August 27, 2007

SPIRIT Airlines; spiriting away your money.

There have been lots of stories about Spirits' flagging ability to deliver product (timely flights at a good price), but I'm commenting based on THIS story, in the Orlando Sentinel. (SOTP has also been covering this issue).

I've flown Spirit; the last time flying out of Fort Lauderdale to Atlantic City, it was a nightmare of mis-management and general incompetence. First, the lines were backed up all over the terminal. I was sent from one line, to another, and to another. Having arrived at the terminal 2 and 1/2 hours early, I barely made my flight; simply because it took THAT long to get to the check-in counter. Never mind the security line - which took up what space the check-lines for Spirit weren't taking.

From there, I was lucky; I got on the plane, I had my seat, we took off on time.

But given that experience, on top of the current news stories, I'd be an idiot to fly Spirit.

The defense Spirit is offering simply doesn't hold up under scrutiny. They claim the delays are caused by the weather. And once in a while, the weather cooperates by actually being bad enough to affect airline traffic.

But the truth is that the weather has very little to do with Spirit's problems.

Spirit follows the industry practice of over-booking its flights; knowing they only have 150 seats, they sell 200, figuring that maybe 25 people with seats won't show, and 30 people on standby won't show either.

Which is fine up until everyone shows up. And with low fares to popular destinations, EVERYONE shows up.

And even this would be excusable it it only happened once or twice a month.

Now factor in the number of flights, and the available flight crews; crews have a strict limit to the time they fly in the air, set by the FAA. Once they reach that limit, they can't work any more hours until they've had a mandatory downtime to rest and refresh themselves. Knowing the crew's schedule, and knowing that flights can be delayed, Spirit still schedules their crews with no margin of error. And that leads to crews having to leave planes, and all the delays we read about.

Spirit doesn't argue this point about over-booking. They absolutely admit that their low prices and high volume of sales have caused problems. They admit that the throngs of people jamming into Fort Lauderdale International Airport push the limits of what's available.

They do what other airlines do; they offer seats on later flights, or new tickets on a later date, and other bonuses to make up for the delays. And that would be fine, again, if this were not a daily occurrence.

Spirit claims that the driving reason people fly Spirit is COST. And that's not true. That's certainly a PART of the equation, but the OTHER part is delivery of the service. And part of the service is "timeliness." People go to Spirit because Spirit promises to get them from point A to point B in a timely manner for a low fare.

They've got the low fare down; it's the timely delivery of service that they are lying about.

They know that they've over-booked all the flights.

They know that they have over-booked the flight crews.

They know that on any given day, a certain percentage of their flights are not going to lift on time, and that a certain percentage will have to be canceled outright due to lack of flight crews.

Spirit may well be deceiving the ticket buyer when they enter into the contract with passengers at the outset: after all, Spirit is promising them a product that the airline knows it may not deliver, for reasons due solely to factors under control of the Airline.

Sure, if it was ONLY the weather, that's an act of Nature. Spirit can't control or predict that. But they know how many seats they have, and how many flights, and how long those flights take, and how many hours their pilots can fly. Spirit DOES control ALL of those factors.

And yet, they blithely accept money from passengers, and smugly deride the passengers for their anger. It borders on fraud.

Spirit CEO's Ben Baldanza's comments are chilling:
"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."
Well, Ben, he did just that; he's told the world. And contrary to your cynicism, some of us recognize that this is YOUR hypocrisy, not the passengers.

The Boswells trusted you, and you failed to deliver the product you promised.

Cheap tickets are great - but only if you actually get to your destination. And Spirit can't seem to live up to that commitment, and doesn't seem willing to correct their errors. A free ticket on an airline that can't get you to your meeting on time isn't worth anything. You failed to deliver the first time, so you'll give them a chance to miss their appointment again?

Geez, Ben, you must be a complete moron.

But you demonstrated that when you clicked "reply all."

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