KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Spirit Airlines will begin operations out of Kansas City International Airport Thursday afternoon with nonstop flights to five cities: Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Houston and Las Vegas. Known for its cheap airfares, customers who fly Spirit are asked to sacrifice comfort for savings.
“We put two inches less than other airlines in seat room so we can put more seats on the plane,” said Paul Berry, spokesman for Spirit Airlines. “It’s the car pool effect. When more people fly, they are splitting the cost of gasoline amongst them and that way, they keep their fares low. It’s a tradeoff. You give up some of the creature comforts of space in exchange for a 50% less fare.”
Travelers are allowed to bring a small backpack with them for free. A carry-on is $50 extra. Water and snacks cost extra as well. If you don’t bring your boarding pass with you, it’ll cost you $10 more for the airline to print one off. It’s called a la carte pricing, and while it allows passengers who don’t want any amenities to fly cheaply, it can also be frustrating for those who aren’t prepared to pay extra for so many things.
“If you’re not prepared to pay for a checked baggage or a bottle of water, it can be very frustrating,” Berry said. “Sometimes those customers feel nickel and dimed when in fact, they are still saving 40% on that airfare.”
Spirit Airlines is indeed cheaper than their competitors, with airfares typically between 40-50% less than other airlines. A quick comparison of flights over a weekend in late August from Kansas City to Chicago shows Spirit’s roundtrip fare at $124.18 compared to American Airlines at $228.20. That’s more than $100 cheaper! But cutting costs cost Spirit Airlines in the most recent Consumer Reports comparison of airlines, which ranked Spirit as the worst airline in the U.S. Spirit officials disagree with the way the data was collected.
“They didn’t ask their respondents about price,” Berry said. “They asked them about extra leg room and about wifi and in-flight entertainment. We don’t offer those things so certainly, you’re going to come up lower on those. But I’ll tell you, a lot of people enjoy flying Spirit because they save money.”
Berry said over the past five years, consumers have seen ten airlines reduced to four due to mergers. With airline tickets continuing to rise, Berry hopes Spirit’s low airfares convince those who don’t currently fly to give it a try as they work to attract college students, large families and those on fixed incomes.
“If you’re looking for an airline that has lots of leg room or in flight wifi or big monitors, we’re probably not your airline,” Berry said. “But if you’re looking to save a lot of money on your air travel so you can spend it wherever you are going, we are definitely your airline.”