Spirit CEO: Carry-On Fees Are A "Consumer Benefit"

In terms of public relations, 2010 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for Spirit Airlines. First, they ticked people off by announcing they would begin charging up to $45/bag for carry-on luggage, then they introduced “pre-reclined” seats. They were shut down for about a week because of a strike, and then there was the ill-advised “check out the oil on our beaches” promo. But the company’s CEO doesn’t understand why travelers aren’t lining up to thank him.

“Most of the angst about Spirit is from people who have never flown us,” Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza tells ABC News, “or who don’t want to fly us but just want to make sure that the airline they like to fly doesn’t become us.”

As for all the fees Spirit is famous for — you can’t even get water for free –, Baldanza calls them “a consumer benefit” that gives travelers options of how they want to spend their money:

It lets consumers decide what is important to them rather than the airline presuming what’s important to them… Imagine if you went to McDonald’s and the only things you could buy were the value meals….

The reason that people are so shocked about the carry-on bag right now is that they just don’t get it… There will be fewer delays and the boarding process will be smoother. They don’t understand all the benefits of it. They are just outraged that I used to get this for free and now have to pay for it.

Here’s a question: How cheap does a ticket need to be for you to give up things like legroom, free water and carry-on bags? Also, does the length of the flight matter in terms of what you’d be willing to put up with in terms of discomfort?

Spirit Airlines: Cheap Airfare, but at What Cost? [ABC News]