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Spirit to become ‘ultra’ low-cost carrier

Not content to be seen as just another low-cost airline, Spirit Airlines today announced it is transforming itself into an “ultra-low-cost carrier” by allowing travelers to “select [only] the services and options appropriate for their travel needs.”

This a-la-carte approach to fares (pay only for what you use) has become popular with some of Europe’s low-cost lines. An analysis of Spirit’s model leaves me scratching my head, though. The “standard” items that come with every ticket purchase will be: online check-in, one carry-on bag, the airline’s leather seats, and various nebulous items like “friendly” service.

You have to pay extra for premium items like larger seats at the front of the plane, hotel- and car-inclusive packages, event tickets, travel insurance, onboard beverages and snacks, airport parking, and checked baggage.

And this is revolutionary how, exactly? The only thing that’s really new here is that snacks and checked baggage aren’t part of the standard price any more. This will work if and only if the prices for Spirit’s “standard” service really are ultra-low.

In the end it’s really just one more level of price comparison that travelers will have to do before purchasing—comparing the cost of a flight, plus a snack, plus a checked bag, for example, with a regular fare from an airline that uses a more traditional pricing structure.

My first impression? Just another gimmick.

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