The Crazy Little Airline that Breaks All the Rules and Wins

If you fly Spirit Airlines, you know what you’re getting: cheap, basic transportation with zero frills and a customer service ethos that makes the cable company look good. It’s also an airline that has no problem taking on the U.S. government and its own customers (more on that below), but it not only endures, it thrives.

How Spirit Created Nation’s Cheapest Destination

Spirit’s Strengths

Two things Spirit has going for it: a healthy bottom line and loyal customers. They’re loyal for a reason – as one of them noted somewhat ruefully in this Yelp review, “I know they suck! But, for a cheap ticket, I will endure anything.”

As for the bottom line, the airline beat expectations in the second quarter of 2012 with $346.3 million in revenue for a profit of $35.3 million. That was a better than 35 percent year-over-year increase in adjusted net income. But Spirit does not always soar.

Spirit’s Expansion Kick

Spirit’s Weaknesses

Weaknesses include lousy customer service as seen during a recent four-and-a-half hour Spirit flight that turned into a 19-hour ordeal. Then there was the saga of the dying veteran who tried to get a refund on a Spirit ticket he knew he wouldn’t live to use but Spirit kept saying no – until a Spirit boycott on Facebook started gathering steam.

Spirit Challenges U.S. and Loses

More recently, Spirit took on the U.S. government in its effort to overturn recent Department of Transportation rules including the one that requires airlines and others to include taxes and fees in advertised airfares. Most shoppers seem to love the what-you-see-is-what-you-pay pricing, but not Spirit since it put an end to its famous $9 airfare sales. In any event, the Court of Appeals rejected Spirit’s arguments.

Will Spirit Take Over the World?

Spirit seemed unfazed by the ruling, just as it seems oblivious to customer complaints – and it keeps making money – which has led some to wonder, when is this crazy little airline is going to take over the world? Or at least the U.S.

Spirit spokesperson Misty Pinson told FareCompare, that’s not exactly what they have in mind: “When we enter a new market, we are not looking to steal traffic from other carriers,” she said. “Our goal is to stimulate the market with our low fares and encourage those to travel who weren’t otherwise traveling and allow them to travel more frequently.”

Spirit: A Love/Hate Thing?

Question for readers: Do you fly Spirit? And if you do, what do you love and hate about it?

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Published: July 31, 2012