Spirit charging for access to sales

Are you willing to spend money to save money? Spirit hopes so, and has started a program in which people pay to have access to certain sales. Spirit is charging $9 to join for the first three months, and then $30 per year after the promotional period is over. It promises a new "exclusive" sale at least once every six weeks. According to TravelWeekly.com (registration required), Spirit will continue to offer sales to the public, but is planning to "migrate to exclusive sales."

Spirit has spent a lot of time lately building a reputation for outrageous sales, and now it's clear how it plans to cash in on them. But the idea of making deals less accessible and charging more to see the sales than they charge for flights ($30 from the airline that runs $1 sales?) seems risky.

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It's also a strange move because it goes against the way people use low-fare carriers, since it requires loyalty to and investment in a single airline (enough to pay the membership fee) instead of a commitment to finding the lowest fare for each individual trip. By paying in advance, it essentially removes a certain amount of the free-agent status that air passengers exercise when they comparison shop before buying.

If the whole pay-to-see-sales thing catches on, the airline industry will have found a new spin on commanding loyalty, one not seen since before the rise of the low-cost carrier, back when frequent flier miles ruled the way people approached air travel. But the mere thought of having to sign up and pay to find out about multiple airlines' best fares gives me a headache and a pain somewhere else too.

Here at SmarterTravel.com, we only cover sales that are available to everyone, so I don't think we'll be testing out Spirit's member-only sales (unless our Editor-in-Chief lets us get a membership and report on the secret sales), but I'll bet someone will start posting details of members-only sales online, which would at least cut out the need to pay the membership fee just to see the sales.

I'll update you on this as other industry analysts weigh in.

Read comments or add your own insight!
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