Over the last decade, low-cost carriers and budget airlines have expanded their reach to a point that few could have predicted. With the growing cost of travel and declining levels of consumer savings, they certainly occupy a niche that’s very much in demand today. But alongside the massive growth in the budget airline sector is a steady level of consumer displeasure, particularly at extra fees.
North American Spirit Airlines is the latest low-cost carrier to cause a consumer fuss. After charging consumers between $20 and $45 to take their carry-on bags onboard the plane, the company became a popular media criticism target. Bloggers, writers, and major media outlets have all lampooned the company, claiming that its policies indicate a casual attitude towards customer satisfaction.
But customers, on the other hand, appear to be fairly pleased with the policies on offer at many low-cost carriers. Despite its reputation for frugality, Spirit Airlines markets to an audience of returning customers, many of whom are happy to work around the penny-pinching regulations. For high-end travellers the fees are a major annoyance; for low-cost flyers, they’re something to work around.
Given that the airline’s fares tend to be lower than those offered by other carriers, the fees aren’t that big of an issue for its core audience. The United States is currently involved in legal action against a group of airlines for their value-added fee systems, and Spirit isn’t on the list. While other air travel providers have found their niche in charging for changes, Spirit has charged for optional extras.
It’s a policy that’s sure to offend high-end travellers, but it’s one that few ultra-budget fans object to, particularly in this economic climate. If the thought of flying coast-to-coast without so much as the clothes on your body isn’t exactly appealing, the growing fleet of low-cost airlines are probably best avoided. But for the large low-cost travel market, it’s little more than a minor inconvenience.