Spirit Airlines CEO: We Are The Best In Striving For The Worst Service

baldanzaWe have been discussing the use of fees for every possible thing on airlines to generate billions for airlines while eliminating every possible comfort for passengers. Now the ranking of most popular and least popular airlines has been released. I was most struck by the reaction of Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza in learning that his company is widely viewed as a disgrace.

There is no mystery to achieving a higher ranking, it is just something that airlines are not willing to do anymore: lower fees, more legroom, and civil staff.

The winner again is Virgin America which offers seat comfort and better in-flight entertainment. Southwest and JetBlue scored high as well due to their lower use of added fees.

220px-Spirit_Airlines_N587NKThen came Spirit airlines at the very bottom of satisfaction as little more than a flying cattle car for humans. Most CEOs would be embarrassed and pledge changes. Not Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza who went on CBS’ “This Morning” make sure that passengers understand that he will not improve a thing on his lowest ranked airline. Instead, he indicated that his ideal is not his top ranked competitors but McDonald’s in offering a demonstrably cheap, low-quality product. (One can easily imagine how happy McDonalds executives are with the analogy): “No one goes into McDonald’s and is surprised they don’t see filet mignon on the menu. When they come to Spirit, they know what they’re getting. They know they’ll get a lower total price than they’ll get anywhere else.” In other words, we strive to produce a barely endurable flight along the model of an barely edible meal.

One can understand why there is a Facebook site that states “Facebook facilitated the fall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak … now we must force Ben Baldanza out …” Well, sure, but Mubarak insisted that he was trying to actually improve conditions in Egypt.

Source: Consumerist

22 thoughts on “Spirit Airlines CEO: We Are The Best In Striving For The Worst Service”

  1. Spirit Airlines Survey Letter

    The plane was 2+ hours leaving DFW to DTW last Wednesday, this was not the only late flight, 6 other Spirit flights where late (Adjacent gates at DFW), WEATHER was not a factor, a different excuse for each late plane, (It seems like bird strike is a common excuse you use) the seats are too close together, the pocket in front of my seat was stuck sprung open, my knees were jammed the whole flight against the stuck pocket. the flight was over 2 hours late arriving to DTW, the rental car I booked thru spirit airlines (And paid in full for the car rental except taxes) was not available due to the late flight and Dollar rental car not being open past 1 am, I had to book and pay for another rental car. (From a rental car company that is open 24 hours)

    I have called Spirit airlines 7 times trying to have this resolved, no answer ever, left 3 messages, no call back, the last time I called the mailbox was full after waiting for 10 minutes.

    The return flight from DTW to DFW was over 2 hours late, other Spirit fights where over 2 hours late leaving from DTW, (Next gates) we waited on the tarmac and at the gate for approx 45 minutes before deplaning, screaming children and a man next to me chanting “Harri Chrisna” the whole flight back. Also the seat would not recline


    A F***ing Car – Planes, Trains & Automobiles

  2. Spirit airlines has the worst customer service. The employees have a terrible attitude. After our most recent experience with them, there is no way that I would ever fly that airline again. The so-called $1000 we thought we’d save for our family 5, turned out to be of no savings at all after the airline screwed up our flight, made us miss our connecting flight (completely their fault, not ours), wouldn’t pay for an overnight hotel room, could not book us onto a return flight to our destination for another three days for a flight they make routinely, and then were all full of attitude on top of that. Everyone from the flight attendants to the people working at the gate, were terrible. We had to take a flight to another airport and then rent a car and drive 5 hours just so that we could get home. Oh, did I mention that one of the pilots for our return flight decided he had to use the restroom and so hung out with the flight attendant up front for a good 10 minutes flirting with her vs. just using the restroom and getting back into the cockpit to — oh, I don’t know — do his job and fly the plane? Ridiculous.

    While every company has cutbacks, the Spirit Airlines has made cuts to everything possible, so that they can make more money to line the pockets of their CEO’s and high ranking executives. Honestly – even if you are a stock holder of a publicly traded airline, how much has your stock gone up? Not much. But those Execs are making plenty in salary and bonuses. I will add here that this doesn’t apply only to the Airlines.

    While I can understand their cuts and fees for some things, I would rather fly an airline that offers GOOD OLD FASHIONED CUSTOMER SERVICE and pay the extra money vs. flying Spirit airlines to be charged for any little thing (I mean REALLY — WATER is not even free on their flight which is such BS).

    The second biggest reason I would fly another airline is because SPIRIT has NO RECIPROCAL AGREEMENTS with other airlines. So bottom line, if you are going to pay the cheap price for the cheap seats, be prepared for delays, cancellations, total screw-ups on their end, adding additional time to your travel, extra money in baggage fees (if you don’t pay attention ahead of time), bad customer service, uncomfortable seats, not that much legroom, oh – and did I mention that they no longer have a toll-free # to call for customer service? So expect a fee for that too (if you don’t have national long-distance in your phone plan) so if you want to complain – you’ll be paying for the privilege to make the complaint (which will fall on deaf ears). They are about to the point where it will soon be “bring your own toilet paper if you think you may need to use the restroom” or charging us in order to use the restroom on the plane.

