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Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

Detroit, Michigan
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Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

I will never fly Spirit Airlines again. Their so called $9 flights are nothing more than a old style "bait and switch" tactic. I thought that was illegal?? When I added the $107 Fuel Charge, plus the $46 bag check fee ($23 each way), the $124.95 in fees and taxes, the total came to $286.95. Then when we arrived at the airport, our luggage was over the revised 40lb weight, so we had to pay an additional $25 each way per bag, bringing the total to $336.95 per ticket! And by the way, since we did not want to pay the additional pre-seating fee (another $10 each way) , my girlfriend and I ended up sitting separately on the flight from Detroit to Cancun. And oh, that doesn’t include the $59 I paid to become a $9 club member, for a whopping total of $395.95 for a $9 ticket!

To make things worse, once on the 3.5 hour flight NOTHING IS COMPLIMENTARY! You pay for water, coffee, pop, peanuts, pretzels, and anything else you want. I'm sure charging to use the bathrooms is on the horizon.

Never again for me! I'll stick to the full service airlines; AA, Delta, United, Continental etc... Flying Spirit just doesn't pay!

1. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

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Removed on: 13 March 2011, 16:35
Travelling The World
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2. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

> many have the same fees.

No one takes it to the extremes of Spirit.

I fully agree that if a $9 fare is advertised that should include all non-optional costs. There should be no "fuel charges" or adiditional "taxes and fees". Even Ryanair is much better than Spirit in ths regard.

Bangkok
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3. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

Hi,

Ouch.. All very true.. but.. let me ask, did you read what was or was not included in that fare and what was an optional item before booking?

A quick look around their site shows me that there is a hyperlink that says "taxes and fees". Once you click it another pop-up opens and here they disclose a whole bevy of possible fees-- including the "Fuel Pass Through" charge you note.. so it appears these charges are in fact disclosed to you in advance..

Therefore, I do think that there's some measure of personal responsibility on the buyers part to read and understand what's included *before* moving forward. Therefore, to a point, I can't agree it's a bait and switch.. rather either an unfortunate case of either assumption or failing to read the fine print before buying.

The other parts-- be that the checked bag fee, seating fee, overweight bag fee, etc are also all listed under the "travel policies" so again, not so sure I can agree with bait and switch as it appears these charges are disclosed to you and in advance-- not after the fact.

again, I'm not dismissive to the fact that what initially started out as a base fare of $9 quickly added up to $395, but.. I must also see that these charges that contributed to the $395 total are in fact disclosed to you *before* you buy and a few of them are truly optional (such as advance seat assignments) or entirely avoidable (not being overweight bags) on your part.

The parts of the ticket price, like the fuel surcharge, bag and seating fees, are all things that Spirit choose to impose as a part of their business model.. but.. again, to be fair, they also do in fact disclose them to you as well.

Did you ever have a real chance at a $9 fare? No.. because all tickets must be priced with at least the minimum mandatory government imposed taxes.. So to this point, I can't really blame Spirit-- all airline have to price with these same taxes as well.. BUT to be fair, some airlines do a better job at exactly how they show this and I think it's this point where Spirit's booking process is lacking-- "visibility" if you will..

Travel Safe,

Edited: 13 March 2011, 16:12
Travelling The World
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4. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

> No.. because all tickets must be priced with at least the minimum mandatory government imposed taxes

Do they in the US? Because in Europe they certainly don't. Ryanair often has fares that are actually less than the government taxes (yes there really are 1p fares). Ryanair pays the taxes of course, but they use it as a loss leader on the assumption that the 1p flyer will buy at least a few over-priced optional extras, and on the basis that only a few seats on a given flight are at that low price and the rest are sold for far more.

So they advertise 1p flights, and you really can fly for 1p.

Bangkok
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5. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

Hi,

WV, I need to tighten the language here a bit..

