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Spirit Warns Flyers of Government Conspiracy

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... an airline. Spirit has come to save the day, rescuing flyers from an evil government plot. Or so it claims, anyway.

In a press release, and on several ads and a new website created by the airline, Spirit asserts that the Department of Transportation's (DOT) new full-fare advertising rules are really just a ruse to conceal government-issued taxes on plane tickets. The new website, keepmyfareslow.org, purports to expose the government's alleged secret plan. The word "WARNING" is posted in bold capital letters that flash red, driving home a melodramatic point. Spirit invites flyers to contact their representatives to "help stop this injustice," adding, "If the government can hide taxes in your airfares, then they can carry out their hidden agenda and quietly increase their taxes."

The "injustice" about which spirit Spirit howls is the new U.S. law that requires airlines to include mandatory taxes and fees when advertising airfares. This rule is part of a broader series of passenger protection regulations that the DOT proposed in 2010.

Spirit, along with Allegiant and Southwest, filed a suit in the United States Court of Appeals in an attempt to block the full-fare advertising law, which takes effect this Thursday. (The suit is still pending.) Spirit's overblown reaction to the government's passenger protection rules—first legal action and now a very public advertising campaign—underscores the carrier's reliance on a steady stream of passenger surcharges.

How does Spirit squeeze flyers for every possible penny? Let us count the ways. Reports The New York Times, "Spirit has built its business around advertising $9 fares, then charging additional fees for checked and carry-on bags, advance seat assignments and now a 'passenger usage fee' of up to $17 each way for tickets booked online." Last year, Spirit enacted a $2 fee for the privilege of printing boarding passes at airport kiosks. And Spirit takes the airline baggage-fee pandemic to new lows by charging up to $45 for a carry-on bag.

Considering that Spirit is quite the fan of fees, its new blame-the-government crusade comes off as downright absurd. Then again, this is the same company that launched tasteless ad campaigns poking fun at off-limit topics like the BP oil spill and the Anthony Weiner scandal (OK, the latter isn't exactly off limits). Spirit apparently subscribes to the belief that any publicity is good publicity.

At this point, the only thing that surprises me about Spirit is that its antics fail to put off more passengers. If Spirit's current business strategy didn't work for its bottom line, it's a safe assumption that the carrier would change course. Yet the extra charges and the advertising antics keep on coming. How many illogical fees and loony advertisements must the carrier implement before flyers simply book elsewhere?

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