Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spirit Airlines Gets See-No-Evil Treatment from Wall Street Journal

Article On No-Frills Carriers Leaves Out Most Important Part of Story

Scott McCartney, who authors The Middle Seat travel column for the Wall Street Journal, is normally a reliable correspondent on trends in air travel.
Which is why it's puzzling as to why in today's column, which dealt with how budget airlines are trying to position themselves in the marketplace, he omitted one crucial incident that left the article frustratingly incomplete.
At least half of the column focuses on Spirit Airlines' effort to reinvent itself as the capo di capo tutti when it comes to cheap airlines.
It squeezes more seats than other carriers onto its Airbus A-319s. Want water or soda? Two bucks, please. Got two bags to check. It'll cost you $20. Spirit's even testing selling the types of items usually found in a minimart, like newspapers, playing cards and aspirin.
McCartney notes that air on the flights is offered for free, "Spirit sometimes jokes."
Har, har.
"Customers will shift airlines over $5 or $10 when buying a ticket, but once they buy, they are willing to spend." opines Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza.
This is the same Baldanza who caused a PR headache when an email intended for a manager was also sent to a couple who had complained about bad service and wanted a refund after they missed their connecting flight.

"Please respond, Pasquale, but 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."

Needless to say, this spread like wildfire in the blogosphere, where more Spirit horror stories emerged. And despite overwhelming evidence of rudeness and indifference on the part of Spirit employees, airline flackette Alison Russell was resolute, telling the Orlando Sentinel Baldanza had nothing to be sorry for.
Apparently, hubris costs extra at Spirit too.

At the very least, McCartney should have mentioned this imbroglio. As far as I can tell, Baldanza has never commented on it publicly, and McCartney should have tried to get him on the record, as it speaks directly to what really is the theme of his story -- that flying on cheap airlines can come at a price.

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