Spirit Airlines CEO stuffs himself in an overhead bin to justify paid carry-on fees

Spirit Airlines president and CEO, Ben Baldanza took some time out of his busy schedule to try and calm the masses about their upcoming paid carry-on baggage fees.

In his video clip, he claims passengers are annoyed by full overhead bins, and long lines to board the plane. He tells people that Spirit has lowered ticket prices, and lowered checked bag fees. In his logic, by introducing these new carry-on bag fees, the entire experience of flying Spirit Airlines will improve.

Now, lets take a look at his logic – too many people bring too much stuff on the plane. They crowd the overhead bins, and they create long lines for boarding. Why do people bring stuff on the plane? Because Spirit Airlines is one of a long list of airlines that charges for checked luggage ($25 for the first two bags when paid at the airport).

So, instead of removing that fee, and making the experience nicer for everyone, the airline earned itself the ridicule of the airline world by introducing the carry-on bag fee.

And seriously, even though the CEO thought he could be cool by trying to spin this with a funny video, the fact remains that the move to paid carry-on bags will probably cause the airline more than they’ll ever make off their new scheme.
Assuming Mr. Baldanza reads Gadling, I’ll explain why his scheme sucks from the perspective of a traveler:

  • People carry bags on board because they don’t want to pay the checked bag fee – they also want to prevent the airline from losing their bag, setting it on fire or having someone steal the contents.
  • Telling people that their carry-on bag fee is offset by really low price of their ticket doesn’t make the situation any better – people have a built in distrust of anything an airline tells them. A family of three may be forced to pay for three carry-on bags (each way). I suspect Spirit Airlines won’t be able to show that these tickets will be $270 cheaper when the carry-on fee is introduced.
  • People will vote with their wallets – there are still airlines out there that don’t charge for checked bags, and as of right now, Spirit is the only one with a carry-on bag fee.

In a Reuters interview, Ben Baldanza sated the following:

Sprit has reduced fares “by at least as much, or even more than the amount of the carry-on fee”, says Baldanza. “Southwest makes you pay for checked bags even if you don’t check bags, since they have to cover those costs but give you no break if you don’t use the infrastructure. At Spirit, you spend only for what you use and don’t pay for what you don’t use.”

We did an entirely non scientific test to check that. On a Boston Detroit-Tampa ticket, we found the following cheapest prices:

Spirit Airlines: $195.40 total

Southwest Airlines: $220.80

Both flights are priced after the new carry-on fee goes into effect. As you can see – Spirit really is cheaper (by just over $25). This means that a passenger on Southwest Airlines will pay more than on Spirit Airlines.

Assuming of course that the passenger on Spirit is able to pack a weeks worth of luggage into a bag that will fit under their seat.

In reality, nobody is able to do that (unless they ship their bags), so a family of three will end up saving $76.20 on the ticket, but will have to pay a minimum of $90 for three carry-on bags (if they pre-pay online, $135 if paid at the airport).

Goodbye savings.

To me, the fact that the CEO of the airline had to resort to filming a stupid video means the PR backlash from this idea has hit them a little harder than they expected. At least Ben Baldanza is no stranger to bad PR (though he is no Michael O’Leary).

In the end, I’m sure the new measure will take place no matter how much we complain, though I doubt it’ll create the “soaring sales” claimed by Mr. Baldanza, as I really can’t think of a single kind of traveler that saw the new fee and thought “hey, that is really smart – let me start flying this low cost carrier with all the fees”.

What is your opinion? Do you think the idea is smart? Or more importantly – why do you think it is smart (or not)?


UPDATE: See the results of the poll here. A surprising number of folks actually like the new fee.