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I am planning to take a Spirit flight where I have not prepaid for a seat assignment. I will let Spirit pick my seat for me, which happens when I check in.

From personal experience and from a few questionable sources, it seems like Spirit assigns seats at the back of the plane first (and possibly the middle seats first as well):

http://heelsfirsttravel.boardingarea.com/2014/09/30/aisle-window-seat-trick-wont-work-spirit-air/

https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/other-north-south-american-airlines/1752373-spirit-seat-assignment-algorithm-assigned-check.html

I haven't been able to find out much else via Google...

Both times where I have checked in as soon as possible (24 hours before), I ended up with a middle seat near the back of the plane. In the times where I waited longer (1-3 hours before), I have been able to get aisle and window seats. Of course, this is a very small sample size, so I don't know if it has just been a coincidence or if this is indicative of how their "random" seat assignment algorithm works.

Question: Is there an optimal time to check into a Spirit flight to maximize my chances of getting an aisle or window seat? If this is not possible, does anybody know if later check-ins will tend to seat me closer to the front of the plane?

EDIT: In case anybody is curious, I have two data points. I checked in ~3 hours before a flight and ended up with 7B, which is near the front but a middle seat. I also checked in ~16 hours before a flight and got 17F.

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They seem to follow the same approach as Ryan @#@# air: when you check in online, they will try to put you in a middle seat as long as they have one - in hope that you wouldn't like this and pay for another seat. This means the last minute check-in (an hour or so before the deadline) will give you the best chance to get an aisle/window or even emergency row seat.

One approach you can try to see the current seat allocation is to try to book a new ticket for the same flight - you would then see the seat map. Of course this only works if the flight isn't full.

But general rules remains the same:

  • If the airline allows seat assignment upon checkin for free (or a token fee) - check in as early as possible. Set a phone alarm for that;
  • If the airline only allows paid seat assignment:
    • Check if it is random/ongoing (you try to check in, abort it, try to check in again in 30 minutes - do you get the same seat?
    • If no, just keep doing that until you get an ok seat.
    • If yes, this means you're assigned a seat on your first check-in attempt even if you didn't complete it. Check in as late as possible then.
  • Is it possible to see which seat you're supposed to get without actually checking in? I haven't tried and I don't quite remember, but I don't think you find out what seat you're actually going to get unless you confirm your check in. I endedup checking in about 3 hours before my flight and I ended up with seat 7B. It was close to the front but, unfortunately, a middle seat. Perhaps I will try waiting even later next time. – nukeguy May 29 '17 at 5:11
  • It is indeed possible (they want you to pay for a better seat), but if your question is whether your seat is allocated as soon as you try check-in and doesn't change if you check-in later, I don't remember. Please try to attempt the sequence above (try to check in, see the seat, abort the check in or "check out" if offered, then try again later) – George Y. May 30 '17 at 1:05
  • I just tried it again and I'm pretty sure it's not possible to view your seat without "checking in". Here's a cutout from the check-in screen: dropbox.com/s/pvl3cjeaiki8tmb/… The seat is left blank and the only way to see a seat number is if I click the "Check-in and print boarding pass" button, after which I am checked in and cannot re-check-in. – nukeguy Jun 4 '17 at 3:27
  • What happens if you instead press that "Change/Select Seat" button in the right top? Doesn't it show a predefined seat? Do you see the seatmap? – George Y. Jun 5 '17 at 20:20
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    The good thing to check would be, if you open a seat map and see available seats (make a screenshot), and then close it and take an assigned seat - was your seat shown as free on that map? If so, if you open the map and see all middle seats taken, you know you won't get one. – George Y. Jun 8 '17 at 15:27
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I have noticed the exact same thing on Spirit Airlines. I used to check in the day before travel, but the last several times I got a rear middle seat, sometimes with nobody in the aisle or window seat next to me. I think they try to leave the preferable seats open as long as possible in hopes that somebody will pay for them. I now let other people check in and fill up those middle seats and then just check in at the airport.

  • George Y's suggestion in his final comment above worked pretty well for me. I spent one check-in period monitoring how Spirit seats were filled up, and it seemed to be a very straightforward manner (back to front, and then either left to right or right to left). This was about a year ago so they might have changed it now, but it seems like it is possible to watch the seats fill up until the seat you want is the next available one, and then check in to get that seat (assuming nobody manages to hit "check in" in the few moments it takes you to exit the seat map and check in). – nukeguy Aug 20 '18 at 18:50
  • If my above comment is correct, then I think you don't want to wait too long to check in if your primary goal is to avoid a middle seat. In general, waiting tends to put you towards the front of the plane since they autofill from the back. However, people who pay for seats tend to pay for non-middle seats toward the front, so the ratio of available non-middle seats to available middle seats is lower toward the front. – nukeguy Aug 20 '18 at 18:54

protected by Community Sep 3 '18 at 18:42

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