The two-toned gray seats have adjustable headrests. The sides of the headrest curl around the head, with a clicking sound, so when passengers nod off, their heads won't lean into the aisle or a neighbor's shoulder.
The legroom is about the same as Spirit's MD-80 and Northwest's DC9-50. For the extra $30-$80 at the airport to upgrade a Spirit ticket to one of the eight business-class seats on the other side of the blue curtain, passengers get about six more inches of leg room than coach and three more than first class on a DC9-50.
Expect a little more seat room in coach. The Airbus A319 offers 6 more inches in the width of the cabin than the Boeing equivalent, a 737, which Southwest Airlines flies.
"You're able to give everybody another inch, on average," Biffle said. The seats are designed to make passengers feel like they have more room. "It's a little bit subliminal. You're going to feel a lot better," Biffle said.
But Spirit's new planes lack an entertainment system that would have -- with one sweeping change -- bolstered the carrier's flying experience to that of the popular JetBlue Airways Corp. New York-based JetBlue, which does not fly out of Metro, launched service in 2000 with new Airbus aircraft boasting screens in every seat back that offer free satellite TV.
Spirit has been studying portable or seat-back TV screens for about two years.
Spirit CEO Jacob Schorr told the Free Press last year that Spirit's entertainment system will be "more modern than JetBlue because it will be the latest and not like the one designed in 1999."
But the technology and fees are expensive. Plus the airline says the satellite TV service JetBlue and Denver-based Frontier Airlines use might not work on Spirit's international routes.
"It's a very complicated decision, which is why we are taking our time," said Lynne Koreman, Spirit's senior director of marketing and communications. Those entertainment systems also make a plane heavier, which means it will use more fuel.
Fuel economy was one reason Spirit leased the new planes.
With the new planes, the airline expects to save 20 percent to 30 percent in fuel costs on a typical MD-80 schedule. More specifically, Spirit will save about $7 per passenger for a mostly full 3-hour flight, spending about $33 per passenger on fuel compared to $40.
"In the long run, it should allow us to maintain our low fares," Koreman said.