In defence of low cost carriers

I’m the troll who bates those on facebook who claim they’ll never fly Jetstar again. They will. Because it’s cheap. And I’m the one who, even after a reasonably mediocre experience on Spirit Airlines from Los Angeles to Bogota through Fort Lauderdale, still feels obliged to offer a defence of the low cost carrier model.

Spirit Airlines actually describes itself as ultra-low cost. That means they:

  • Charge for checked baggage and for carry on baggage.
  • Have the smallest seat pitch in the global industry (and then sell upgrades to ‘the big seat up front’ once people get on board and realise the leg room they’re lacking, which is an excellent business idea).
  • Put advertising on their overhead lockers.
  • Have seats which are ‘pre-reclined’ i.e. seats that don’t recline.

And yet, I was pleased to fly them because, for $350NZD all up per person they were about half the price of any other carrier for a flight about the distance of Auckland to Bali. They got us from A to B and we didn’t complain because we knew what we were paying for.

We heard plenty of others complaining though. Those behind us claimed about seat pitch and paid for an upgrade to a larger seat once they got on board. We had to queue at their service desk in Fort Lauderdale too, and there we heard a lot of complaints. Mostly, people had missed the cut off for their flights, had to pay more, and didn’t want to. Or their bags were too big, so they had to pay more, and didn’t want to. One guy seemed to have a legitimate ‘he said, she said’ complaint. But for most, caveat emptor – know what you’re buying, be pleased with the price you paid for it, and don’t complain. Loco carriers are able to charge the fares they are because of they way they run their systems, their charges for bags, and everything else.

Also *snaps* to Spirit who compassionately didn’t charge the mother and daughter in front of us who only spoke Spanish, were confused by the boarding announcements, and missed their flight.

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