At this point I try to avoid flying at all costs. With all the fees I know to expect I always feel like I am getting a raw deal. However, new legislation will force airlines to make the final flight price including government taxes more transparent.
Starting January 26, you won’t see any more $9 flights from LAX to Vegas advertised, unless Spirit Airlines can somehow reduce all the fees and taxes to make that the true price. In place of the asterisk pointing to a slew of dollars that will be added on to the total fare, the final value must now be prominently displayed in the ad – sometimes, a whole 20 percent higher than the advertised price.
Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Allegiant Air immediately rejected this new legislation as they rely on telling half the story to entice fliers to choose them. Advertising ridiculously cheap flights between somewhat popular travel routes comprises most of their allure and helps proliferate the brand as a budget airline, even if our intellect screams at us to disregard that notion.
Spirit Will Get Slammed Hardest
Spirit, for one, rarely offers flights that actually allow you to travel for cheap. They have disassembled the entire booking process so that nothing comes for free. Even if you manage to fit the $9 fare into your travel schedule (that is usually only one way, you are likely paying much more for the flight back), you still have fees for seat reservations, taxes, checked baggage, carry-on baggage, printing your boarding pass at the kiosk (starting June 30) and the nightmare of your bags being oversized or overweight.
These fees can all be found on their website on a page that seems to go on forever. The new legislation will thrust that page out into the open, forcing the airlines to include non-optional fees and taxes, Sept. 11 Security Fee, and fuel surcharges in the final price.
It’s the “non-optional” that’s key. Spirit recently inflicted a so-called passenger usage fee, which means you have to pay $17 each way to book the ticket online. Since technically you can have someone drive you to the airport (if you want to avoid paying for parking) and go up to the kiosk and physically purchase the ticket for free, they don’t have to add that into the final cost.
Just to stick it to the Transportation Department, on January 24, Spirit will sneak in a new charge for an airport agent to print your boarding pass at $5 per boarding pass printed. This will also remain untouched by the legislation to be put in place two days after.
Spirit, Southwest, Allegiant go to Court
The three airlines are fighting the rule in court under the claim that the federal agency cannot prove that their advertising tactics are “unfair or deceptive”. Furthermore, they pull a third grade excuse pointing at every other industry, which hides taxes and fees just the same.
Southwest and Allegiant representatives plan to abide by the rule all the same, but in its S-1 filing with the SEC Spirit stated, “We are evaluating the actions we will be required to take to implement these rules, and we believe it is unlikely that we will be able to meet the 2012 compliance deadline in every respect.”
Of course not.
Spirit’s entire business model is based on deceiving customers into thinking they are getting a great deal. This isn’t to say that customers will always get ripped off by Spirit; in rare and lucky cases the extra fees still do not surpass Delta’s and American’s bloated pricing. But it is about time they’ve been called out for their nickel-and-diming, and if anything I think this is good for Spirit because their $9 fares are not fooling anyone anymore.