By Zachary Ehrlich  Thu Jan 5, 2012

“Bargain” Airlines Called Out by U.S. Transportation Department

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.

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Add Your 2 Cents

  • Terrysreed

    This legislation will work as well as the Federal do not call list and the truth in lending act. Both are jokes, neither one works as intended, and don’t think the airlines won’t lobby this to death and fill it with exceptions and loopholes.

    • Anonymous

      Great points. I look forward to seeing how Spirit will continue trying to get away with gaudy promotions for $9 fares to Albuquerque.

      • Foreverendevour

        Sorry, SPIRIT does NOT fly to Albuquerque.

        • Anonymous

          You’re right! My mistake, I thought I saw those bargains advertised for Spirit, but it was actually Southwest a little while back.

  • Dillon Davis

    This can not be!  Nine out of ten advertisements on TV tell half truths, or less!  And I for one believe every word they say, even the printers mistakes.  Now if only our politicians had to tell the truth :)

  • John

    I have flown Spirit Airlines from Dallas to Chicago, Vegas and Ft. Lauderdale numerous times. I have saved HUNDREDS of dollars in travel costs. My average ticket is about $115 r/t inclusive of taxes, seeats, bags, etc. Only a fool expects to get a $9 ticket. But a smart person will fly for about half of what other airlines are charging.

    • Mike_torres1992

      how long do you think they will stay in business with oil and gas so high??  better get some good walking shoes or take a train

    • Parker West

      Are you employed by Spirit? Your words are identical to the only other positives written about the airline and they seem more like a press release than a typical PA. You’ve been caught, END YOUR PRACTICE OF TRYING TO FOOL POTENTIAL PASSENGERS, with your BS company drivel.

      • John

        No… I don’t work for Spirit. I live in Dallas and my finance lives in Chicago. Twice a month I travel to Chicago. I used to be a devoted American Airlines traveler. But it got too expensive. Spirit has saved me A LOT of money in travel expenses. If you book online and pay for baggage in advance, you don’t get hit with all the fees. I also book the big seat in the front for $25 each way. Try doing that on American! If you don’t want baggage fees, travel light. I take a backpack with me as my carry-on for NO additional fee. So before you make accusations, be sure you know what you are talking about. I was just trying to help people cut through all of the BS…

  • Hornet1

    Spirit is a ghetto airline. Last time i flew they had me litterally sitting in garbage. The plane was not cleaned between stops and there was food garbage on my seat and bags of food garbage at my feet.

    The planes are filthy, they lied and decieved me every step of my flight.

    Plane was delayed 6 hours and i called asking if there would be someone available to take my luggage. The phone clerk said absolutely then when i got to airport the ticket lady said no tsa available in detroit metro airport so take my bag thru regular security to have $70 worth of toiletries thrown away by security, then on the plane they want $3 for a small bottle of offbrand sams club water.

    Do yourself a favor and avoid spirit at all costs. They will ruin your vacation.

    • smarttraveler

      Umm, what does your lack of knowledge about what can be sent through security have to do with Spirit?  What is “regular” vs. “TSA” security?

      • Guest

        I believe he is referring to checked baggage that is screened by TSA as opposed to the screening by TSA agents at the security check point.  His bag went from being a “checked” bag to being a “carry-on” bag.

  • Stan James

    I’m jsut waiitng for the pee fee – Slide your credit card in the ‘slot’ to open the door at the lavatory.

    Yes, I know that the airline biz has been really badly hit. But the short term bennies may not be worth the long term rating on their sevice

    not zero, but  “minus” some number

  • Melomea

    The only airline I use is Southwest. The fares are reasonable, no baggage fee, and the flight attendants are always cheerful. Planes are clean. I don’t see any extra fees.

    • Mike_torres1992

      wait till they start charging you for your body weight and see how many fatties fly on them and see how cheap it is…..with oil this high you should expect that……or take a train……and how long do you think sw can stay in business flying you so cheaply……theres another bailout

      • Parker West

        How am you object to a person who’s body takes up part of the seat(s) next to the person, having to buy 2 seats, ONLY IF THERE ARE NO OPEN SEATS ON THE AIRCRAFT? If you can sit in one seat they will never get into a scheme based on your weight, you know that, you’re simply taking a potshot at WN thru exhaugeration.

        • Bartman2003

          You must be one of those “Fatties” he was talking about….LOL

  • Mike_torres1992

    FINALLY ..some one has caught on to southwests scams…..and why are you showing pics of AAs aircraft ?  besides if you think its too expensive to fly….well you can always take a bus or a train…..

  • Regular traveller

    I travel Spirit all the time. I never book a seat, check a bag, or bring one on board, or buy food on the plane. I flew from Atlantic City to Detroit and back for just over $40. Even if I do all of the above, I come out about the same as flying out of Philadelphia – and parking costs less! I have clothes at my children’s houses. I mail clothes ahead of time if I need to.

  • Parker West

    I’m not sure how to match fares with different airlines when you have the baggage charges, the extra over the phone or Internet fees, use of credit card fee, charge for carryons, fuel charges, etc the confusion is why Allegiant and Spirit stay in business. Not too sure why Southwest opposes the information they are the last of the non-fee based carriers where you get you seat for no extra cash nor fuel or service fees, and you get free soft drinks and free baggage . They look great in comparison. I flew to Munich to the German discounter and they have a very large fuel fee which makes little sense to me. It would be so easy to just add it to the fare, they would still be competitive. JetStar out of Australia does the same thing, I just don’t get it. I have only heard one positive for Spirit and that could have been a “fake” review by an employee, otherwise people hate the carrier due to messy aircraft, crazy fees, and delays. When you go on a site for Spirit you don’t know if it’s the airline or a company who seeps tickets for them, but the tone comes across as real hostile to the people that visit the site. I think of the carrier as being as anti consumer as a Russian carrier with better aircraft. Somehow you have to come up with a way to compare fares with ALL THE EXPECTED FEES ADDED IN. Ala Carte makes no sense the basic services a travel company provides should never be optional because they really are not options when everyone has to pay for them.

  • Allie

    If people feel they have been ripped off by these airlines, they really have no one to blame but themselves. Do some research, no one is making you fly these airlines. I fly Allegiant quite frequently to see family in Phoenix beacuse it’s a direct flight. True that there are fees tacked on, but look into the fees before booking the ticket and check other airlines before deciding what to do. For myself it’s usually ended up to be at least half the price of the major airlines PLUS I get there is 3.5 hours. I feel it’s a win-win situation. Stop whining about being “misled” and do some research!

    • Dee

      The article is correct that Allegiant advertises their cheap fares one-way and then adds on for the return…and they only fly certain days of the week…and they add on all kinds of fees that they DON’T advertise. If you live close enough to one of their departure cities, and you don’t let them bamboozle you on the fees for breathing in their air space, you probably can do alright. If you don’t live in or near one of their departure cities, you can do just as well by leaving from your hometown. And they ARE deliberately misleading in their marketing and their reservations process.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Anderson/1609301600 Jim Anderson

    you get what you pay for…a 9 buck fare is bullshit….anyone stupid enough to believe it voted for Obama…gibs me dat free stuff idiots

  • Johay57

    Amazing that $9 dollar fares were fooling people to begin with but as they say: “There’s one born every minute”