How can it be that the fastest growing and most profitable U.S. airline is the one most complained about? The most common reason that people don’t travel is the airfare price, which combined with Spirit airline’s odd success proves that cheap ticket prices are what fliers care most about. You have to plan months in advance just to feel like you are still overpaying for your ticket. Then when you get to the airport and run into a slew of other fees, ranging from checking baggage to being forced into purchasing overpriced airport food. For some people, the fees don’t largely impact their income, but those travelers who stuff everything into a tiny suitcase to avoid checking a bag were waiting for an “inferior” alternative to come about.
Spirit Airlines channeled their business directly into what this market was asking for. The company started as a Clipper Trucking company in 1964, and later founded their airline service in 1980. But what makes Spirit noteworthy is their transition to becoming an “ultra low cost carrier” in 2007. Their model began around the idea that they can “un-sugar coat” the entire flying experience, and essentially shave off a fraction of the price. Things such as free checked baggage, drinks, storage bin space, paying with a credit card, and anything else convenient would then be stuck with a charge for any costumer who did decide they wanted the extra perks. They also plaster the overhead bins with advertisements, unlike any other airline.
But what is Spirit Airlines doing? They pride themselves on selling their brand as the fast food alternative to airplanes, and claim that they shouldn’t be getting complaints for their non-deceptive low quality good. But no matter how hard Spirit tries to communicate its “fee-for-all” strategy, they are still getting overwhelming complaints with people claiming that they will never fly Spirit again. But the majority of those angry flyers have been found to be overcome by the low-ticket price, ranging from $73 each way, and purchase another within the year. But, on average these travelers end up paying $55 in extra fees, most notoriously including the $3 bottle of water offered on board.
The airline also offers a $9 Fare Club, which for $70 dollars a month allows you to get access to the cheapest flights, similar to something like Amazon Prime, or Costco. What Spirit is doing is reeling in people with their incredibly low prices, and then following up with high fees for things most fliers expect from other airlines once the ticket is bought. Spirit has surprised everyone with their success so far, and proven to be unharmed by bad reviews and driven by what travelers want most: cheap airfare.