Executives love to justify price increases or staff reductions by hauling out the customer service argument, because then any complaint you make can be framed as self-defeating. (“Don’t you want better service?”) On that note, Spirit’s CEO Ben Baldanza told travel blogger Christopher Elliott last week that the new carry-on bag fee is really intended to reduce gate delays. Remember to send a thank-you card to Baldanza.
Baldanza told Elliott, “Last fall, we identified excessive carry-on baggage as the number-one controllable reason that our planes were being delayed at the gate.” Spirit’s solution is to change the pricing structure so that nobody can avoid a checked baggage fee, thereby reducing the incentive to bring your bag onto the plane yourself.
The baggage fees disclosed on the Spirit website support his claim. In fact, starting August 1st it will be $5 cheaper to check your bag than to carry it with you (online only; all bag fees jump to $45 at the gate). Or to look at it another way, starting August 1st you’ll have to pay $5 extra to keep your baggage with you on a Spirit flight. If you don’t like this, then you hate customer service.
When Elliott asks if Baldanza thinks $45 is a little high, he responds, “It sure is!” Then he tries to upsell Elliott’s readers on a $40 annual “Fare Club” membership (with auto-renewal) that drops the online baggage fees by $10.
Baldanza also adds that “while the basis for this new fee was founded in improved customer service, it has not been communicated this way through the media.” Well, I did my part, Baldanza!