Spirit Airline Airbus A320
Spirit Airlines has been in the news a lot recently for their new carry-on fees. Where has it gotten them? Well a ton of free publicity, people complaining …oh and 50% rise in bookings.
It seems that even though there was a lot of “negative” publicity on the new fees, passengers are buying more tickets. Is this because they are feeling Spirit must have really low fares or is it just coincidence?
Now that the carry-on fees buzz is dying down, it is time to move on to the next “crazy” thing: “pre-reclined” seats. Now this gimmick sounds like you would get on the plane and the seats are already partially reclined. However, it really means your seat will be upright and will not be able to recline at all.
Spirit have put the new seats in two new Airbus A320’s servicing the Fort Lauderdale-Washington, DC, route and on flights between Fort Lauderdale and New York’s LaGuardia airport. Two more A320’s will join the fleet this summer, and both will feature the “pre-reclined” seat design, Misty Pinson, with Spirit Airlines told the Orlando Sentinel.
So why is Spirit doing this? To fit in more seats, increasing passenger load and lowering prices. Let me guess how this will work out though:
Step #1: The media and passengers will complain how horrid this is and how they will never fly.
Step #2: Spirit will get free publicity (I know, I am guilty of this right now) about the story, making it stick in people’s minds that the airline provides low-frills, but also low prices (doesn’t always mean it is true).
Step #3: When booking flights, passengers see maybe Spirit’s airfares are very low and decide to fly on them, not caring about the low-frills.
Step #4: Passengers will fly on the airline, then complain that flying is not the way it used to be, they wish they had more room, food and no fees. However, they will continue to purchase the cheapest tickets possible.
Step #5: If Spirit makes more profit off this model, other airlines will follow. Passengers will blame the airlines, but really it is from passenger demand.
Spirit is not the first airline to provide no-recline seats. Allegiant Airlines has seats that don’t recline in 34 of 47 of their aircraft with little complaint. However, they also give 30″ pitch (room between seats), where Spirit will only be giving 28″ pitch. Personally I never recline my seats when I fly anyhow. I think it is quite rude to the people behind me and I hate it when people recline in front of me. I think I might be in the minority on that one though.
Is Spirit Airlines become the US version of Ryanair? That is a good question and I think you might see a blog in the near future on that concept…stay tuned.
UPDATE: I got wondering what other airline’s seat pitches look like and wrote up what I found. Also most people think of low budget airlines are the ones installing non-recling seats, but Dan Webb, with the blog Things in the Sky, reminded me that AirFrance is also using seats that won’t recline (but they still have a 32″ pitch).
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Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 with unique Blue/White livery
When I first heard this story I thought, “oh yes, I get to award another ‘Crazier Than Ryanair‘ medal.” However as I learned more about Spirit Airline’s new carry-on fees, I wonder if it is really all that crazy?
If you have missed it, Spirit Airlines is looking to charge passengers for carry-ons. There has been a lot of coverage of this, but here are the facts of the new carry-on fees:
* They start August 1st, 2010
* Spirit will be the first airline to charge for carry-on bags
* Your one personal item can go under your seat and is free
* It will cost $45 at the airport, $30 online and $20 for club members to have a carry-on in the overhead bin
Is this THAT crazy? Maybe not. If you have flown in the last few years you might have noticed how HUGE passenger’s carry-on bags have become. Three bags and one bin is totally full. It becomes a rush to the airplane to make sure you get space in the overhead bin. These fees would limit the number of people having a carry-on and would probably guarantee space for everyone who wants it.
Weight costs money. Airlines have been looking at ways to offer a basic ticket which will get your body from one destination to another and anything else going with you will cost money. It was only a matter of time before an airline [Ryanair anyone] would try something like this.
People will still pay. Passengers complain about new fees, but when it comes down to it, the fees make airlines a lot of money. Passengers might say they will never pay the carry-on fee, but when they are confronted with Spirit Airlines possibly having the cheapest fares, they don’t think twice. If passengers weren’t willing to pay these fees, airlines wouldn’t have them.
Yesterday Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood voiced his opposition to Spirit’s new fees. “I think it’s a bit outrageous that an airline is going to charge someone to carry on a bag and put it in the overhead. And I’ve told our people to try and figure out a way to mitigate that. I think it’s ridiculous.” FlyersRights.org also voiced their opinion that the government should step in and stop the madness of the airlines.
I am sorry, but this just angers me. The airlines were rightfully deregulated in the United States long ago and run via the free market. If passengers really don’t want to pay the fees, they won’t and Spirit will lose money and change their policies back. Airlines just don’t make up rules and policies in a vacuum that aren’t influenced by customer demand.
Yes, if the fees were not clear and were hidden, I could see the government stepping into make sure an airline was not deceiving passengers, but if you look at Spirit’s website (or been watching the news over the last few days), it is quite obvious what the fees are for.
Personally do I want to pay these fees? Heck no! But if I am flying somewhere and Spirit has the cheapest (even with paying the fees) will I care what my money is paying for? Probably not. It will be very interesting to see how this all works out.
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Spirit Airlines Airbus A319-132 (N532NK)
Spirit Airlines has been fined $375,000.00 due to customer complaints for overbooking flights, lost bags, and poor advertising practices.
First off, the airline was not properly compensating passengers who were bumped due to overbooking, which Federal law regulates they must. Spirit was also dragging their feet when compensating passengers for lost baggage. Airlines must make payment “within a reasonable period of time” which most people would agree 14 months is not reasonable. If that wasn’t enough, the airline also was charging customers $4.90 for a passenger use fee to fares in their “Travel Deals” portion of the website. According to regulation, such fees need to be added into the advertised price.
This comes at a time where Congress is in process of passing a “passenger bill of rights” which will better protect passengers flying on all airlines in the United States. Over the past two years, Congress has also provided the Transportation Department with $2.5million in the past two years to help enforce customer-protection rules.
’œSelling fares for $9 has made us very popular and, a few years ago when we adopted this model, we had some growing pains during the transition,’ Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said in an e-mail to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. ’œWe have addressed all the core issues that caused customer experience challenges a few years ago, including upgrading our computer systems and utilizing a new reservations partner.’
Customer treatment is currently on the forefront of the airline industry. I am normally for the industry regulating itself and allowing customers to help steer what the industry does, but it seems some airlines just don’t get it and passengers have a short memory span when choosing what airline to fly. A passenger might have a horrid experience and say they will never fly a particular airline again. But the next time they fly, if that same airline is $25.00 less, they ’œforget’ their previous experience and decide to save a few dollars.