As summer approaches, most of us are hoping for a summer getaway. Perhaps one of the most stressful aspects of travel is getting to your destination, and with airfare only increasing, cost is often a key factor in making travel decisions. For a penny-pinching traveler, Spirit Airlines is a frequent air carrier of choice, due to its prices that are considerably lower than its competitors. Spirit’s average base fare is around $79, as opposed to a competitor’s base fare, which would be well over $100.
So how is Spirit able to offer fares at such low prices? An important thing to bear in mind when considering Spirit Airlines is that their business model is drastically different than that of Delta, American Airlines, or Southwest Airlines. While those airlines are quality and customer-satisfaction driven, Spirit is driven strictly only by low prices. They have the ability to offer fares at such low prices since they cut out a lot of expenses that other airlines take on in order to offer their passengers a more comfortable and ritzy experience, such as in-flight movies, free refreshments, and ample amounts of space. On a Spirit flight, they have none of the mentioned extras, as well as a more compactly designed plane that is plastered with ads and leaves its customers cramped and crowded. Spirit flights serve one function, getting you from one place to another as cheaply as possible. Spirit has acknowledged the poor quality of their flight experiences, and after over 16,000 customer reviews their flights are rated the poorest quality in the country. However, this does not phase them in the slightest. Spokeswoman, Misty Pinson stated that to the typical Spirit customer, quality is not that huge of an issue, since price is the biggest priority for them. With that in mind, it is clear that Spirit goes after a very specific type of traveler, one who is incredibly price conscious and is willing to sacrifice comfort in order to travel as cheaply as possible. This business model has been working for Spirit. Over the past few years, sales have been steady, and have even increased by 23% in the past quarter. They have also seen an increase in the number of passengers per flight, averaging about an 85% occupancy in 2013 so far.
Though Spirit has been quite blase about their poor reviews, they still express some interest in breaking down the poor public misconceptions about their airline created through bad press. They make it very explicit that it is unhelpful to be grouped with airlines such as American Airlines or Delta, since their business model is completely different and they have a very different focus in terms of their target market.
Do you think Spirit Airline’s business model of sacrificing quality for price is a sustainable one? As a traveler, would you choose Spirit strictly based on price?