If everyone hates Spirit Airlines, how is it making so much money?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/01/24/if-everyone-hates-spirit-airli.html

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It turns out there’s plenty of people who are 5’7" or under.

The evaluation is very true, though. They let you know EXACTLY what you are getting. Disregard the warnings/etc at your peril. Spirit is the only airline that I’ve ever actually gotten to plan out EVERYTHING I’ll do to save/spend on the flight (including in-flight stuff). Getting a muffin, fruit, and juice on the plane was cheaper than anything in the airport would have been, and the $50 upgrade to “first class” (i.e. a downgraded version of any other airlines’ first class seat with no amenities, but at least it’s sittable for somebody who is 5’10") was absolutely worth it.

However, if I’d assumed that I’d take a carry-on for free (day-of carry-ons cost more than advanced purchase checked bags, which makes sense), and not brought a boarding pass with me (printing a boarding pass has a fee), I’d have been out more than enough to make up the difference to get a normal airline ticket.


Everyone shops price. Not only that but we love to complain. Low price and we can complain about how terrible it was. A perfect business plan.


The private prison industry is also quite profitable. Does that mean they are loved?

I hate it how market capitalism has replaced democracy without anyone seeming to notice.


A “Bare Fare”? Flying naked would save a lot of weight.

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What does democracy have to do with buying an airline ticket? And how is ‘you get exactly what you pay for’ not democratic?

If my personal experience is any indication, it’s because they charge people for a ticket then don’t let them board the plane.

After making my way through their (possibly intentionally) confusing line for the checkin kiosks, I was refused a boarding pass because it was too close to take off (43 min, security line was verified to be 5 min long). They pocketed $260 and gave my seat to someone else.


That sucks, and it must have been totally infuriating. But overbooking flights and then refusing to honor some of the tickets they sold is common practice among major airlines. It’s the thing about air travel that seems the most like it should be illegal.

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At 6’8" I’m happy if any airline sells me a seat I can sit in for less than a 25% markup. :frowning_face:


I flew once and found their business model to be an awful dishonest bait and switch. I went in expecting the fare to be the cost, only to find a constant string of rediculous add-ons (I think it was $10 to print a boarding pass). Their customer service was astoundingly atrocious. I’ve been going on the assumption that most of their money comes from other first time customers who then realize the hell-scape of Spirit never to return. But maybe thats just me

The people who deregulated the airlines back in '78 apparently agreed with you.

The evidence showing this to have been a bad idea… It’s out there, for people who think it matters.

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In my case it was largely exacerbated by Spirit’s bag check policy and drastic cost-cutting measures at the ticket counter.

I’m surprised they don’t have an app with a scannable barcode to replace the printable boarding pass. Seems an obvious money saver, and just as safe as a piece of paper anyone could print.

Your complaint is they did exactly what they said on the box?
If you need to fly somewhere and it needs to be as cheap as possible, you simply forgo the extras they offer and no one will fly you cheaper.
Looks like you can print your boarding pass at home.
Customer service for budget airlines seems like it’s always bad, which makes sense to me - those guys spend all day being abused by people that made assumptions about what they’d purchased and now want to take it out in someone who has no power to do anything about it.


I’ve got the spirit. Don’t lose the feeling.

The $10 fee isn’t for printing a boarding pass. It’s for checking in at the airport without first checking in online. You can check in online and then print your boarding pass for free when you get to the airport.

I avoided Spirit like the plague for years until one time a few years ago they had a flight at exactly the time I wanted to go for significantly cheaper than anyone else, and I decided to give it a try. I’ve since flown them several more times and while it’s definitely a different experience than the other US airlines (and I’ve logged a LOT of miles on Delta, United, American, Southwest and JetBlue).

I no longer avoid Spirit.

The key to Spirit is knowing their rules and fees and planning accordingly. You need to pay for your bags before you get to the airport (ideally when you first book your ticket, because a carryon, for example, costs $35 each way at ticket purchase, $45 until checkin, or $65 at the airport). You need to check in online to avoid that $10 fee. You need to make sure that your “personal item” isn’t too big. And at least IME you actually DON’T need to pay for seat assignments because almost everybody who flies Spirit is too cheap to pay for seat assignments, so the random seat assignments you get without paying are usually fine (I usually fly with my 3 kids, and we’ve all been seated together every time but once, when we were seated in two groups a couple rows from each other, which was fine).

Which brings us to the real beauty of Spirit: their passengers aren’t self-entitled jerks.

Other airlines are so focused on throwing crumbs to their frequent fliers (and the frequent fliers are so focused on gobbling up as many of those tiny crumbs as they can), that the whole experience is focused on recognizing status and pitting passengers against each other. Passengers fight over overhead bin space. The “high status” fliers rush to board first and sit in the front of the plane, forcing everyone else to climb over them during boarding. Etc.

Spirit’s passengers are almost all focused on one thing and one thing only: the cheapest flight. The passengers are way more diverse (I’ve actually never been on a Spirit flight that was majority white, while I’ve never been on a domestic US flight on ANY other airline that WASN’T majority white). Checked bags are cheaper than carryons so there’s NEVER a fight over overhead space. While some of the passengers are miffed about unexpected fees because they didn’t read the rules ahead of time, any anger is directed purely at the airline. On other airlines I frequently get the sense that passengers are angry at (or resentful toward) each other. Spirit passengers are just happy to get where they’re going.

Also, I’m 6’1" and don’t find the lack of legroom on Spirit noticeably worse than the back of the plane on DAL/UAL/AAL (SWA is a little better and JBU is a LOT better). While the seat pitch (distance from the front of one seat to the front of the next seat, which is the main metric) is a little smaller, the seats themselves are a little thinner, so I find the actual legroom very similar. I also LIKE that you can’t recline on Spirit, as the person in front of me can’t invade my space. Although I might sing a different tune about the no-recline thing if I ever had an overnight or really long Spirit flight (my longest Spirit flight to date was 4.5 hours).

All of which is to say: It’s still not my first choice (I’d rather not have to make luggage decisions when booking my ticket), but if you’re willing to spend some time learning the rules and planning ahead, Spirit can be a perfectly acceptable (and money-saving) way to get where you’re going.



I am leaving on Spirit in about 4 hours. They make so much money because I don’t think they have any humans working there. It’s just a big website with a phone line that if you call it tells you to go to the web site.
Pray for me.


I’ve found the probability of arriving at the destination airport and having to wait 45 minutes for the plane to find a parking spot is much higher with Spirit and Frontier. It’s one of the most frustrating things in air travel.

This is the secret for comfort on Spirit - upgrade to the Big Front Seat. Your cost is going to be at or slightly higher than the big airlines economy seats, and if you are average size or larger, it’s so worth it.

I’m with the people in the article - I’d rather get bare-bones flight service than mediocre to poor service on an airline that claims amenities and doesn’t deliver them.

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