Does the sight of that bright yellow livery fill you with rage? If so, you’re not alone. Many American travelers hate Spirit Airlines. In April, the carrier ranked dead last in customer satisfaction among U.S. airlines.
Spirit scored 62 out of 100 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s travel report, an annual survey that asks travelers about their recent hotel and airline experiences. JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines ranked highest on the report with scores of 80.
It wasn’t the first time Spirit came in last. In 2015, the first year the airline was included in the Customer Service Index, it scored 54 out of 100, more than 10 points behind next-to-last carrier, Allegiant. On a separate report, the 2016 Airline Quality Rating, Spirit ranked last among all U.S. airlines.
So what exactly is it that travelers dislike so much about Spirit?
Spirit is known as an ultra-low-cost carrier that offers “bare fares,” which means that the initial price passengers pay covers only the airfare, and any amenities cost extra. As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. Travelers who choose to fly on Spirit should keep in mind that the experience will not include many of the services found on other airlines and that the cost will add up if they choose to add those services.
Fees, Fees, Fees
Spirit offers some of the lowest airfares—sometimes as low as $35 one-way—but the price only covers transporting the passenger and a personal item that fits under the seat from point A to point B. Anything else is extra. For example, Spirit charges between $30 and $50 to check a bag, which is not unusual for the airline industry; however, it also charges for carry-on bags, from $35 at time of booking to $100 at the gate. If you want to choose your seat, the fee starts at $5. Free snacks? Don’t even think about it. Spirit charges $3 for sodas and bottled water and $4 for a package of nuts. Spirit even charges $10 to print your boarding pass at the airport. Experienced Spirit passengers know how to avoid accruing many of these fees, but first-timers are often surprised that the airline charges fees for services included on other airlines.
Seats on planes have gotten increasingly smaller as the airlines try to cram more paying passengers on board, and Spirit is the worst offender. According to data from SeatGuru, the typical seat pitch, which is the distance from any point on one seat to the same point on the seat in front or behind, is 28 inches on a Spirit flight. That’s the least among U.S. airlines and means that the seat in front of you will likely be right in front of your nose.
Spirit Airlines has the worst on-time arrival record of all U.S. air carriers. According to the Airline Quality Rating, only 69 percent of Spirit’s flights arrive within 14 minutes of the scheduled time. The industry average is 80 percent. Spirit’s new CEO, Bob Fornaro, has promised to improve the airline’s on-time performance.
Poor Customer Service
Spirit has more customer complaints to the Department of Transportation than any other airline: 11.73 per 100,000 passengers. That’s 6 times more than the industry average. And it doesn’t help that many customer complaints get circulated online. For instance, in a notorious incident that occurred in 2007, a Spirit passenger demanded a refund for a delayed flight that caused him to miss a concert, and the CEO at the time responded with a callous email that said, “We owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned.” You can read numerous colorful complaints at consumeraffairs.com, where Spirit has a one-star overall satisfaction rating.