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Spirit Airlines CEO Says Flyers Can Learn to Love His Fees

@SamShankman

Apr 29, 2014 3:00 pm

Skift Take

Spirit Airlines’ image continues to suffer despite its packed planes and the executives are admitting for the first time that there’s a benefit in educating flyers about the pros (and cons) of its fare structure.

— Samantha Shankman

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Adam Fagen  / Flickr

Spirit Airlines pushes back at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. Adam Fagen / Flickr


We can’t wait to see the way that Spirit Airlines tries to educate flyers about its ultra low-cost business model.

In the Q&A session of the first quarter earnings call this morning, Spirit executives talked about the company’s plans to apply its low-cost marketing strategy to raising consumer awareness of its business model.

“We see an opportunity to help make sure that everyone who buys a ticket on Spirit sees the value of buying a ticket on Spirit,” explains Mark Kopczak, vice president of network planning.

“When you look at the customers that like us, it’s because they can save money on us and they know how to save money on us. Then we have other customers who buy a ticket on us and don’t understand how we’re different. They get frustrated by some of the things we do that other airlines don’t do.”

Spirit Airlines has been the most complained-about U.S. airline for 5 years in a row, according to a report released by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund earlier this month. Spirit received the most complaints per 100,000 passengers, a rate about three times higher than any other airline.

Despite the public outrage, Spirit executives say they attract and target passengers who wouldn’t be able to fly without the ultra-low fares. It is not after the business travelers who Virgin America hopes to attract when it starts service at Dallas Love Field, explains one executive.

While the leaders did not outline how they would initiate the process, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza likened it to the company’s low-cost marketing strategy that has sparked classics like its Anthony Weiner and 21-hour filibuster themed ads.

“One of the things that we have been good at over the last couple of years is being able to market our fares with a very low-cost kind of approach and keep our distribution costs very low. We believe we can apply some of that knowledge to a different opportunity, which is educating our customers about the consumer benefits of our a la carte model,” explains Baldanza.

The executive confirmed that this initiative would not be a drag on the company’s operating costs.

“We’re not a traditional advertiser in that sense; you’re not going to see cost pressure along that line. Like everything we do, we’re going to this very efficiently, but also hopefully effectively as well.”

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