I flew on Spirit Airlines' newest jet and the quiet cabin and modern interior couldn't make up for bare-bones seats and lack of amenities

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I flew on Spirit Airlines' newest jet and the quiet cabin and modern interior couldn't make up for bare-bones seats and lack of amenities
  • 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.

Read more: Spirit Airlines' low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

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 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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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The Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan engines offer 16 percent fuel savings compared to older engines.

The Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan engines offer 16 percent fuel savings compared to older engines.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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They're so big that it almost looks like they're about to touch the ground.

They're so big that it almost looks like they're about to touch the ground.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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The other tell is the sharklet, which provides additional fuel efficiency. Though, these are also found on some current-generation Airbus A320s as well.

The other tell is the sharklet, which provides additional fuel efficiency. Though, these are also found on some current-generation Airbus A320s as well.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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.

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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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 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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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The first two rows feature the "big front seat," or Spirit's version of business class.

The first two rows feature the "big front seat," or Spirit's version of business class.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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.

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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Source: SeatGuru

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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.

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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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This was my automatically assigned row, 23, just behind the engines.

This was my automatically assigned row, 23, just behind the engines.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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.

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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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Legroom was below average at 28 inches of pitch

Legroom was below average at 28 inches of pitch
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Source: SeatGuru

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And the seat width was only 17.75 inches.

And the seat width was only 17.75 inches.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Source: SeatGuru

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The seats are noticeably more modern and sleek, which is the only compliment I can give them.

The seats are noticeably more modern and sleek, which is the only compliment I can give them.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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Here's what they look like on an older Spirit Airlines jet from a flight I took in August.

Here's what they look like on an older Spirit Airlines jet from a flight I took in August.
Flying on Spirit Airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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.

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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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The legroom was decent but only if I stayed in the same spot and didn't move at all.

The legroom was decent but only if I stayed in the same spot and didn't move at all.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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It's even less space if you put a personal item under the seat.

It's even less space if you put a personal item under the seat.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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.

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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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And seats come with only a tray table, armrest, and small literature holder. There's no seat-back pocket.

And seats come with only a tray table, armrest, and small literature holder. There's no seat-back pocket.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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This was the scene on the flight when the boarding process completed. Less than 30 people were onboard and entire rows went empty.

This was the scene on the flight when the boarding process completed. Less than 30 people were onboard and entire rows went empty.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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With it becoming clear my row would be empty, I slid over to the window seat.

With it becoming clear my row would be empty, I slid over to the window seat.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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I had a direct line of sight to the sharklet I discussed earlier, which greets passengers with a friendly "howdy."

I had a direct line of sight to the sharklet I discussed earlier, which greets passengers with a friendly "howdy."
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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.

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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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The next few minutes were dedicated to sightseeing as we traveled parallel to New York City.

The next few minutes were dedicated to sightseeing as we traveled parallel to New York City.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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It's on flights like these that seat selection becomes critical to get the best views.

It's on flights like these that seat selection becomes critical to get the best views.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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.

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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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A fleet-wide installation of in-flight WiFi is scheduled but has been long delayed.

A fleet-wide installation of in-flight WiFi is scheduled but has been long delayed.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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 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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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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.

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.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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Soon enough, it was time for landing.

Soon enough, it was time for landing.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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We touched down in Boston exactly 41 minutes after departing from Newark with no issues. It was a calm, smooth, and quiet flight.

We touched down in Boston exactly 41 minutes after departing from Newark with no issues. It was a calm, smooth, and quiet flight.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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Would I fly this plane again? Absolutely, but I'd think twice on anything longer than three hours.

Would I fly this plane again? Absolutely, but I'd think twice on anything longer than three hours.
Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider
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