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Spirit never hides its fees -- customers know they have to pay for everything -- so why not ditch the toll-free line too. In a world where mobile minutes are more important than area codes it makes little difference.

Spirit Airlines, the Florida-based no-frills carrier that introduced fees for carry-on bags, has found another way to pass on its costs to its passengers.

The airline quietly replaced its toll-free customer help numbers with regular toll-charge number.

“Our new numbers are allowing us to keep our costs low, which we in turn continue to pass along to our customers by way of the ultra-low fares they have come to know and love,” said airline spokeswoman Misty Pinson.

The Spirit phone numbers all have 801 area codes, which corresponds to an area near Salt Lake City. For customers calling on a regular land line, the cost of a call to Spirit could cost 5 cents to 18 cents per minute, depending on the phone plan.

But Pinson noted that many passengers now have cellphone calling plans with unlimited long-distance calls.

Spirit Airlines has developed a reputation in the airline industry for generating hefty revenues from creative new passenger fees.

The carrier boasts 71 different passenger fees, including a $100 fee for people who wait until the last minute to check a suitcase or pay to bring a carry-on bag into the cabin.

Such tactics seem to be working for Spirit.

The airline last month reported $32.8 million in first-quarter earnings, up 37% from the same period in 2012.

Passenger fees were a big part of those profits. The airline reported collecting an average of $79.09 in air fares per flight per person in the first three months of the year, up 3.2% from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the airline collected an average of $54.75 per person per flight from other charges such as passenger fees, an increase of 5.9%.

“The growth in non-ticket revenue per [passenger flight segment] during the first quarter 2013 was primarily driven by the introduction of advance purchase restrictions on bags as well as other various changes in our pricing structure for optional services,” the airline said.

(c)2013 the Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Tags: customer service, fees, spirit airlines

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