How Terrible is Spirit Airlines, Really?

I took Spirit Airlines, the country’s undisputed king of fee-mongering, to Chicago for my college reunion a few weeks ago. If it wasn’t the single worst flying experience of my life, it was certainly the most memorably bad. Among the indignities suffered, I will mention three:

1) Having to pay a $50 carry-on fee ($5 more, amazingly, than it would have cost me to check the weekend bag).

2) Sitting in seats that would not recline—and without a complimentary beverage.

3) Arriving at the Spirit kiosk to check in at ORD precisely 45 minutes before my late-Sunday flight would depart … only to learn that Spirit had canceled my ticket mere seconds before I swiped my card, per their draconian reservation-cancellation policy. I spent the night in a hotel and woke up at 3:30am to make the only morning flight back to NYC.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Nearly grounded...

The beginning of my trip started out on shaky ground. Spirit Airlines would not check me in with only a one-way ticket…

I knew Peru required proof of onward travel, so I made an itinerary with a “dummy” return trip, but Spirit Airlines apparently checks. As it was not in the system, I had no other choice than to buy a $550 ticket I will never use, just so I could get on the plane. I wanted to purchase a refundable ticket, but since they are a discount carrier, this was not an option. In retrospect, I wonder if showing my Arequipa flight would have made a difference (assuming they didn´t know where Arequipa was)? I couldn´t think clearly with only 2 hours of sleep. If I could do it again, I would have bought a cheap flight or bus ticket out of Peru to another country or created a “dummy” return trip with another airline.

Dear Spirit Airlines

I’m sure you’re “naming” and branding committee had well intentions in mind when giving your airlines such an interesting name, but I worry for you, as well as for your customers. With deep regrets, I am forced to steer away from your “deals” and low prices. No matter how much of a discount you’re willing to give me, I cannot help but picture “Spirit Airlines” as something part of a horror flick, more or less. However, it does sound like an interesting adventure…if thats how I wanted to die. God forbid. 

Please take no offense from the decision our entire family has taken, as we choose to ignore your insanely low prices, and select something less “creepy” for our flight to Chicago. You see…we would actually want to make a physical apparence at the wedding in April, and not just be there “in Spirit”. I hope you understand, and maybe someday re-think possibilities to a different name? perhaps? yes.

thank you.


maybe future customer, probably not


Six Black Passengers Kicked Off Plane While White Customer Keeps Double-Booked Seat (VIDEO)

Six Black Passengers Kicked Off Plane While White Customer Keeps Double-Booked Seat (VIDEO)

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Several African-American passengers experienced not only subjected to extreme humiliation, but also faced a shocking display of racism and white privilege when they were kicked off of a Spirit Airlines flight late Monday evening. The incident began with a discussion over a double-booked seat, in which a white flight attendant asked a couple to change seats because the flight was overbooked.…

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On Jammed Jets, Sardines Turn on One Another

Jad Mouawad and Martha C. White:

Some carriers are taking the smush to new heights.

Spirit Airlines, for instance, uses seats on some flights with the backrest permanently set back three inches. Call it, as Spirit does, “prereclined.”

The low-cost airline started installing the seats in 2010, squeezing passengers into an industry low of 28 inches. While the Airbus A320 typically accommodates 150 passengers in coach, Spirit can pack 178.

And that is a good thing, Spirit says.

Hard to think of another industry that is constantly and consistantly making the user experience so much worse. And the airlines have gotten so good at treating us like cattle that they’re now openly bragging about it.

Sprit Airlines about to launch daily flight to Los Angeles

On Tuesday, the Kansas City Aviation Department announced low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines Inc. will launch daily nonstop flights to Los Angeles International Airport (Code: LAX). The flights will leave Kansas City International Airport (Code: MCI) at 9:10 p.m. and arrive in the nation’s second most populous metro area at 10:36 p.m. The return leg will depart L.A. at 12:40 p.m. and return to KCI at 5:46 p.m.

Fees, fees, and more fees - the airline industry

I will get to the airline industry and their love of fees, but let me take a tangent into banking and you will see the parallel.

I worked for a national bank a little over a decade ago when acquisition by larger banks was swift and wide. National banks were swallowing up small regional and hometown banks as they raced toward banking supremacy.

Funny thing happened along the way. “Free checking” wasn’t really free anymore. Somewhere deep inside the corporate office (yes that is where I worked) someone decided that customers with free checking were costing the bank millions of dollars for a two reasons. They didn’t carry enough deposits with the bank and they visited the bank to interact with a live teller versus an ATM. Solution! Charge every customer $5 the first time they visit a teller each month. One of two things will happen. Either they will stop visiting in person, so we can cut back on bank tellers, or they will pay the $5 and cover the expense.

Whoops! A third option revealed itself. Find another bank. Especially in smaller cities and towns where the bank was like a coffee shop to a lot of folks. Deposits started to dry up at the newly acquired banks and the white collar city dwellers in the offices scratched their heads. “Why are the customers leaving?” I overheard one day. My answer was we started punishing a behavior they had grown accustomed too.

Now the tide has turned the other way. Instead of punishing customers for using more labor intensive processes banks have decided to incent customers to use automation. I also used to work as a teller when in college. The 15th and the end of the month were always super busy with customers depositing checks. Getting customers to set up automatic deposit is a big money saver for the bank. Which method would you take? Charge customers $5 to make an in person deposit or reward each customer with $10 in their bank account if they set up automatic deposit?

You might think giving away $10 is foolish and will cost way too much, but the cost savings down the road (less tellers on the 15th and end of the month) will more than pay for it. Customers will feel incented to sign up. Who wouldn’t want $10 for free? In fact it will probably attract new customers too!

So back to the airline industry.

On one hand they helped start many of the loyalty points programs and like to reward customers for frequently flying with them. On the other hand they keep stacking more and more fees onto everything you might touch. One of the exceptions is Southwest. They even made a huge national ad campaign out of it “Bags Fly Free.” And still the other airlines don’t get it.

Spirit even said they are lowering flights by $5 to provide savings to customers who avoid a live person. So anyone who does interact with a live person really isn’t out anything versus the last time they flew.

But they had an opportunity to capitalize on this in multiple ways. 94% said they preferred lower fees in exchange for checking in online. All they had to do was reward those customers who opted for online check-in. It could have even been $5 toward your next flight to tie you in. Go a step further and incent people to pack smarter. $5 credit for those who don’t have any checked bags. Think of the stories being written today for that approach versus the approach they took. How would the PR have been different?

Fees feel like hidden charges. I know the airlines like to flash the lowest price to attract customers but we are not stupid. Information is too easily accessible to find out the true cost of travel on an airline.

Customers hate fees and they will try to avoid them. But set the “game” up differently and you will get much better results. You always have the option of the “carrot” or “stick” and when you choose incentives you will get far better long term results than the short spike from the stick.

Amplify’d from www.wallstreetjournal.com

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