…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.
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.”
Update 2: As of July 23, Spirit has reversed this fee.
- 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?