A Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 wearing the Bare Fare livery at TPA – Photo: JL Johnson | AirlineReporter
I paid a mere $16.11 for a one-way Spirit Airlines Bare Fare flight from Kansas City to Dallas. Crazy, right? It gets crazier… $14.24 of that ticket went to the “Government’s Cut,” (Spirit’s words, not mine) that is, various government-imposed fees and taxes. Of the remainder, a single penny went towards the base fare, with the final $1.86 going to what Spirit refers to as “Unintended Consequences of DOT Regulations.” Depending on where you sit on the regulatory fence, the actual revenue from my Bare Fare was either a penny or $1.87.
Spirit Airlines Bare Fare cost structure breakdown – Image: Spirit.com
Either way, the airline was bound to make money off of me from their various fees, right? After all, that’s what Spirit is known for: evil fees. But, what if I went totally bare and instead just paid only for “ass plus gas” (again, Spirit’s words, not mine). Do people actually do that? I did… for science.
Frontier Airlines’ new livery in 2014 – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter
Looking at the market today, and lots of talk about additional airline mergers, it seems that Frontier and Spirit joining forces would make sense.
With the recent completion of the American Airlines and US Airways merger, there are officially four major U.S. airlines that control over three-quarters of the domestic air travel market. The four airlines are: Southwest, United, American, and Delta. All of them have been through mergers in the last decade. The remaining twenty-five percent of the market is divided up amongst carriers such as JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines, amongst a few others. There is a very small likelihood that another merger would occur amongst the major four airlines due to antitrust regulations. Therefore, any airline consolidation would most likely happen among the smaller carriers that control the remaining twenty-five percent of the market, in an effort to better compete with the four mega-carriers.
One potential merger that appears to be the most promising is a deal between Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Spirit and Denver, Colorado-based Frontier. Spirit operates around 250 daily domestic departures, while Frontier operates at somewhere around 230 departures daily. The merger would combine two companies positioning themselves fighting to be the top ultra discount airline in the United States.
I am a big fan of Spirit Airlines. They offer some of the lowest fares and push to promote their a-la-carte-style pricing. Although it seems that many customers see them as the enemy and “extorting” people out of their money, I see them as a viable, cheap option to get from point A to point B. Are they going to be like riding in business class on a Qatar A380? No… not even close. But that is not what they are about, nor should that be the expectation flying them.
Last week, I posted a letter from a reader complaining about his experience with Spirit and my hope was that people would see him as ridiculous and defend the airline. Many did, but some I saw (via the story and social media) agreed with the passenger. That surprised me.
I reached out to Paul Berry, who is Spirit’s director of communications, advertising, and brand to see what he thought. Although I was just looking for a few lines, I was very impressed with how seriously he took this complaint; he gave a very thorough reply. Below, you can see how he breaks down each topic and gives a detailed description on how Spirit operates.
The Bare Fare model – Photo: Spirit Airlines
A few times per week, I get emails from upset passengers. The vast majority of these emails come across as entitled people who’ve had a bad experience, but think the world owes them — big. Many times I am cc’d with dozens of other media outlets, in hopes that one of us will create a story: “BREAKING NEWS: Passenger’s Flight Delayed 30 Minutes Due to Weather.” As-if. Sadly, I do get emails like that.
Rarely I will get an email describing a true bad experience, where the airline messed up. In those cases I will take the time to either explain things to them or point them in a good direction to get assistance. Heck, I was getting so many poorly written emails that I even posted a story on how to write a good airline complaint letter.
Often, the emails are just plain entertaining and I want to share. Not only to give an insight of what airlines get on a daily basis, but also to really give these people what they want — publicity of their “horrid” treatment. Maybe even a reality check.
Every time I think about posting one of these emails, I chicken out. Yes, I am calling them out and making fun of them, and that is not very nice is it? Well… I am going to give this a try… and really, with this example, they clearly want to, “inform the masses about [Spirit’s] despicable treatment of its paying customers.” Alright Angry Passenger X (that’s obviously not their real name)… let me give you what you think you want. After, be sure to check out Spirit’s reply.