Paying for Using Plane Bathrooms? Spirit Air CEO Says No But Doesn't Discount New Fees

Baldanza, who turned the company's fortunes around after taking over the helm in 2005, is unabashed about the idea that the airline is not for everyone.

"We're frills-for-a-fee carrier," he said.

Spirit's outspoken CEO said he takes pride in Spirit being different from other large "legacy carriers" and even welcomes the controversy.

Spirit's edgy ads last year drew a lot of negative publicity. One ad selling the company's flights to Latin America read, "Don't go South Without Protection." Another prompted customers to enjoy Spirit's "DD's" (Deep Discounts), and "MILF" (Many Islands, Low Fares).

Baldanza's response to media attention: Keep it coming.

"When Bill O' Reilly says how incensed he is that we're destroying American culture with our ads, but then he says Spirit Airlines has really low fares, everybody comes to our website and buys their tickets, so go, Bill O'Reilly," Baldanza said. "We want people who get our e-mails to send it to ten friends and say, 'Can you believe I got this e-mail?' and that works for us."

Spirit spends less than one half of one percent of its revenue on marketing. Five years ago, it was spending about 10 percent and faring far worse.

It's one of the cutbacks that allows Spirit to keep the cost of its tickets low, Baldanza argues, even if it brings controversy at the same time.

Ben Baldanza's High Hopes for Spirit

Baldanza wants to more than double Spirit's fleet in the next five years, from 30 now to at least 70 planes. The company will focus on adding more in-demand destinations in Latin America.

"We've helped liberate Haiti from a travel standpoint," Baldanza boasts, referring to the company's comparatively cheap fares there.

"We're looking to expand in markets where customers don't have a low fare option," he told ABC News. "Imagine if you lived in a city where the only restaurant was Capitol Grille. You might be happy that McDonald's moved in, not because you want to eat there all the time, but once in a while you might like the choice. That's it."

But don't expect first class service. If anything, the company is likely to keep adding more fees for services it thinks will lower the base fare. Baldanza didn't specify any additional fees the company plans to add in the near future, only saying, "If it's necessary we're not going to charge for it. If it's optional we're absolutely willing to take that infrastructure cost out of the base fare and add it to the cost of the service."

Baldanza makes no bones about the idea that Spirit is not for everyone. It's a model, some analysts say, that will likely work for the company and its customer base whose main goal is to buy a cheap ticket, but it's unlikely to be followed by others.

"Just from economic principles, there's an unlimited demand for anything, let alone travel," said airline industry analyst and consultant Robert Mann. "But the market tends to divide in the area of those who expect a certain level of service or service components as part of a price. And for a lot of people who prefer a more fully-featured offering, Spirit won't really probably be among their choices. For people who want pure price, yes they're absolutely in the market for that."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10578448. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10578448. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10578448. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10578448. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10578448. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10578448.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...