus for some of its newest narrow-body jets including the A319neo, A320neo, and A321neo. Each of the next-generation aircraft offers greater cost savings than their current generation counterparts while requiring little additional training for pilots.
One jet, the Airbus A320neo, currently flies for Spirit and has for just under two years. On a recent trip from Newark to Boston on Spirit, I got to fly on the aircraft thanks to a last-minute aircraft swap.
I was surprised to see my flight being operated by the aircraft as it would only be a short 200-mile flight but I got to see just what the future of Spirit Airlines has in store.
Here's what it's like flying on Spirit Airlines' newest jet.
The first sign that I was on the new aircraft came as I peered at it through the terminal window and noticed the huge engines, which is the key identifier in telling an Airbus A320neo aircraft apart from a current-generation jet.
The Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan engines offer 16 percent fuel savings compared to older engines.
They're so big that it almost looks like they're about to touch the ground.
The other tell is the sharklet, which provides additional fuel efficiency. Though, these are also found on some current-generation Airbus A320s as well.
All of these new jets come in Spirit's taxi cab yellow livery, an homage to their low fares, and this plane was only delivered in October.
The jet is one big economy class cabin with 182 seats across 31 rows. For comparison, a new JetBlue Airways A320 seats 162 passengers across 27 rows.
The first two rows feature the "big front seat," or Spirit's version of business class.
There are no middle seats in this eight-seat sub-cabin and the standard seats are replaced with large 20-inch wide recliners with adjustable headrests and 36 inches of pitch.
The seats yield a premium but don't come with any extras like a free drink or snack, though a flight attendant told me that the airline has some upgrades in the works in that department.
This was my automatically assigned row, 23, just behind the engines.
I was a bit surprised that I was assigned a seat this far back despite the plane being empty but I didn't mind much as there was nobody around me for rows and rows.
Legroom was below average at 28 inches of pitch
And the seat width was only 17.75 inches.
The seats are noticeably more modern and sleek, which is the only compliment I can give them.
Here's what they look like on an older Spirit Airlines jet from a flight I took in August.
Though sleek and modern, they were still nearly paper-thin and I felt it as soon as I sat down. Luckily, this was only a 41-minute flight.
The legroom was decent but only if I stayed in the same spot and didn't move at all.
It's even less space if you put a personal item under the seat.
In ultra-low-cost fashion, these seats also don't recline. While potentially uncomfortable on longer flights, a plus is that you don't have to worry about the person in front of you encroaching on your personal space by reclining.
And seats come with only a tray table, armrest, and small literature holder. There's no seat-back pocket.
This was the scene on the flight when the boarding process completed. Less than 30 people were onboard and entire rows went empty.
With it becoming clear my row would be empty, I slid over to the window seat.
I had a direct line of sight to the sharklet I discussed earlier, which greets passengers with a friendly "howdy."
Our plane was so light that we took off just a few seconds after accelerating down the runway, a testament not only to our weight but to the power of the large engines. But even still, the noise levels were quite low.
The next few minutes were dedicated to sightseeing as we traveled parallel to New York City.
It's on flights like these that seat selection becomes critical to get the best views.
The flight was uneventful upon reaching cruise altitude and there was no in-flight entertainment aside from the views since these jets don't feature any seat-back screens.
A fleet-wide installation of in-flight WiFi is scheduled but has been long delayed.
The biggest selling point for passengers is the low noise level. Having flown on an Airbus A320neo in the past, I was well aware of the quiet cabin but it still impresses me every time.
The flight attendants performed a quick in-flight service by walking down the aisle and taking orders but nothing on Spirit is free, not even water, so I passed.
Soon enough, it was time for landing.
We touched down in Boston exactly 41 minutes after departing from Newark with no issues. It was a calm, smooth, and quiet flight.
Would I fly this plane again? Absolutely, but I'd think twice on anything longer than three hours.
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