The Fee-Crazed Airline Travelers Love to Hate Keeps Piling Up Profits

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Spirit Airlines gets dismal ratings from consumers. The piling on of fees and a recent string of delays has had many swearing off flying on the carrier for good. But the numbers indicate that budget-crunched travelers just can’t quit Spirit Airlines.

Spirit Airlines isn’t the first choice for many travelers. Over the summer, in a study of the best and worst airlines in America from Consumer Reports, Spirit Airlines ranked at the very bottom—not only in terms of air travel, but for all industries in recent history. “Spirit Airlines received one of the lowest overall scores for any company we’ve ever rated,” the report stated.

More recently, Spirit Airlines has come under fire after, well, a fire caused engine failure on a mid-October flight from Dallas to Atlanta. Less than two weeks later, smoke filled the cockpit of a New Orleans-Dallas flight, causing pilots to make an emergency landing. After the first incident, hundreds of passengers had their travel plans delayed up to 12 hours, according to CNN, and dozens were forced to sleep at the airport in Fort Lauderdale while awaiting their departure. News reports quoted a multitude of cranky, stranded passengers swearing that they’d never fly with Spirit Airlines again.

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This all sounds like pretty bad news for Spirit. Nonetheless, the airline has to feel pretty good about itself lately. The just-released earnings report shows that Spirit’s third-quarter profits are up an impressive 98% compared to the same period last year. In a statement released regarding the report, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza said, “It is becoming clear that Spirit’s customers understand that our ultra-low fares plus optional services offer them a total price that’s tough to beat.”

Mind you, those “ultra-low fares” are rising. The base cost of Spirit flights rose 15.3% compared to the third quarter of 2012, reaching an average of $83 per flight. Those charges known as “ancillary fees”—anything outside the base ticket, including fees for baggage, seat reservation, food, and more—were up 5.2%, hitting $52 per flight. In other words, the average Spirit passenger pays more than $100 in optional fees for round-trip travel.

Once all of these fees are added up, a “cheap” Spirit flight may not be that cheap. Nonetheless, the formula is proving to be enormously successful for Spirit. It’s also proving to increasingly be setting the standard for the rest of the industry. The latest study from IdeaWorks estimates that ancillary revenues for airlines will reach $42.6 billion worldwide in 2013, up from $36.1 billion a year ago, and an 89% increase compared to 2010 ($22.6 billion).

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One reason why mechanical problems and delays are more troublesome for Spirit Airlines is that it is renowned for packing in as many passengers as possible on planes, and it’s scheduling of departures is extra tight. As a result, when something goes wrong, it’s unlikely another Spirit plane is ready to accommodate all the affected passengers. So while Spirit must be happy that it managed to boost its rate of filled seats to 89% in the third quarter (up from 86% in 2012), travelers have reason for concern. As a recent TIME feature story put it, airline passengers should get used to this scenario:

No empty seats, no room overhead, and stressed-out staff. And as there is little or no capacity growth in the forecast, the future of flying promises more cramp for more cash.

Despite the gripes about Spirit Airlines’ fees, delays, and customer service, analysts generally believe that travelers aren’t going to turn their backs on the carrier anytime soon. Here’s how one analyst summed up the scenario, via the Miami Herald:

“When I hear people say, ‘I’m never gonna fly Spirit again,’ I roll my eyes,” said Hunter Keay, senior airline analyst at Wolfe Research. “The vast majority of them will. They might not be happy about it, but they will.”

They may hate the business model, but in light of fuller Spirit planes and higher Spirit profits, their actions do little to make Spirit second-guess its nickel-and-dime approach. In fact, Spirit’s success only appears to bolster the idea that it’s OK to aggravate customers, so long as the revenues keep shooting skyward.

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The Associated Press reported that a possible new revenue booster for Spirit would involve a variable fee scheme, in which passengers would pay more to check bags or reserve seats on peak travel days. Like many other aspects of Spirit’s business model, this move would probably anger passengers and boost profits at the same time.

39 comments
jasonhops99
jasonhops99

It's hard to see White GENOCIDE when you're an anti-White.

So let me put it this way: if ALL Black countries and ONLY black countries were being FORCED to "assimilate" with a flood of non-blacks, until there would be no more Black countries, the genocide would be obvious.

Yet this is exactly what is happening to ALL the White countries and ONLY the White countries.It's genocide, straight up, through social engineering.

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White

Bananaland
Bananaland

They are going to charge extra to supply oxygen when the masks drop. 

FrankWolfConnell
FrankWolfConnell

I do a lot of back and forth between Tampa, and Ft Lauderdale. With the loyalty program I routinely book round trip flights for less than $30 each way. I only bring my laptop with me so with out carry on fees and an uncomfortable hour or so in the air It can't be beat.  It would cost me more in Gas to drive not to mention the 8 hours of round trip drive time. If you need to get to point A to point B with very little it makes sense. When I fly to LA or NY I prefer Virgin America. Pretty much any flight that requires me to be cramped for more than and hour or so I'll go somewhere else I'm 6'6 so it really is a factor for me.

wtigerjn
wtigerjn

I  rather fly on Virgin. Its like $2 more expensive when added together.

