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Spirit Airlines Rolls Out “Pre-Reclined” (aka, No Recline) Seats on New A320s

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.

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  1. I agree that Spirit really doesn’t bring that much to the table for most passengers.

    A few months ago, I flew a Turkish low fare airline, Pegasus, a few times. The pitch on their planes was the tighest I’ve ever seen. I’m about 6′, and it was the first airline I’ve flown where I didn’t have enough room to put my legs out straight in front of my seat. I’m guessing it was 28″. The intra-Turkey flights were less than 1 1/2 hours, but the pitch was tight enough that — all else equal — I would fly on an airline with a little more legroom. Spirit’s move would truly be pushing the edge.

  2. I just looked – Pegasus is 29″ — imagine an inch tighter than that. No, that would not be good.

  3. Curious, because I just flew Easyjet last week and there was significantly more legroom than on Pegasus.

    Do airlines every lie about legroom? I guess next time I’m in Turkey, I’ll bring a tape measure along with me.

  4. I got the Easyjet # from Seatguru. Pegasus had 29″ listed on their website. If you list 29″ and you’re lying, that’s like saying you’re 325 pounds when you’re really 345.

  5. Spirit has been expanding with additional focus cities. LAS, ORD, and DFW have recently seen expansions in service and destinations.

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