Spirit Airline's Business Model: Customers Clean Up

8.6.2013

By Neal Broverman

The super low-cost carrier has gained fans by dropping prices and alienated others by cutting services and charging for water.

Profit-wise, low-cost Spirit Airlines is charging ahead of the other carriers, but some fliers are turned off by their bare-bones service.

Florida-based Spirit is finding new fans with their cheap fares, but they continuously rank at the bottom of customer-service rankings, according to a new profile in the Los Angeles Times. Run by penny-pinching CEO Ben Baldanza, the airline asks customers to clean up their seats, has corporate employees empty their own trash and vacuum their carpets, and pushes flight attendants to sell food, water ($3 a pop), and seat upgrades (the airline also charges customers for carry-on luggage). Spirit's planes are notoriously cramped, but Baldanza says that's part of the deal.

"Don't buy our low fare and complain that we don't have legroom," Baldanza told the Times.

While Spirit intends to buy more planes and increase service, service experts think it will be difficult for them to have success with business travelers and luxury fliers. Especially, when Spirit recently ranked third in most customer complaints, behind much larger United and American.

"When people are complaining about the structure of the business model, to me that is akin to someone walking into Chick-fil-A and screaming 'Why don't you sell hamburgers?' " Baldanza said.

Read the full story here.

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