    As long as people continue to reward companies like Spirit airlines by purchasing their flights so they don’t lose market share, they’ll be in business. Unfortunately, people want lower prices, and still have their high expectations. It’s wanting the Cadillac for the Chevy price, and ‘you get what you pay for’ definitely applies.

  3. I just finished my very first flight with them. I have to agree – everything is great until something goes wrong! Then there is no one – and I mean no one – that is willing to help you! There is absolutely no customer service – it’s almost laughable (except that I have horribly damaged luggage that I now have to replace). I strongly advise anyone I can find to spend the couple of extra dollars and stay far away for Spirit! Worst airlines ever. Hands down.

  4. The problem isn’t the cheapness. It is the lack of service, the lack of communication, the lack of business ethics…I would gladly pay A LOT more to avoid dealing with Spirit Airlines. It is a horrifically run company.

  5. I flew Spirit Airlines once round trip. Due to their baggage fees it ended up costing more than a real airline. The flights were all red eyes, but again with the cost of their baggage add-ons we could have had a real flight time more cheaply. The entire experience was horrendous. I felt silly for getting taken like that. I have made it past of my purpose in life to tell everyone I know what a ripoff their “cheap” fares are.

  6. Midwest Airlines used to offer “the best care in the air,” with deluxe coach seating with 21 inch wide seats, lots of legroom, and exemplary meals including Champagne Brunch flights. Their fares were somewhat — though not a lot — more than other carriers. We thought they were wonderful, for the cities they served.

    Midwest Airlines went out of business in 2010.

    On the other hand, I have heard that RyanAir in Europe wants to offer flights where people **stand** without seats, to cram more in. No doubt that would be a success, presuming a low fare.

    Evidently, the overwhelming majority of travelers prefer to be uncomfortable sardines. So no doubt Spirit Air will be a success with its “worst care in the air” philosophy.

    Since 2010, we drive everywhere or we don’t go.

  7. Randy:

    Sounds like SW airlines has its act together as far as employee relations goes. I’ve noticed that when companies treat their employees well, and has leadership and managers who personally treat their employees like human beings and show genuine care for them and display respectability, strength, and devotion to the company, employees will put up with a lot of BS that customers, events, or working stresses will come about from time to time. They will strive to make things work out right.

    But as soon as a company starts alienating its employees, and treating them unfairly or badly, the employees will complain about everything and the labor / management problem floodgates open wide.

    There really is a fundamental difference between when an employee says “He’s the CEO” and “He’s our CEO”.

  8. Nick:

    You are right in that many large corporations tend to have talking heads for employees and it can be difficult to deal with them: all mouth and no hands.

    I had a meeting with the owner of another store out of town earlier today. He fired that distributor as well, essentially the same problems just different manifestations.

    I agree it won’t affect my business too much in doing what I did. In fact, when my customers asked why the pop was being closed out I just told them what happened with the distrubutor and every one of them supported my decision. Plus, I’m bringing in another product line that they will like more.

  9. Southwest Airlines is by far the best airline that I have traveled on. I have been on many not only in North America and the Caribbean but in Europe, Asia, India, Japan, the Islands. I am hearing from commentors that it is the “most” unionized. That may be, but somehow they have instilled in their employees the notion that the customer is important. I have never been on Spirit of Saint Louis.

    1. The way Southwest does it is that they tell the employees to get the job done no matter what it takes and to do the decent thing. The unions go along with this and management has to work the line service or other jobs on a monthly basis to see how the others work and their problems. They also say that the employee is always right in any conflict with customers since they know that the employees will go out of their way to help and any beef is BS for the most part.

      When I was flying out of CMH, I was following Southwest flight attendants contract negotiations, and they were not going well and they had voted to strike if needed. Heb Kellerher heard about that, and as Chairman of the board, FIRED the Persident. I heard about that when I was passing through the terminal and saw some Southwest FAs. I told them what Herb had done and that they would probably get a new good contract in short order. Their response was, OH Herbie! What will we do when he is gone? That is how one gets employees to really bust their very cute asses.

  10. I recommend the book NUTS about Southwest Airlines since it shows how to run almost any business. Southwest is also the MOST unionized airline flying. The key is that the company has the policy that its employees are always right, not the customers. They also make the employees stockholders and give them a real voice in their jobs.

    Spirit Airlines treats their employees the same way they treat their customers. In fact, they tried that with the pilots, and got a short strike for their trouble. They were so bad, the managment pilots went out on strike with the line pilots too.

