Spirit Wages Website War Against New DOT Airfare Disclosure Regulations

Unlike some airlines, which jumped the gun on tomorrow’s deadline for showing all published or advertised airfare with mandatory taxes and fees included – per the Department of Transportation – Spirit continues its battle against the new regulation.

Read About Spirit’s ‘Political’ Ads

Spirit’s Politically-Loaded Language

In a strongly worded pop-up notice on its site that begins with the all-caps word, “WARNING” low-cost carrier Spirit uses what could be viewed as politically-loaded language citing what the airline calls the government’s “hidden agenda” to “quietly increase [the government’s] taxes.” The notice also claims more taxes are coming and adds rather ominously, “Yes, such talks are already underway.”

Spirit customers are then asked to join the campaign by contacting their congressional representatives (and the airline helpfully provides contact info for individual members of the U.S. Congress via – yes, a government website).

What the New DOT Rules Call For

The DOT regulation that goes into effect Jan. 26 requires that any published airfare – meaning, fares advertised by airlines, tickets agents or any entity – include all mandatory taxes and fees.

Full Fares ‘Not Obvious’

The reason for the change is that while airlines have been required to note that airfares will ultimately include mandatory taxes and fees, these additional charges were “not always obvious to consumers.” For example, a low fare is advertised, say, on an airline site but shoppers did not always grasp that the grand total for their airfare would be significantly higher.

Spirit’s Racy Ads

New Rule vs. Spirit’s $9 Airfares

Spirit calls this “hiding taxes and fees” and its CEO turns the DOT’s argument on its head, claiming “Customers have a right to know how much of their fare goes toward government taxes and fees rather than hiding it in the fare.”

According to news reports, though, Spirit itself hasn’t always let customers know about all taxes and fees and was fined by the DOT last year because of that (Spirit reportedly called the lapse ‘accidental’).

$9 Airfares – For Real or Just a Scam?

It should also be noted that Spirit has had a long history of advertising ‘$9 airfares’ and even has a popular “$9 Fare Club” (annual dues: $59.95). Once the DOT regulation goes into effect, it seems unlikely if not impossible for Spirit to advertise $9 fares ever again.


Published: January 25, 2012