HarlonKatz
HarlonKatz

I am one of those people who will never fly Spirit. I fly every week for work and just avoid them. A client suggested them once and I just said "no" - it is not worth the hassle, plus when you add in all the nickel and dime fees, the fares are not that much lower anyway.

I would not be surprised if they switch to putting everyone in cargo by default and charging an upcharge to sit inside the plane cabin.

AlbertLeo
AlbertLeo

I will never even consider Spirit, period.

AnotherOne
AnotherOne

Why is it that EVERY white country is forced to be multicultural/multiracial?

Why is it that EVERY white country is told to end its own race/culture?

No one asks that of -ANY- non-White country.

Immigration/assimilation is FORCED upon ONLY White countries

Anti-whites call themselves “anti-racists” but their actions lead to the elimination of only one race, the White race.

The purpose of “anti-racism” is to genocide white children.

Anti-racist is a code for anti-White

KwaiChangCaine
KwaiChangCaine

I haven't flown Spirit, but it's hard to believe that it deserves to be hated more than United.

gopersareignorant
gopersareignorant

The stupidity falls in the lap of those who continue to fly on this companies planes and pay their rip off fees. No other countries citizens would do such stupid things. Only Americans who have the absolute stupidest electorate in the modern world.

R.s.Rosenquist
R.s.Rosenquist

I love the people who say Spirit is a bus with wings.  If you're too good to ride "the bus", then don't buy the cheapest option and expect a limousine.


If you're paying $200 for Spirit you're doing it wrong anyway.  I can pay that much to fly Spirit from DFW to LaGuardia, or I can pay $50 to fly DFW to Philadelphia.  If the airfare isn't so cheap that it's still an awesome deal after you pay baggage fees, what's the point?

lbjack
lbjack

I love Spirit, despite the fact I wouldn't be caught dead on one of their sadistic flights.  I love them because they divert the money-grubbing trash from my flight.

People who mourn the good old regulated days, when flying was a pleasure, should know those days still live. Buy first/business class on a legacy carrier, say, Delta, and you get the good old days -- service, separation from the hoi polloi, tranquility, space -- for the same price you paid in the regulated days for coach, in constant dollars.

If you can't/won't pay for a pleasant flying experience, then don't fly, or if you must fly on the cheap, then don't whine.  Deregulation has benefited none but the tourist destination industry and terrorists.

humtake
humtake

"One reason why mechanical problems and delays are more troublesome for Spirit Airlines is that it is renowned for packing in as many passengers as possible on planes, and it’s scheduling of departures is extra tight."

Why would they include this against Spirit.  It sounds to me like TIME is the one with the problem with Spirit.  Packing in as many as possible and tight departure times ARE NORMAL.  You will NEVER find a low-fare airline where someone says "Wow, they make sure not to pack many people on the plane."

In case you haven't been listening or reading, EVERYONE is sick of ALL airlines.  I don't see one complaint in here I haven't seen numerous times regarding all other low-fare airlines.

NawTea
NawTea

People are sheep...   Baaahhh...

UleNotknow
UleNotknow

" “It is becoming clear that Spirit’s customers understand that our ultra-low fares plus optional services offer them a total price that’s tough to beat.” Maybe - if they ever get to wherever it is they're going inside of a week.

JabariPulliam
JabariPulliam

Spirit turned the end of a great vacation into a nightmare for me. Hunter Keay can roll her eyes all she wants, when I say I am never flying Spirit again, I mean it. For one, their "cheap" fare wasn't really cheap. It was actually more expensive than the competing fares when you factor in all the fees. The fares just look cheap when you're comparing list prices, which is how they trick you. After paying for luggage, carry-ons, and to sit next to the person I'm traveling with each way and for each segment, it was more expensive. Plus they charge you for everything once you're on board. Not to mention my flight was delayed because they felt the need to search everyone twice before boarding the flight from Jamaica, which caused me to miss my connecting flight in Ft. Lauderdale. They put me up in the worst motel they could find and to top it off they wrote the voucher wrong so I had to go back to the airport at midnight to get a new one or I couldn't check-in. I called to complain and all they offered was a $50 voucher for my next Spirit flight, because after that great experience I was definitely in a hurry to fly with them again. I literally laughed at their offer while on the phone with them and asked the customer service rep why I would ever subject myself to this experience again. 

MattColver
MattColver

If you go by the rules on Spirit you can get a cheap comfortable flight. Since I was flying to my vacation home I didn't need luggage because I have clothes in my closet at my destination. I did pay $25 to sit in a wide 1st class style seat at the front of the plane. All I brought was a book to read and so far no charge for bringing a book. I think I paid for a Coke. It was cheap and comfortable.