  11. Darren, Being a small businessman you know large corporation bureaucrats can be almost as bad as govt. bureaucrats. I bet this has no effect on your business.

  12. Speaking of trombone players, just for the heck of it, here’s a great video of some of the greatest jazz horn players of all time on the Steve Allen Show with Henry Mancini leading his group in one of the greatest TV themes of all time, “Peter Gunn.” The lineup here is simply amazing: Plas Johnson, Jerome Richardson, Carl Fontana (trombone), Conti Candoli, and Pete Candoli. All of the principles here are sadly no longer with us, except Plas, who played the famous sax lead in Mancini’s classic “The Pink Panther” theme.

  13. Here’s a relevant quotation from Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza: “At one point, I wanted to be a professional trombone player. Then I realized if I wanted to be a successful trombone player I’d have to be like one of the ten best in the world, and if I wanted to be a successful businessman I just had to be good.”

    So Baldanza is just happy to position Spirit Airlines as the “top of the line” of the “bottom of the barrel.”

    The business comparison in which a salesman says “You don’t go to McDonald’s for steak” is an old and common one. And if you don’t want the McDonald’s of airlines, you don’t fly Spirit. It’s as simple as that.

    As for myself, I prefer Southwest. I think management there does a very good job of balancing services with costs, and they don’t squeeze-in all those extra costs the way other airlines do. Staff at Southwest are uniformly friendly and helpful.

  14. We have been discussing the use of fees for every possible thing on airlines to generate billions for airlines

    Actually make that:
    We have been discussing the use of fees for every possible thing on airlines to generatem profit for airlines.

    US airlines moved closer to the razor’s edge during 2012 after collectively recording a profit margin of 0.1%.

    The 10 US passenger airlines to have reported 2012 results earned a collective net profit of $152 million for the year, according to Airlines for America (A4A).

    When you demand to travel from Seattle to the Keys for $12.95 you have to sacrifice something. When oil is $100/barrel (and quite higher previously), when employees are extremely ultra very well paid in cash and benefits, you can’t have low prices and a comfortable enjoyable environment.

    You can have 2 out of 3. Low prices, comfort/enjoyment, high wages. You can’t have all 3.

  15. Arrogance.

    Some companies lose completely their sense of good business. My store sells pop in addition to our normal product (booze). One of the pop distributors just committed suicide with our business relationship. Late last year, they demanded 75% of the shelf space devoted to non-alcoholic products or else they would raise their wholesale cost to us significantly. (and they only made up 30% of our non-alcoholic sales) The arrogance!

    I refused to give them any more space, telling them it didn’t matter to me if they lost market share to their competitors, my markup would remain the same, they would lose sales if they increased prices. So in January they raised the wholesale price, and the cost to the customers went up. Their sales dropped 50%.

    And if that wasn’t enough two weeks ago we had some orange juices and such that went past pull date. Everyone in the industry will take back their expired product and replace it with new ones; not this distributor apparently. My managers called up the distributor three times telling them to take back the expired drinks. Which they claimed they never do but we have customers who work for large retailers who say the distributor accepts returns from big box stores regularly.

    So it came to a head yesterday when their rep called to take our week’s orders. I took the call and told her it was “imperative for them” that they take back the expired stock; which amounted to about $45 cost. I got the run-around as usual and they did not call me back as they promised.

    So when 5:00 ran around with no call I lowered the price of all their products to rock bottom closeout prices and told my employees I would be a happy man if not one of this distributor’s products was on my shelf by Sunday. Because Monday I am calling the distributor and telling them to come and remove their display refrigerators because our relationship is over. Even if my store is in business for 50 years it will never sell a product from that distributor again. Once someone has lost my business, they never get it back.

    So these guys lost thousands of dollars in sales as a result of their arrogance and $45. Hope it was worth it to them.

  16. We all know there are charges for checked bags. But Spirit will even charge $100 round trip for a CARRY-ON bag if it it doesn’t meet their exceptionally small size requirement. (Think purse/laptop OK, but roller bag NOT OK)

    I once flew with my wife via Spirit with bags we always use with other airlines as carry-on but were informed it would cost us $200 to carry-on those two bags.

    We called customer service to complain and were put on hold for 1 hour. Once the person answered he said he had no control over fees and offered to transfer us to his supervisor, who again left us on hold for 45 minutes until we hung up out of desperation.

    I promised myself to do all I could to advocate against Spirit and to never give them another dime of my money!

  17. I flew Spirit last week and asked for a drink of water.I was served by a very nice flight attendant who returned moments later to collect $3.50.She appeared embarrassed.

  18. McDonalds may have service…. But we’ll get you there faster……

    Heard that one of the add on fees is baggage….. If you check online it’s 25$ but if you gate check it…. Grab your A$$ as it $100…,.

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