Spirit Airlines CEO: Consumers Complain Because They Don’t Understand Us

They say you get what you pay for, so if you’re flying cheaply, should you expect a lower level of customer service? That’s the argument made by Spirit Airlines, which has the highest rate of customer complaints of all domestic airlines. And a new promotion and recent comments from Spirit’s CEO don’t give any indication that the carrier’s attitude will be changing.

Hot off the heels of a new U.S. Public Interest Research Group study that found the airline garnered the most consumer complaints – 8 complaints per 100,000 customers – filed with the Dept. of Transportation in 2013, Spirit appears to be on damage control. Although we’re not entirely sure how helpful their latest actions will prove.

First, CEO Ben Baldanza continues his ever entertaining claims that his company is the “most consumer-friendly” airline by simply saying customers just don’t understand Spirit’s business model.

“Offering our low fares requires doing some things that some people complain about—more seats on our planes with a little less legroom, no Wi-Fi or video screens, and no refunds without insurance; however, these reduce costs which gives our customers the lowest fares in the industry,” Baldanza wrote in a letter to Bloomberg Businessweek and other journalists. “Judging by the number of customers on our planes and repeat customer rate, most people like this tradeoff.”

Missing from Baldanza’s list of tradeoffs consumers should be okay making are the fees charged for carry-on baggage, fees charged to talk to a human being, charges for printing your boarding pass at the airport and a lack of free water during flights.

Friday’s explanation by Baldanza is the latest in a string of mind-boggling declarations over the years.

In 2010, he famously declared those baggage fees to be a “consumer benefit.” And let’s not forget the company’s stance in 2012 that posting full airfares is the government’s way of hiding higher taxes in fares.

The CEO consistently maintains that Spirit is the most consumer-friendly airline despite being the only U.S. carrier on a list of the world’s worst airlines.

Following Baldanza’s statement, the company announced a new campaign offering discounts to the 99.99% of customers it says don’t file complaints against the company.

Spirit Airlines is celebrating the 99.99 percent! That’s right, over 99.99 percent of our customers did not file a complaint with the Department of Transportation in 2013. To the 0.01 percent – that’s OK, we know we aren’t the airline for everyone (though we’d love for you to save by flying with us again!).  We are celebrating the 99.99 percent by running a $24 OFF* promotion. Book a flight for travel from September 3, 2014 through November 19, 2014 and you’ll save $24 off* of your trip.

While the promotion might seem like a valid attempt to squash consumer unease with the airline the $24 savings likely won’t cover your carry-on fee.

Spirit Airlines Celebrates the 99.99 Percent [Spirit Airlines]
Spirit Airlines Sees All Those Passenger Complaints as Mere Misunderstandings [Bloomberg Businessweek]

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