Spirit Airlines, an industry leader in pissing off its customers, has now pissed off the federal government. The Department of Transportation has fined the company $215,000 and will add another $160,000 if it breaks its agreement to straighten up and fly right, the Associated Press reports.
The DOT says Spirit broke rules about disclosing fees in ads and about bumping passengers from overbooked flights. The airline also told passengers it was following federal regulations when it wasn’t, the DOT says. (I always love that one. The gummint made me do it.)
Spirit admits no wrong, exactly. “We have addressed all the core issues that caused customer experience challenges a few years ago,” the company said in a press release.
Customer experience challenges? Is that what we call complaints nowadays? If so, Spirit is an extraordinarily challenged airline.
As USA Today reported in June:
Spirit carried 6.8 million passengers last year, and the Transportation Department received 792 complaints. That’s more than triple the number of complaints against low-fare airline Southwest, which carried 102 million passengers.
This means that for every 8,500 passengers Spirit carried, one filed a formal complaint with the government. Compare that to one in 400,000, more or less, for Southwest.
Of course this doesn’t represent all the people who get off a flight feeling angry and abused. It only counts those who complain to the government about it.
If you read that USA Today story, or really any coverage of Spirit, you realize the company just simply does not care. Disappointing some customers — a whole lot more than most airlines do — is part of the business plan, which also includes low fares, gimmicky sales and tacky slogans.
I guess that’s why it’s called an ultra-no-frills airline. You just have to ask yourself — is that the kind of airline you want to fly on?