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Spirit Airline takes heat but keeps growing

May 06, 2012|By Hugo Martin
  • Passengers speak with a Spirit Airlines agent at Detroit International Airport.
Passengers speak with a Spirit Airlines agent at Detroit International… (Reuters )

Florida-based Spirit Airline has come under harsh criticism in the last month for its penny-pinching ways, but the carrier continues to expand its network and post sizable profits.

Passenger rights groups cried foul last week when Spirit announced that starting Nov. 6 the cost to bring a carry-on bag on a flight will be $100 when paid at the gate — more than double the current $45 fee. Spirit also raised the fees for passengers who pay for carry-on bags online or at airport kiosks.

“We expect that our new $100 fee charged for those who wait until they get to the gate will ensure that customers purchase their bags before arriving at the gate,” spokeswoman Misty Pinson said in a statement.

Spirit also took some heat last month when the airline rejected a request for a ticket refund from a Vietnam veteran in Florida who said he bought a ticket to visit his daughter before learning that terminal cancer had made him too weak to fly. After days of criticism, Spirit’s chief executive, Ben Baldanza, said last week he would personally refund the ticket and make a donation to a charity for wounded veterans.

Meanwhile, Spirit reported that in the first three months of 2012 revenue per available seat — a key airline gauge — increased 10% from the same period last year. And it is expanding. So far this year, Spirit has added 12 new flights and announced plans to add eight more starting in the next three months.

Despite criticism of the company, its stock is rated a good buy by airline analyst Ray Neidl of New York-based Maxim Group.

“Although these items are generating negative media attention, the customers still come because, we believe, of the cheap airfares offered and the option to buy whatever upgrades that they want.”

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