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I listened to an interesting older episode this morning on NPR’s Planet Money Podcast. The show’s hosts flew on Spirit Airlines to chat with the CEO (at the time) about his airline’s dreadful reviews.
I have never personally flown on Spirit Airlines, but I have been on another low cost carrier, Frontier. The business model of these budget airlines is LOW PRICES. They squeeze the maximum amount of passengers into a plane with no frills. If you want any perks… and by “perks,” I mean a printed boarding pass, seat selection, water, etc, you will have to pay. Passengers will notice advertisements placed throughout the plane as well. Reviews of these airlines are not great… to say the least.
Dollar General of the Sky
NPR’s team spoke with Ben Baldanza, Spirit’s CEO at the time the podcast aired. (He departed suddenly in January 2016.) Mr. Baldanza was known as an unconventional CEO, and he seemed to embrace the hate many travelers felt toward the airline. He openly referred to Spirit as “The Dollar General of the Sky,” a very unique perspective in an industry usually focused on luxury.
Baldanza sees a disparity between what customers claim they want (more space, perks) and what they really want (low prices). People who hate Spirit Airlines, he says, are like people who go into Dollar General expecting to buy a nice 3-piece suit. They will be disappointed, because that’s just not what Dollar General sells.
He also calls out Southwest (without naming names) for advertising no baggage fees. He says these fees are baked into the price of the ticket. His perspective is to only charge people for what they really want. Lower the ticket price and charge for the bags, even carry-on bags! (Personal items the size of a small backpack are free.)
Definitely give the podcast a listen. It’s a couple years old at this point (Feb 2014), but it is very brief and worth the time.
What do you think of this low-cost, no-frills strategy? Do you love or hate airlines like Spirit and Frontier, or do you appreciate the a la carte approach? What has your experience been with these airlines?