No doubt 'haters' will keep hating Spirit, but there was lots to love about Baldanza. We're a bit flummoxed by today's announcement, but that's aviation for you. Fornaro has big shoes to fill.
Now that Spirit’s enigmatic, charismatic, and anti-plutocratic CEO, Ben Baldanza, has left the Big Yellow Bus of the Skies, we thought we’d take time to recall some precious moments and notable quotables from the 10-year reign of this fuzzy-wuzzy iconoclast.
“We really like it because it sends a very powerful message that if you pay less you should get less and if you pay more you should get more.”
2.) When he had actors strip bare to help travellers compare fares.
“Price tends to be the winner when it comes to the majority of the flying public.”—Baldanza.
3.) When he answered the perpetual Spirit customer question: ‘Where’s the Beef?’ with this gem:
“No one gets surprised when you go into McDonald’s and don’t see filet mignon on the menu.”
4.) When he was asked about ‘haters’ by a Muppet-like anchorperson for the airline’s State of the Hate Report:
“If you do the math, 99.99 percent of Spirit’s customers did not complain. That means you’re more likely to be injured by a chain saw than complaining about Spirit. So we must be doing something right.”
5.) When people were all like “where are the perks?” and he was all like:
“We’re a very high-frills airline. We just charge incrementally for each of the frills.”
6.) And when people were all like, ’even prisoners in dungeons get bread and water’ and ‘Dude, health!’:
“You’re going to think I’m a jerk when I say the next thing, but if you have some sort of medical condition that requires you take a certain pill at 2 in the afternoon and you’re going to be on the plane at 2 in the afternoon, I think it’s going to be OK to expect that people are going to be responsible enough to make sure that they can take that pill.”
7.) When he kept his chill as employees poured copious quantities of ice water on him–for the greater good–under a scorching South Florida sun. (Ice Bucket Challenge.)
8.) When he waxed all ‘founding father’ on us to explain why Low-Cost air service really matters.
“Travel is a fundamental right, I think, in our country. So I think finding ways for people to travel more often and more affordably is really important, and it gives people more options in their life.”
9.) That time he served a geneous slice of real, to a flyer who needed to check his privilege. (Demanding $376.84 in damages on a $73.60 fare, because he missed a concert.)
“We owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”
“I think the U.S. air travel space, the North American air travel, space is better with a Spirit and a JetBlue and a Delta than if there were only one airline, run like any one of us.”
11,12..oh so many) That epic time Baldanza braved a Reddit AMA:
“There is no such thing as ‘free’ anything on an airline.”
“He’s run the fastest growing and most profitable airline in Europe for the last 20 years, so he’s clearly doing something right.”—Baldanza on O’Leary.
Q: “If you could kill a competitor with a silver bullet, which would it be?”
A: “We have no problem with competition. Silver bullets are for werewolves only.”
13-ish) Perhaps the most poignant, especially today:
Q: “How did you get to where you are in your career and what key choices did you make to lead you to where you are today?”
A: “Work hard and take some risks.”
Photo credit: Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza holds a plane model at his office in Miramar, Florida, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Cristobal Herrera / Sun Sentinel/MCT