Ah, Spirit. I just can’t quit you.
Spirit Airlines announced that it has installed non-reclining seats (or as it calls them, “pre-reclined”) in its new A320s. This move will allow them to:
a) piss off more people somehow; and
b) squeeze 178 seats in an aircraft that typically holds 150. How do they do that? Oh, by shrinking pitch to an unreal 28″, a pathetic amount not seen since, um. Britain’s Monarch Airlines has some 28″ seats. Easyjet is at 29″. Ryanair at 30″ or so.
It’s not the end of the world – most Spirit flights are under 3 hours. You’ll read how Spirit is now the Ryanair of the US, but that’s not really true. Yes, they’ve unbundled pricing. Yes, their seats don’t reclined. But Ryanair has 30+ aircraft bases (ie, 30+ focus cities), where Spirit has 1 or 2, depending on whether you count Detroit. When Spirit starts flying out of Detroit City; Gary, Indiana; Hagerstown, Maryland; Trenton, New Jersey; and Portsmouth, NH, with flights to 10 or so cities each, then they’ll be Ryanair. And when they offer a million seats at a $1.
Spirit has taken some pages from the Ryanair playbook (ie, management pissing people off; charging for everything), without most of the benefits (absurdly low fares on offer much of the time). Yes, they have $9 fares on certain flights now and again. Go look at Ryanair’s website. They have 3 million seats available at GBP3 (about $4.50). That’s a sale.
Spirit can shrink their pitch and do whatever they’d like with ancillary charges; the question becomes this: people put up with Ryanair because their fares are absurdly cheap, and in many cases they are the only nonstop option. Spirit doesn’t have either of those things going for it. Unless it’s just planning on building up its Latin America business (which may be the case), where people don’t care that much about service, and just want to go home cheaply, I’m interested to see how they get people to turn down other airlines to fly on Spirit.