By bradtuttle
November 24, 2017

The retail world is swimming in Black Friday deals right now, with stores like Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and Amazon hosting huge sales on electronics, toys, clothing, and other popular holiday gifts.

People who love to travel can find plenty of bargains too: There are tons of great Black Friday deals for travelers on cruises, group tours, luggage, and travel clothes. And on the morning of Black Friday 2017, discount carrier Spirit Airlines launched a one-day flash sale with an especially impressive-sounding flight discount.

Spirit is offering 90% off select round-trip flights booked by travelers by midnight on Black Friday. You must enter the code 90PCT in the Promotional Code box to get the deal.

With a discount this big, you know there would have to be some fine print and exclusions, and sure enough, there’s plenty:

• Travel is valid from December 5, 2017, to February 13, 2018, for departures on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only.

• There are blackout dates from December 19 to January 3.

• Many routes and destinations are not available for the discount, including most international gateways and several longer flights such as Detroit to Los Angeles and Cleveland to Las Vegas.

• The discount applies only to the flight portion of your trip, not taxes, fees, or add-ons like seat reservations or baggage.

• Discounts are only valid on flights that normally cost $49 or more each way, and you must purchase a round trip to qualify for the deal.

These exclusions probably make the deal impractical for many travelers. But if you can live with the restrictions and are able to travel on Tuesday or Wednesday on a route that’s valid with the discount, it’s possible to snag a super cheap flight.

Take note, however, that Spirit’s pricing and discount structure is very confusing—and the net result is that prices might not be quite as cheap as you think.

For example, we used the 90PCT code and searched a round trip from New York (LaGuardia) to Denver in mid-January, and the best fare came to a total of $129 and change. That’s quite a deal. But it was much more expensive than you might expect for a flight that’s supposedly 90% off, and it was confusing how Spirit wound up at that price.

Spirit says that the flight portion of this round trip was normally priced at $258.78, and that $48.80 on top of that would be due for mandatory taxes and fees. Spirit’s site noted that the 90PCT code knocked $178.20 off the total price ($307.58), bringing the net paid by the traveler down to $129.38. The discount, while substantial, does not appear to knock 90% off the flight portion of the total, and we are mystified why that is so. We’ve asked Spirit for more details, and we’ll update the story when we hear back.

Travelers who have never flown with Spirit Airlines must also take note that the tradeoff for its low airfares is an enormous range of fees on everything from baggage (carry-on and check-in), advance seat reservations, food and beverages on the plane, and more. The booking process is also a hassle: Customers trying to buy flights encounter page after page of confusing upsells on in-flight amenities, hotels, and rental cars, and it’s often not immediately apparent how to opt out.

The bottom line is that you should be extra careful when booking a flight with Spirit Airlines. It’s important to know what you’re paying for—specifically, what is and isn’t included with the flight prices—and to make sure that you’re not paying for things you don’t want.

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