Just over a year ago, Spirit Airlines hosted a sweepstakes with an especially attention-getting prize: free flights for a year.
While the free flights part was pretty compelling, the fact that those flights were on Spirit, with its ultra-cramped coach seats, was a buzzkill.
I wasn’t the only one who wondered if the prize was, on balance, a reward or a punishment.
That question is raised anew by Spirit’s latest bit of clever marketing.
Earlier this month, the airline was forced to divert its Ft. Lauderdale-Dallas flight to New Orleans when a pregnant passenger, Cristina Penton, went into premature labor. In the event, the diversion proved unnecessary: Penton gave birth to a seven-pound boy before the flight touched down.
The airline was quick to capitalize on the incident, issuing a news release praising its own efforts. “A baby being born during a flight is very rare. But our flight attendants are trained to handle medical emergencies in flight and they have access to doctors on the ground via inflight communication. In this case we were fortunate to also have a pediatrician on board who brought even more care and comfort to the situation.”
And quoting the relieved mother: “The Spirit crew was very attentive and took care of me throughout the flight. They helped make what could have been a terrible situation as good as it could possibly be.”
To give the feel-good story extra legs, Spirit will give Christoph, the newborn, and a companion free flights for life on Christoph’s birthday.
It’s great publicity for Spirit in the short term — the story has been picked up by many major media outlets. And as the airline’s marketing team surely realized, those free flights are likely to be revenue-generators as well as publicity-generators, as Christoph will have to purchase return tickets from wherever he and his companion fly on his upcoming birthdays.
Well played, Spirit!
Reader Reality Check
Free flights on Spirit, or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.