What does it say that the most profitable, fastest-growing U.S. airline is also the most-complained about U.S. airline? Fliers care most about cheap fares. Spirit Airlines makes no apologies. The ticket price is just the bait on the hook to get travelers onto planes. Then the airline reels in the fees for everything else.
If you want a seat assignment, a carry-on bag or even a drink of water, you pay extra. Buy a ticket with a credit card and you’ll pay a “passenger usage fee.” The fee for checking your first bag can be as high as $100. You might have to pay $25 more if you exceed the 40-pound weight limit because you’re used to other airlines’ 50-pound limit. Forget to print a boarding pass? That’s $10 to have an agent do it for you. There’s no fee to recline the thin seats—they don’t recline because legroom is so cramped.
It’s a strategy that is working well, because other airlines have raised prices so much. Spirit, founded in 1980 and based near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is expanding nationwide into routes connecting big cities. Earlier in February it announced nine additional routes from Atlanta and three new routes from Los Angeles. It has already grown to be the second-biggest airline at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Delta Air Lines has created a new ultracheap, no-perk fare class to combat Spirit in markets where they overlap.
The $9 Fare Club is a misnomer—Spirit doesn’t offer $9 fares anymore, but did when the promotion started in 2007. The fine print shows that it automatically renews every year unless you call to cancel. Once paid, there are no refunds for the $70 annual subscription to get access to the cheapest fares. I booked Spirit flights from Houston to Fort Lauderdale, then to Dallas. For the first leg, Spirit’s website offered a Bare Fare of $117.59 if I became a member of the $9 Fare Club, or $191.59 if I didn’t. The flight to Dallas was offered at $198.09—no $9 Fare Club deal available.
Joining the club would pay for itself on this trip, but I really don’t want to pay again a year from now when I forget to cancel. I take the standard fare. Then Spirit asks about bags: one carry-on for me, at $35 each way. Then what about reserving a seat? The flight from Houston offers most anything in the back of the plane for $11, up to a “big front seat” for $35. Feeling burned on bags, but not wanting to risk Spirit assigning me a middle seat, I take an aisle seat for $11 in the back. The Dallas flight has an array of choices from $10 to $25. I go for mid-cabin aisle for $14. That’s how my $389.68 fare grew to $484.68.
At the airport, Spirit typically starts boarding flights 45 minutes ahead of departure. At big airports, if you’re not checked in 45 minutes before your flight, Spirit will assume you won’t make the plane, cancel your reservation and charge a fee to rebook. The airline says that’s because it maximizes use of its planes, which fly on average more than 13 hours a day, to keep costs low.
With my knees knocking the seat in front, I notice most passengers have legs splayed into the aisle. Each Spirit row is 2 to 3 inches tighter than comparable coach seats on other airlines. US Airways has 150 seats on its Airbus A320s. Spirit has 178. Cramming more seats on the plane means Spirit can offer lower fares, Mr. Baldanza says.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/at-spirit-a ... 1424888610
Guess they haven't heard of China's standing room discounts. Would that be next?
My only turnoff is the space. I won't fly them for that reason.
For a while, an Irish airline was considering charging for using the lavatory. I don't know if it went through. But this can give Spirit an idea. If not already there.
My concerns have been, as more and more seat are added - has the TSA ever tested how well such a box of sardines can be evacuated in case of emergency? As in during the landing on the Hudson?
As for packing them in, I am sure there are regulations, but I am not familiar with what they are.
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I'm surprised at the size of some carry on baggage plus back packs. Some ALs are a bit loose about that.
Then there are the car seats, baby beds and diaper bags as well as the screaming brats..
By the time you get to your seat the overhead bins are full. spill over from business class..