Spirit Airlines has great prices and famously terrible customer service (they serve no in-flight snacks or beverages, seats don’t recline, and it costs $50 to CARRY ON a bag), but according to Derek Thompson at the Atlantic, their business is still doing really, really well. Between 2008 and 2012, Spirit Air “saw fuel costs rise by nearly 60 percent, increased salaries by about half, flew more miles at higher costs, and, despite all that, still managed to reduce its average ticket price by 20 percent,” earning 40% more per airplane than their competitors.
I flew with them recently, unaware of their carry-on fees and wooed like many are by a $160 round trip flight. The experience was so shamelessly bad that I couldn’t do anything but laugh. Everyone I made eye contact with was shaking their fists and throwing back their heads in outrage, shouting variations of, “Can you believe this?!” or trying to sleep folded over onto their seat-back trays. It was, in a word, hilarious.
Derek’s feelings about the airline echo my own, some weird combination of indignation and awe:
I may never fly Spirit Airlines ever again. If I do, I’m wearing all four shirts and three pants at once and shoving my socks and underwear in my computer bag to save $50. But there is something impressive, if not quite admirable, about a business that is equal parts populist and profitable. Spirit makes hurtling through the atmosphere in a pressurized metal tube exactly as luxurious as it sounds.
If you do ever fly with them, and even with the fees they do end up being cheaper a lot of the time, just buy a bottle of water before you get on the flight, let go of any remaining ideas you have about customer service, and enjoy your little journey toward the bottom line.