Spirit’s reputation sucks. Here’s why it’s successful anyway

Spirit’s brand takes a beating, but do customers just care about cash?


January 27, 2020

Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Everybody has a story about an airplane flight from hell. But for some reason, the internet’s true tales of flying Spirit Airlines are usually the weirdest. Consider:

  • The bat that was flying around in the cabin. 
  • The pet hamster that was flushed down an airport toilet. 
  • The mysterious stench that forced the plane to land.

These are just a few reasons why the budget-conscious carrier is such a popular punching bag. 

A recent analysis of major airlines’ positive and negative Twitter mentions found that 69% of tweets about Spirit were negative — a higher share than any other major carrier.

But the company keeps making money. How?

The short answer: It’s all about unbundling. Travelers complain about Spirit’s nickel-and-dime pricing. But as Rob Walker writes for Medium, the company’s innovative approach may have been ahead of its time:

  • Spirit’s no-frills fares put pressure on its competitors. Those “basic economy” tickets you see everywhere else? Thank Spirit for them.
  • It succeeds because it has a clear value proposition. “Spirit has delivered on what it actually promises,” Walker writes: cheap flights. For many customers, the price tag is all that matters.

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