Spirit Airlines is taking bets that some customers don’t mind being nickel and dime-d for their air travel experience. In some ways they are redefining the airline experience. I for one think it’s a welcome change.
SmartMoney.com recently named Spirit Airlines President and CEO, Ben Baldanza to their list of Power 30: Consumer Game Changers. Here’s what they had to say about Baldanza’s, and Spirit Airlines’, influence:
“Since taking the top spot in 2006, Baldanza has been a driving force behind the low-cost culture… [he] introduced fees that fliers love to hate, and that other airlines watch — and emulate. (Spirit was the first to debut the now-ubiquitous checked-bag fee, in 2007.) The latest: raising the cost for a carry-on bag registered at the gate from a current $45, up to $100, effective Nov. 6. Baldanza says the key difference is that Spirit uses new fees to lower fares, while other airlines just tack them on. The carrier’s average fare last year was $81, down from $98 in 2007 — and that low cost appeals to budget, no-frills travelers.”
I recently took a flight on Spirit Airlines. It was a 3 hr trip from Dallas to Portland. My experience started well before I boarded the plane. I made my airfare purchase 3 weeks prior to my flight. The flight cost $250. The Spirit Airlines website is one of the best airline websites I’ve ever dealt with. Much more streamlined and intuitive than AA.com or Southwest.com.
When I purchased the ticket I was given the choice to upgrade to a bigger seat for $18. I’m not sure where you stand, but for me, the entire appeal to first class is the extra room. I could care less about better service or a free drink or a better pillow. All I want is a big ars seat to sit in. I’m 6’1″ and over 250lbs. I’m not sure what their average ‘bigger seat’ upgrade fee is, but I’ll probably pay it every time I fly with Spirit.
Along with the seat I was given the option to pay $25 to bring a carry-on bag, or an extra $35 to check a bag. If I opted out of this, I could only bring a personal item (e.g. backpack) on the plane. Luckily this trip was just a two nights to a conference and so I could make a backpack work. I stuffed my laptop, clothes, and toiletry items into that thing. I actually enjoyed being lean and mean.
The flight itself was just like any other airline that I’ve been on, with the exception of Japan Airlines, which actually had real customer service. But I’m not one of these people who really needs or expects service on an airplane. It’s just transportation to me. Let me get on, sit comfortably, and get there fast. That’s all I need.
Spirit Airlines is still a small airline. But they do plenty of routes across the country. Here’s their current route map:
If you plan on flying Spirit Airlines soon, I’d encourage you to sign up for their free frequent flyer program and start receiving their deal emails. They are notorious for sending out edgy email offers centered around controversies like Weinergate, Tiger Woods’ affair, and the Summit of Americas prostitution scandal. They also have a $9 fare club, which promises exclusive access to deals.
Have you ever flown Spirit? What’s been your experience?
Image to Alaskan Dude