Sunday 15 December 2019

America's "most hated" airline reveals what you most hate about it

Spirit Airlines, which charges passengers up to $100 for a carry-on bag, has received more that 28,000 rants from angry travellers.

A Spirit Airlines Airbus A320 approaches its operating base at Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida.
A Spirit Airlines Airbus A320 approaches its operating base at Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida.

Oliver Smith

It’s been described as the most hated airline in America, with extra charges that would make even Michael O’Leary blanche.

But, while Ryanair has been attempting to transform its image from no-frills machine to caring family-friendly carrier, Florida-based Spirit Airlines has been embracing its questionable reputation with the launch earlier this year of a “State of the Hate” report.

Travellers were asked to reveal what it is they hate about flying with Spirit – and other airlines – with 8,000 frequent-fliers miles offered as an incentive for the feedback.

 “Unleash the hate,” it demanded. Now the results are in.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, considering Spirit charges its passengers up to $100/€80 to travel with a carry-on bag, it was the target of 40pc of the 28,205 rants, while fees was among the five “most hated” aspects of flying.

Other airlines to garner the attention of irate fliers were Delta (12pc), United (10pc), American (8pc) and Southwest (7pc). Delays, services, lost bags and seats were the other aspects of flying that attracted the most complaints.

The word “suck”, meanwhile, was used by 914 respondents, while “a***” came up 370 times, “crap” 201 times, the “S-word” 113 times and the “F-bomb” 75 times.

"I think if any organisation asks for feedback, you would expect the vast majority of responses would be directed at the company that seeks it," said Ben Baldanza, Spirit's president and CEO.

"But in this case, we were surprised that most consumers chose to share their frustrations about other airlines."

Recent research revealed that Spirit Airlines is more reliant on extras than any other airline in the world. Ancillary sources account for 38.4pc of its total revenue.

Spirit’s "optional" charges include a $26 fee for carry-on bags (this increases to $36 if added to the booking during online check-in, or $100 at the airport gate); $21 to check in a bag (rising to $31-$100); and between $5-$12 for seat selection.

It also adds a "passenger usage fee" of $8.99 to $16.99 to all bookings made online.

How do Spirit's fees compare with Ryanair?

1. Spirit

  • Carry-on bag – from $26/€20.77 (online) to $100/€80 (at gate)
  • Checked bag – from $21/€16.77 (online) to $100/€80 (at the gate)
  • Seat selection – from $1/80c to $50/€40 for regular seats or $12/€9.59 to $199/€159 for extra legroom
  • Infant fee – free
  • Boarding pass reissue - $10/€8
  • Booking fee - $8.99-$16.99/€7.18-€8.55
  • Name change fee - $120/€95.87

2. Ryanair

  • Carry-on bag – no charge
  • Checked bag – from €15 to €45, depending on bag/dates
  • Seat selection – €5 for regular seats, €10 for premium
  • Infant fee – €20
  • Boarding pass reissue - €15
  • Booking fee – none (2% charge for credit card use)
  • Name change fee - €110 (unless spotted within 24 hours of booking)

NB: Rates and currency conversions correct today, but subject to change.

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