David1971
David1971

It's similar to the Ryanair business model in Europe. Ryanair racked up loads of profits by having cheap flights but with fees for everything. The CEO even proposed charging people to use the bathrooms at one point, but then backed off after public pressure. But - Ryanair has just issued its first profit warning, as people have decided that all of the extra fees just aren't worth the hassle and it is better to pay a  bit more and get better service. Spirit probably has a way to go before people become so annoyed with them that they leave en masse, but there is a warning there for them with the Ryanair case study, people will only accept so much for cheap travel before they have had enough. 

BrianGuinnessboyQuinn
BrianGuinnessboyQuinn

spirit is not an airline, it is a bus with wings. if they could seat people in each other's laps and doublestuff the plane then they would do so. what do they do with all their whorish profits? 


stephen.zinda
stephen.zinda

I flew this garbage airline round trip. I am NEVER flying Spirit Airlines again. I've flown countless times on Southwest and never experienced any of the issues that I did with Spirit. First off, they charge you $40 for a carry on. Round trip that comes out to $80, so the "cheap" $200~ ticket you bought ends up being around $300, which is about what Southwest charges anyways. They also provide NO services on flight. You get no free drink, no free meal, no peanuts. In other words, you get absolutely nothing. On top of that, there was a 4 1/2 hour delay because they were doing additional maintenance in light of two of their planes literally catching on fire mid flight. To my knowledge, Southwest has never had a fatal plane crash. At this rate, Spirit will have one in its first two years of existence. The stewardesses on the flights are also awful. On my trip back, there was a kid that wouldn't sit in his seat like the stewardess instructed. He was a spoiled brat, so she threatened to tell the pilot so that he would turn the plane around for his failure to listen to her instructions. Once other passengers heard that the flight might be turned around, everyone behind me started arguing with the spoiled brats parents trying to get him to comply. This went on for literally 20 minutes. Instead of defusing the situation, the stewardess just left....I finally lost my cool and told everyone to shut up. Passengers should not be the ones handling those types of situations. In the end, it was just an awful experience....I would suggest you never fly with them. In the end, you pretty much pay the same as you would to fly Southwest. 

JosephBagadoughnutz
JosephBagadoughnutz

they charged me $20 to let the head stewardess check me for hard objects.

swikes21
swikes21

As for this quote:  “When I hear people say, ‘I’m never gonna fly Spirit again,’ I roll my eyes,” said Hunter Keay, senior airline analyst at Wolfe Research. “The vast majority of them will. They might not be happy about it, but they will.”


 I, for one, made that promise and kept it.  In fact, after a particularly horrid flight that, in more than a few ways, no doubt violated FAA rules, I registered my complaint with Spirit in no uncertain terms.  As a result hey gave me a voucher for a free round trip flight to anywhere Spirit flies.  It was good for one year and I deliberately let the year run out and never used it.  I would not even fly them for free. 

peter.i.dahu
peter.i.dahu

I don't see a problem with Spirit's model. Just follow the instructions and you avoid a good chunk of their costs. If anything, Spirit shows that people don't pay attention to the fine print when it comes to traveling.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

You would think that passengers disgusted with Spirit Airlines would move to an airline that provides good service, comfort, and is more accommodating and friendly to passengers.  Oh, wait...

EricPederson
EricPederson

@KwaiChangCaine Agreed.  I sued United in small claims court...and won.  Stunningly, they actually showed up to defend themselves.  Made me hate them even more...and everyone who buys tickets to fly with them.

MIsaiasDasNeves
MIsaiasDasNeves

@gopersareignorant ha! You're full of it and I hate SPIRIT... will never fly it... but RYANAIR is largest airline in Europe and they are the model that SPIRIT copied... at one time RYANAIR even considered adding fee for using the lavatory on flights shorter than an hour... so it's not just Americans that are stupid... plenty of Europeans too!

lbjack
lbjack

Hate from the Spirit market.  I rest my case.

AndyClark
AndyClark

@lbjack Money grubbing trash from your flight?  huh?  

NothingHereToSee
NothingHereToSee

@lbjack I'm guessing you eat a lot of other people spit when you go out to restaurants.  Everyone thinks themselves better than the masses, but the wise usually are more discreet about it.

NinJa
NinJa

@MattColver But that's not even close to what the average customer does...
 MOST people need bags.

lbjack
lbjack

@NothingHereToSee In person, I'm cordial and polite to everyone; I just pay to avoid people like you.

AndyClark
AndyClark

@lbjack @NothingHereToSee lbjack, people are people.  rich or poor, we are born, we die, and maybe we reproduce although you might consider otherwise.  stop thinking you are any more special than the other 7 billion people on  earth because none of us are and it has nothing to do with our choice in air travel