Spirit airlines to launch fee for simply buying a ticket
Tue Mar 3, 2009 4:42PM EST
Airlines have nickel-and-dimed their way through what feels like dozens of fees over the last few years. Fees for meals. Fees for water. Fuel surcharges. Fees for paper tickets. Fees for blankets and pillows. And of course a fee for each bag you'd like to take with you. Now comes the very pinnacle, the mother of all airline fees: An extra fee for buying a ticket.
You can thank Spirit Airlines, a cheapie outfit which seems to spend more time coming up with new fees it can levy than it does flying planes, for this one. The U.S. Department of Transportation, which has oversight over what airlines can and can't charge by way of add-on fees, has approved Spirit's introduction of a "passenger usage fee," which will be levied against all ticket buyers unless they are standing in person at a Spirit airport ticket counter. The Wall Street Journal has the sordid details. The fee -- up to $10 a ticket (though I've seen $4.90 quoted elsewhere) -- is ostensibly designed to "cover reservation-booking costs." But the real reason should be obvious to anyone who's flown recently: It gives Spirit a way to raise prices without having to tell you about it in advance.
That's because reservation systems don't disclose most fees when you're shopping for a flight, and very few customers delve into the fine print on the airline's website to find out that their $250 flight is really $320 (each way, natch) after all the fees are tallied.
Spirit hasn't announced when it will start charging the fee, but it's likely to be soon. The company tried launching a series of similar fees last year but the DOT put a stop to them, fining Spirit $40,000 as well. The DOT didn't have a problem, however, with Spirit's "seat assignment fee," wherein you pay $5 extra to reserve a middle seat and $12 for a window or an aisle. The Wall Street Journal piece linked above has an excruciating rundown of many of the other shady practices at Spirit, along with the frustration that many travelers are experiencing there.
My favorite line from the WSJ piece is that "rival airlines aren't expected to follow Spirit's boundary-stretching usage fee -- unless it proves to be a successful revenue generator [emphasis added]." Uh, no joke. Who here thinks any airline would choose not to add a fee that was proven to generate revenue, no matter how heinous it was and how much it annoyed passengers? That's what I thought... And lest you think we've hit bottom, I assure you it can get worse: The CEO of European airline Ryanair -- the fee-frenzied Irish counterpart of Spirit in many ways and Europe's biggest budget airline -- suggested last week that it was considering installing pay toilets, with "a coin slot on the bathroom door."
Imagine the surcharges on that one, folks. Spirit airlines to launch fee for simply buying a ticket : Christopher Null : Yahoo! Tech