21
Jul
2008
Posted by: Mark Ashley

cash money Money talks, B.S. flies

…flies Spirit, that is. Chris Elliott notes the latest fee from the winner of the unofficial Upgrade: Travel Better fill-my-inbox-with-complaints award for lousy airline customer service. Their latest transgression: A $10 per roundtrip “web convenience fee” for making your air ticket purchases online.

So much for the internet reducing transactions costs and making it cheaper to deliver goods and services!

The fee is purely a way to bilk the customer. There’s no other way around it. I realize that fuel is pricey, and that $5 or $10 on every transaction can really add up fast. But this isn’t how you do it.

The phrasing of the fee:

Convenience Fee of $5.00 per traveling customer per one way travel applies to all reservations with the exception of those bookings created directly at Spirit Airlines’ airport locations. All fares are subject to change until confirmed and purchased.

So it’s cheaper to book a ticket at the airport? That makes no damn sense.

Chris is right that the Department of Transportation (and the Federal Trade Commission, I might add) should be looking into this. European airlines have been forced to reduce their false advertising of 1-cent fares with piles of add-on fees. This is a similar instance of mandatory, undisclosed fees that shouldn’t be permitted.

But why get ticked off at an airline I never fly? You won’t find me recommending Spirit to anyone, after all. Simple: These sorts of fees are actually problem for everyone, even if you never fly with them. Two reasons:

As I’ve argued before, one problem is comparison shopping: With Spirit tacking on fees like this, they might look cheaper in head-to-head comparisons with other airlines. That’s deceptive.

Second, like it or not, Spirit has been an industry leader, whom other airlines copycat. Nearly every time they add a fee, someone else follows suit within months, with a cascading effect. How soon before US Airways introduces a web fee? Then United. Then American, Continental, et al. (Southwest might not play along, as they’re still able to milk efficiencies from long-term fuel-contracts that they wisely sewed up months and years ago.) So b.s. fees like this one, even at a niche airline that most people haven’t flown, can’t be allowed to stand, or else we’ll all be paying it sooner or later.

Fight back by filing a complaint. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s complaint form is here. The Federal Trade Commission’s complaint form is here.

Update: Customers who really, really, really want to fly on Spirit, despite having been warned time and again about their horrible business practices, might want to book their tickets on Orbitz.com instead of on the Spirit Airlines website. While Orbitz charges a booking fee, it’s less than the new Spirit web convenience fee. Also, I just tried three sample itineraries, and the fare on Orbitz was lower than the fare sold directly by Spirit. Fluke? Maybe. But worth comparison shopping before clicking “buy.” Money talks, B.S. flies

Update 2: As of July 23, Spirit has reversed this fee.

Related:
- Spirit’s latest indignity: Middle seats for a $5 fee
- Spirit Airlines keeps it classy with their M.I.L.F. sale
- Spirit Airlines’ CEO flips his customers the bird
- Downgrades: Spirit Airlines to charge for ALL luggage, coffee, and soda
- This is not the Spirit Airlines website and I can’t cancel your club membership. So why are people asking ME for refunds?

pixel Money talks, B.S. flies
Categorized in: Spirit Airlines

9 Responses to “Money talks, B.S. flies”

  1. mark Says:

    These people ought to be publicly horsewhipped, if only for crimes against the English language. “Convenience,” my @ss. Can you imagine the reaction if your local grocery store or gas station tried to tack on a “convenience fee” for every transaction?

    (Actually, you don’t have to imagine: gas stations have tried this stunt repeatedly over the years whenever gas prices spike. Consumerist has the latest smackdown.)

  2. S A Says:

    How dare they? Who do they think they are, Ticketmaster? ;)

  3. S A Says:

    And to commenter Mark, your Consumerist link was broken. Try this:

    http://consumerist.com/5025123/is-this-010-creditdebit-surcharge-on-gasoline-allowed

    and linked within that post

    http://consumerist.com/5023643/10-things-you-might-not-know-about-your-credit-card

    How soon before we start seeing “cash discounts” for plane tickets? They charge fees in Europe for using the credit card to buy tickets, don’t they?

  4. K Says:

    “Cash discounts” make sense, as the card companies charge a per-transaction fee, in addition to a percentage of each transaction.

    Can’t blame them for that one, they’re legitimately reducing their costs with that deal.

    A “convenience fee” for online transactions isn’t reducing costs, however, since it costs the company more to have you call or show up at the counter than it does to sell you a ticket online.

  5. james Says:

    Ugh – why why why why can’t these fees just be built INTO the price of the ticket? I’d rather pay more and not take it “a la carte” – especially if its something like BUYING the damn ticket where I don’t have a choice.

  6. Lindsay Says:

    Honestly, at this point, anyone who flies Spirit deserves what they get. It’s just horrible from beginning to end. The fees are just a clue, people! Follow your instincts and avoid Spirit at all costs!

  7. Consumer victory: Spirit reverses its “web convenience fee” » Upgrade: Travel Better Says:

    [...] been taking a number of hits lately, but one of the most egregious was Spirit’s recent “web convenience fee,” whereby they charged an extra $10 for booking a roundtrip ticket [...]

  8. Upgrades and Downgrades — Pigeon carriers, Million mile movie, fees, tantrums, and much more | Upgrade: Travel Better Says:

    [...] buying tickets on their own website. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is: The airline tried this last summer, but retracted it within a few days. In the WSJ, Scott McCartney has this summary: [...]

  9. Credit Card Transaction Says:

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought
    this post was great. I don’t know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!

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