The tickets must be SOLD with all the government imposed taxes and such included.. A carrier may not SELL a ticket without them... Yes, a carrier can sell a $0 *fare* ticket, but it must still charge and collect the required government taxes.. Naturally, there is nothing overtly that says the airline can't or couldn't chose to absorb these charges internally, but in the end, they do have to be paid.. So that's the sale perspective.

On the advertising or disclosure perspective, the US' DOT addresses exactly HOW these government imposed taxes and such must be disclosed..

So, so long as Spirit meets these DOT specifications to the letter or better, then I can't see any claim.. Now that said, the term "bait and switch" does have a fraud connotation built into it, so.. unless there was some form of non-compliance on Spirit's part where one of more of the mandatory disclosures wasn't met then I can't say it was bait and switch..

I will readily agree that some carriers do a much better job at making this information more readily accessible, readable or even user friendly.. nor will I dispute that some carriers-- Spirit or not-- may do things that may in fact meet the technical wording of the statue, but still make it hard for the average person to get to the bottom line.. but in these cases, while it may be bad business practice or anti-consumer, until such time as the regulators change the provisions, I can't say it's anything beyond just that-- bad business practice or anti-consumer..

To me, to be truly a "bait and switch" it does have to meet a fairly strong test of standards as the DOT sets forth what is and is not required on the disclosure front.... and without laying blame per se, in the case that the OP presents, I'm not seeing anything that appears to fail any of these established standards.

Frustrating on the OP's part for sure... but I do think that perhaps doing some pre-purchase reading or investigation might have made a few of these issues known in advance.

Travel Safe,

Edited: 13 March 2011, 16:47
Travelling The World
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6. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

> Naturally, there is nothing overtly that says the airline can't or couldn't chose to absorb these charges internally

So they *could* absorb these costs, the way Ryanair does, and actually sell a $9 fare at a $9 cost to the customer (as Ryanair does).

I agree that if there is full disclosure (not just in the "fine print") at the time the membership in the $9 fare club is purchased that it is $9 plus taxes, fees and surcharges, then it is not bait and switch. But there isn't. The "come on" on their sign up page says "Access to Member only fares sometimes as low as a penny!" Period. No qualification. No "Plus taxes and fees" even in tiny print. No asterisk nothing. The clear implication is that by paying your $60 you can fly for as little as a penny.

https:/…StaticFareClubEnrollment.aspx

It may be in the fine print (I didn't bother read it) but the fact that it is not highlighted that fees and taxes are on top of that is totally unacceptable.

Edited: 13 March 2011, 16:59
Bangkok
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7. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

Hi,

I think where this will end up is moving into what the DOT defines as the "Full Fare Advertising" Rule or what is codified under 14 CFR 399.84

In part it DOES allow carriers the right to show taxes and fees collected by carriers, such as passenger facility charges and departure taxes, to be stated *separately* from the *base* fare in advertisements, so long as such taxes and fees are levied by a government entity, are not ad valorem in nature, are collected on a per passenger basis, and their existence and amounts are clearly indicated in the advertisement so that the consumer can determine the full fare to be paid.

So, I think where Spirit will come at this is that the $9 fare club meets these standards as the $9 refers to BASE FARE and not all-inclusive.. and that in the booking page they do disclose the other fees-- in accordance with 14 CFR 399.84.. but again, this is only because under current guidelines, the DOT allows such to be broken out-- base fare versus total all-in fare..

Again, I do agree that this makes for at minimum some slippery slope about being up front and honest, versus bait and switch, and I do agree that it would probably be better-- more customer friendly if you will-- for Spirit and others to add a note like ..."Fares exclude taxes and fees..." but as I see it.. the club that the OP joined only speaks to base FARE and not total price.. and under DOT guidelines as I read them, this meets the standards..

Is this is a technicality? You betcha. A loophole? Possibly.. But that is rightly or wrongly how regulations are-- you either meet as written or not

Travel Safe,

Travelling The World
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8. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

> So, I think where Spirit will come at this is that the $9 fare club meets these standards as the $9 refers to BASE FARE and not all-inclusive.

