As I went out for my after-lunch walk to the post office, the ABC Radio News update at the top of the hour informed me that Spirit Airlines, usually my airline of choice, was going to start charging a fee for carry-on bags.
CNN’s headline on the story reads as such: “Spirit Air to experiment with carry-on bag fees.” That’s okay, because from now on, I’ll be experimenting with other airlines. Spirit has cut their last corner, and I am done. DONE!
My family and I started flying on Spirit in the late ’90s when I first moved to Florida. They had a lot of cheap and easy flights between Detroit and Orlando (and later, Fort Myers) that were more affordable than similar flights on the major airlines, like Northwest or Delta. They also had far better service — Northwest, in particular, had become infamous back then for being one of the worst airlines in the country. Ten years, however, is a long time, and Spirit has officially worn out their welcome with me.
Spirit’s new fleet of aircraft is filled with cramped, uncomfortable and poorly-designed Airbus A319s, where the seats are anything but ergonomic and the legroom is appropriate only for a midget. Like most of the other airlines, they charge for everything — checked bags, a morsel of food, water, just about everything but the toilet (and I’m sure that’s coming) — and they’ve recently started “experimenting” with plastering advertisements all over the inside of their planes. Crass doesn’t even begin to cover it.
And now comes the fee for carry-on bags. If you’re a member of Spirit’s $45/year “$9 Fare Club,” you can carry a bag on for the low-low price of $20. If you’re just a regular shmoe, you can pay $30 when you reserve a carry-on bag online when you buy your ticket. And if you bring a non-prepaid carry-on to the airport, you’ll be paying $45 at the gate. I should note, in fairness, that these fees only apply to bags that go in the overhead compartment, and that anything you shove beneath the seat in front of you is still free. (For now!)
I don’t much care, though. I’m done. I’ve had it. I’ve paid Spirit my last “this fee” and “that fee.” I also understand that most (if not all) of the other airlines are charging similar fees, but this carry-on bag fee is the last straw. I’m fucking serious. Let me guess, I should check my laptop computer? I’m sure it’ll come out undamaged. Or maybe I should take it and stuff it under the seat in front of me, so that my feet have absolutely nowhere to go because Spirit’s fleet is a bunch of fucking A319s. I refuse to have a continually more uncomfortable and more unpleasant flying experience because I refuse to give in like a good consumer sheep and pay Spirit their ransom money every time I feel the apparently unconscionable need to take something with me on a trip.
Listen, I know part of the reason they do this is because they offer such low fares in the first place. You’re not always guaranteed to get them, but at times — especially if you’re one of these $9 Fare Club members, which is yet another thing you must pay for — you can get some really low fares with Spirit. Question, though: How low are they, really, when there’s a hidden charge waiting for you around every corner? When there’s a tree of varying fees that differ depending on whether you pre-pay this, whether you’re a member of that, yada yada? There’s a movement afoot in corporate America to break up the actual cost of a product or service into a whole bunch of pseudo-hidden, difficult-to-pin-down fees that show up “below the line,” making it impossible not only to compare the cost of service between two companies, but also to even discern what your final cost is before you buy. It’s fucking maddening.
Spirit takes this ricockulous game to new heights with their carry-on bag fee. Not only does it appear below the line, but it could be any of three different values depending on circumstances. I may be unique in this mindset, but I would rather pay more for my fare and know that’s the last fucking fee I’m going to pay. Besides, if I know that I’m going to receive good top-to-bottom service in return for the fare I pay, I will feel better about paying more for it. Has this become a foreign concept in America? I guess it has, judging by all the people who flock to their local Wal-Mart, the retail king of the “race to the bottom” paradigm of life.
In their attempt to bolster the false affordability of their airfares by adding more below-the-line fees, Spirit has permanently removed me from their customer base. I have just canceled my $9 Fare Club membership and will not purchase tickets from them ever again. I would also send Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza a scathing letter, but judging from his past remarks about a customer complaint, I doubt he would give a shit:
“…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.”
Ben Baldanza, Spirit Airlines CEO, from an internal company email
And you know what? Ben is probably right. People need to wake up and realize that they can bitch all day about the way companies treat them, but if they don’t take their business somewhere else, the company isn’t going to care what you think. Why should they? What they care about is your dollar, and until you take that away, there’s no reason for you to even register on their give-a-shit meter.
Today, Mr. Baldanza was quoted as saying that having fewer carry-on bags will help empty the plane faster. In a sad sort of way, that might actually be important — because when you fly Spirit, you’ll be clamoring to get the hell off the plane and end your experience with them as fast as possible.