Here’s the thing about Spirit Airlines: They push and push and push and make it just about impossible for a Spirit Airlines apologist like me to maintain my irritating pro-Spirit stance.
To wit: The airline announced today that it is increasing its “passenger usage fee” from $8.99 each way to $16.99 each way. This begs a lot of questions, several of which I will answer in a quick Q&A below:
Q: What the hell is a “passenger usage fee?”
A: Its the fee passengers pay to use the Spirit Airlines website for booking a ticket.
Q: No, seriously, what’s a passenger usage fee?
A: Unfortunately, I wasn’t kidding.
Q: I thought airlines WANTED people to use their websites to book travel.
A: They do. Spirit definitely does – after all, they’re charging you $34 to book your flight there.
Q: Can I avoid paying the $34?
A: Yes, 3 ways: First, book a 1-way ticket, that way you’ll only pay $17.
Q: Now you’re just being a jerk.
A: True. Second, you can buy your ticket at the airport. Or third, you can just fly a different airline.
Q: Wait. What was that about buying the ticket at the airport?
A: They don’t charge you if you buy the ticket at the airport.
Q: So should I just go to the airport and buy my Spirit tickets there?
A: You’re funny. Have you ever seen the line at Spirit’s check-in counter? I’ve described it in these pages as being like the American Embassy in Saigon as the war was ending. You wouldn’t actually go through that to save $34.
Q: Is it even legal to charge an additional $34 on every ticket and NOT call it out in their marketing?
A: You’re going to enjoy this: The government requires that airlines call out fees that are based on a percentage of the fare, but not fees that are a flat dollar amount.
Q: I assume you’re kidding me.
A: I’m not kidding you.
Q: I thought I read that a rule is going into affect that airlines have to disclose all mandatory fees starting early next year.
A: You did read that.
Q: So why doesn’t Spirit have to disclose this fee?
A: Because it’s not mandatory. You are free to go to the airport and buy the ticket and not pay the fee.
Q: Are you still an apologist for Spirit?
A: Yes and no. They still offer great value. A reader just wrote me to say he bought a $94 round trip ticket from Atlantic City to Ft Lauderdale, even with the $34 fee included. Unfortunately, Spirit pretty much suggests that that ticket costs $38 and pretends there are not $55 of fees on top of it. That’s the nonsense part. None of their other fees bother me – they’ve made it clear you’re paying to bring a bag on that plane. The nonsense part is pretending that an online booking fee is NOT a mandatory fee.
Q: So will you fly Spirit again?
A: I’m cheap. I’ll never say never.