That would be true if they advertised it as a base fare, not all-inclusive. But they don't. Not anywhere.

They advertise is as "fly for as little as one penny". Period. No qualification. Not in the small print in the link I gave above (which I have now read), not in the "Member Guide" (https://www.spirit.com/NineFCMemBasics.aspx). Absolutely *nowhere* do they indicate that the fare carries any aditional fees or charges.

Sorry, but for the base fare argument to work, it has to be advertised as just that, "$9 (plus taxes, fees and surcharges)" or similar wording. What is even more despicable in Sprit's case is that they are using these tactics to get an upfront fee of $59.95 out of people with absolutely no intention of providing the advertised benefit - the possibility of flying for $9 or less with no additional mandatory fees or charges.

Detroit, Michigan
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9. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

That's the problem... too much fine print! Legally, they can spin it anyway they want, and hide behind a plethora of legal justifications and loopholes. Bottom line... a $9 fare cost $400. That's a markup of 4,400%. If a vehicle was advertised for $9,000 you would pay $396,000 for the car after taxes and fees.

Am I responsible for paying it, yes. Will I ever do it again, no. But there is some culpability on their part for misleading the public to think that you can fly for $9. The bait and switch laws can be judicated in the court of law. Watch... a class action suit is inevitable.

The reality is that no other airline has this type of markup. At most, I've seen 300-500% markup. Spirit is an anomaly in this space. Far exceeding anything that would be considered ethical or fair practice. It's worth it for me, and others, to do business with more ethical carriers, who at least still offer perks while enroot, i.e. beverages, snacks, single fee for luggage up to 50lbs.

And on a side note, I'm sure the statisticians at Spirit, figured that very few pieces of luggage fall under 40 lbs, with the majority in the 40-50 lb range. So they greedily tried to capitalize on that by pettily charging more for luggage that falls into that category. The public is wise, and I for one believe that their greed and lack of transparency will ultimately lead to their demise, or as stated earlier... a class action law suit.

Bangkok
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10. Re: Let me tell you how my $9 Spirit flight cost me $395.95

Hi,

WV, I'll agree with you on this...

"... That would be true if they advertised it as a base fare, not all-inclusive. But they don't. Not anywhere..."

but.. I also note that that they don't really say it's either-- base OR all-in.. they are slient on the matter... It just refers to "fare' or "fares" and never formally defines that to be base OR all-in..

I do also recognize that in the end 14 CFR 399.84 does allow the airline to break-out "fare" from ""taxes".. So, on the surface, it appears that the DOT rules more support a defintion of base versus all-in.. but again, the Spirit wording isn't clear on the matter.. but I do agree that Spirit should clean it up.

So, I think we could both be right-- depending how you see it and how you define it..

If you take the position that the $9 refers to "all-in" fare then yes, it's a bait and switch as they'd be advertising X and charging for Y... but... If you take the viewpoint that $9 refers to :base-only" fare, then no, it's not..

What is the hard thing in this matter is that it's not tightly defined.. What *exactly* does that $9 speak to? Base or all-in?.. and as you note, it's not well defined..

Again, where I think it will end up.. not saying it's right or wrong-- is that under the current DOT rules, the airline IS allowed to show a base fare and taxes and fees separately or later on-- so long as properly disclosed before purchase.

Could Spirit clean this up and make it more understandable? You betcha. Is it a come-on? Of course.. as is almost all advertising.. Is it legal? That's a matter for the DOT to determine.. but at present there is no ruling against them to the contrary..

JM,

I do agree with you on the point of "... there is some culpability on their part for misleading the public to think that you can fly for $9.." in that some better definition or disclosure I think would make this much more clear.. and avoid situations like yours.

Travel Safe,

Edited: 13 March 2011, 17:53