The ink had hardly dried on their announcement last month that they would be charging $10 for a second checked bag. Now, Spirit Airlines has rolled out a range of changes, converting the airline into a European-style discount carrier, similar to Ryanair or Easyjet.
The key changes, effective June 20, 2007:
- $5 flat fee for EACH checked bag, up to 50 lbs., if arranged in advance online
- $10 flat fee per checked bag, up to 50 lbs., if you wait until the airport to pay the fee
- All beverages such as coffee, juice, and soda will cost $1 (water is free)
- First class is downgraded to premium economy. It’s renamed “the Big Front Seat.” No more free booze.
Why am I reminded of Andy Borowitz’s “Airlines to Offer Fuel-for-Purchase Option” satire?
Obviously, it’s all meant to reduce costs. But the positive spin that the airline is trying to give these “reforms” doesn’t always add up. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Spirit chief marketing officer Barry Biffle said that “by having a one-class plane, we can provide better service to all our passengers, not just those sitting in the front.” That makes no damn sense. Just because there’s no first class anymore doesn’t mean that the service in the back will improve! Ahh, marketers.
Adding a fee for all checked luggage is certain to be unpopular. And as Chris Elliott recently suggested, other airlines might be loath to charge for luggage, because it could confer greater liability on them for lost or stolen goods. I’m not sure this is right, since the contract of carriage could nix that, but people coughing up a fee could well be under the heightened impression that the airline owes you more reliable luggage handling.
To “prove” that these provisions lower fares, Spirit is running a fare sale right now. Obviously, it’s too early to know if the changes have any long-term effect on fares.
If fares actually DO go down more than, say, $20 or $30, to cover the cost of checked luggage each way, a few cups of juice, and the value you assign to your own time for making calculations like this one, then this might be okay for consumers.
But it’s still not consumer-friendly in the grand scheme of things: The online travel agencies aren’t yet equipped to show you a real total price, including the add-ons like luggage fees. This means that Spirit will, for the moment, appear cheaper than other airlines on the booking sites, whether the actual final price for you and your needs, once luggage, drinks, etc., are factored in, is cheaper or not.
Comparison shopping just got harder.