After years of being far and away the airline with the highest level of passenger complaints, Spirit now says it wants to begin the healing by offering to “hug the haters.” Of course, what this really means is the company just thinks it can do a better job of explaining why it charges a fee for just about everything under the sun.
Spirit’s a la carte approach to ticket prices — which make things like carry-on baggage or in-flight beverages an add-on — has earned it a reputation as a nickel-and-diming carrier whose airfares aren’t as low as they appear once you factor in some of the things you’d get standard on other airlines. But Spirit’s puckish CEO Ben Baldanza maintains that even when you add up all of the possible ancillary charges you could face, a Spirit ticket is still cheaper than one of its competitors.
In a press release, the company admits that its odd pricing format “has some customers frustrated, ticked-off and asking ‘WTF!’ (Why The Fee)?”
And so, as part of a rebranding effort that includes a new logo and new website (which is maple-syrup slow right now), Spirit says it will do a better job of explaining itself in advance, rather than waiting until angry customers start asking WTF.
“We know [the fees] can be a surprise if you are used to other airlines that offer bundled fares, charging higher total prices including stuff you may not even use,” says Baldanza. “We’re going to help everyone learn how to save money flying on Spirit. We know some people say they hate Spirit. We’re going to hug the haters.”
The airline is apparently going all in with its effort to be more transparent, saying it will make it known via marketing that it is a no-free-drink, no-free-bag, no-Internet service carrier, so that people won’t be confused or upset when they find out they have to pay for things they might have gotten for no extra cost elsewhere. It will now refer to itself as the “Home of the Bare Fare” in reference to the fact that its airfares are for just that — air transportation.
“A ticket gets customers and a personal item from A to B,” Spirit, which has set up an entire Spirit 101 site, explains.
It will be interesting to see if this attempt to be more up front about its unusual and sometimes confusing add-on fees will result in a decrease in Spirit’s consumer complaint rate, or if it’s not the fees and perhaps there is something systemically wrong with the airline that continues to tick people off. Only time will tell.