Line up of planes at FLL – Photo: Maarten Visser | Flickr CC
Although Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is a mere 21 miles north of its huge cousin, Miami International Airport (MIA), it’s worlds apart in its focus and business model. FLL is a hub for low-cost carriers (LCCs) and ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs), and funnels passengers to nearby Port Everglades, one of the busiest cruise ship terminals in the world. In 2014, FLL saw almost 25 million passengers use its facilities, led by ULCCs and LCCs Allegiant, JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin America, and Spirit, which is based at FLL.
Trans-Atlantic LCC, Norwegian Air Shuttle, also serves FLL with Boeing 787s. A number of U.S., Canadian, and Latin American airlines also provide non-stop scheduled service to FLL, along with seasonal charter carriers.
“We complement MIA,” says Allan Siegel, FLL’s Community Outreach Coordinator. “But our landing fees are lower, so our airlines are saving significant costs. That makes us attractive to the LCCs, and in 2014, LCCs handled 62% of our total traffic.” The airport’s traffic has grown steadily, up 25% in 10 years, but that growth led to capacity issues, driven by FLL’s configuration.
There is no missing Spirit’s new bold yellow livery – Photo: Spirit Airlines
It seems that every airline in the US is in the process in getting a new livery. We had Southwest and Frontier last week and this week we have probably the most bold of a change with Spirit Airlines. Not to mention the horrid look of the new China Eastern livery spotted at Paine Field.
If you thought the new Southwest livery was bold and radical, it has nothing on this taxi-like black and yellow design of the new Spirit look. You should have no problem spotting these Airbus aircraft from a distance.
Notice the “Bare Fare” on the engine nacel – Photo: Spirit Airlines
The first aircraft, in new livery, started services today from Atlantic City (ACY) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL). The airline plans to introduce six more aircraft in the new livery over the next few months. Any new planes delivered will sport the yellow livery, but the rest of the fleet will be updated during their regularly scheduled painting timeframe.
“This new livery perfectly matches Spirit Airlines,” said Ben Baldanza, Spirit’s President and CEO. “It’s radically different from other airlines, and it’s fun, just like we are. When you see this plane in the air – or on the ground – there will be no question that this is a Spirit plane.”
The airline is really hoping to market their rock-bottom fares with the ability to only pay for what you need. They have a whole section of their website dedicated to educating passengers how to fly them and how their fees work.
New Frontier Airbus A320 (N220FR) with sharklets – Photo: Frontier Airlines
Republic Airways Holdings has finally offloaded Frontier Airlines to a new owner, and right at the deadline. Earlier this week, Indigo Partners agreed to purchase Frontier and continue the push towards making them an ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC). Indigo and its head, William Franke, know a thing or two about ULCCs; up until recently they were responsible for Spirit Airlines’ growth to become a leader in the segment.
Frontier’s acquisition by a new owner obviously raises questions about their future, particularly as it relates to their home base of Denver International Airport. Since 2006, when Southwest Airlines started ramping up its presence, Denver has been a three-carrier hub (with United Airlines being the third). Many have doubted the stability and longevity of such an arrangement; as a Denver-based flyer, I can attest to the fact that the three carriers have managed to keep airfares extremely low.
Allegiant MD-80 and Spirit Airbus A319 hanging out in Las Vegas. Photo by Joe (JX).
With Spirit Airlines raising their carry-on fee at the gate to $100 ($35 if you pay ahead of time after November 6th) and Allegiant Air starting to charge for their carry-ons, it has a bunch of people very upset. But why? If an airline comes out with a policy you do not agree on, do not fly them. They will get the message and either change their policies or go out of business. Even though people state they won’t fly either airline, both Allegiant and Spirit continue to grow, so why would they want to reverse their fees?
Yes, I realize that some passengers do not have many choices at their closest airport. However, there is a reason why other airlines are not able or willing to fly into those airports — they can’t make it profitable. So, you are either stuck with an airline that charges fees, one that runs turbo-props or you take the bus.
What interests me are the people that do have a choice, complain about fees, yet continually choose either of the two ultra low-cost carriers.
Being human, most people want their cake and eat it too. Passengers want a first class experience at an ultra low-cost carrier price. Sorry to break it to you — that is not going to happen.
When asked how Spirit Airlines views its fees, Misty Pinson, Director of Spirit Communications, told AirlineReporter.com, “Our ultra low fares with optional add-ons are very consumer friendly. We give customers the opportunity to save money with our low fares and give them the power to choose the extras they want, and they only pay for those they use rather than being forced into paying a higher fare that includes extras that they don’t even want or use.”
Some of you might be rolling your eyes thinking that Spirit is just spinning the fees as a good thing, but Pinson actually gives some good points. If I fly on another airline that might not have as many fees, but I don’t want a soda, I don’t have a bag to check and I am not interested in food, I am still paying for all of those things in my ticket price. Yet airlines, like Spirit, give you the option to pay less overall, if you are not going to use all the options. How is that unfair? Especially when you do all all the fees to the base fare, the overall price still comes under most other airlines.
I also reached out to Allegiant to check in on charging for carry-on bags is going. “Inevitably, when you start to charge for something that used to be free, there will be some people who are vocal about it, but ultimately, we have seen that only about a third of our customers are purchasing overhead bin space when they make their travel reservations online,” Allegiant spokesperson explained over email. “As we unbundle our product and drive down base fares, we are able to stimulate demand and see growth in the number of people who can afford to travel.”
Let’s take a closer look at how both airlines have been doing; comparing the first quarter of 2011 to 2012, both airlines did very well (all data from SEC):
Revenue Passenger Miles (RPM) are up 17.2%
Passenger revenue is up 25.8%
Average fare is up 6.7% to $94.95
Average fare (ancillary revenue) is up 4.2% to $37.75
RPMs are up 18.8%
Passenger revenue is up 17.5%
Average fare per passenger flight segment is down 6.9% to $76.65
Non-ticket revenue per passenger flight segment is up 21.3% to $51.68
That 6.9% decrease is important to note. It indicates that the people who don’t buy anything else are getting a better deal on Spirit flights.
If you were an airline and wanted to make profit (when it comes down to it, that is what every airline wants right?) and you have this business model that makes you profit, while you continue to grow your passenger load, why wouldn’t you do it? There is obviously enough demand for airlines like Allegiant and Spirit to exist with other domestic carriers Southwest, Alaska and Virgin America as well.
Many feel that ultra low-cost carriers have started a race to the bottom for overall experience. I disagree. They have provided a cheaper option for people who care more about getting from point A to point B as cheaply as possible than they do about amenities. If you want to ride in style, you can still pay more to fly in first class on another airline, not have to pay any fees, get more room and even a meal. The “golden-age” style of flying still exists, but it will just cost you much more (like it did in the “good ol days”).
If you are still angry about all those airline fees, it is okay to be angry — just don’t blame the airlines. If you are going to blame anyone, blame those passengers who see them as a better overall deal and create the demand for airlines like Allegiant and Spirit to come along and fill.
Alright, let’s hear it… what do you think of these new/higher airline fees?
A huge thanks to Dan Webb for helping me with these numbers and to Joe (JX) for letting me use his photo.