Spirit Airlines Profits from the Public’s Humanity

Sigh, another airline PR kerfuffle, this time involving the bare-bones Florida-based Spirit Airlines. The budget airline has decided to drop its toll-free 1-800 number and replace it with a number that will cost customers who make calls from a landline between 5 and 18 cents per minute.

To the public this move is cheap, opportunistic and completely forgettable because if you don’t have access to a cell phone somewhere—an uncle, a neighbor, even a complete stranger will lend you a phone—then you probably have bigger challenges to address than being fleeced by Spirit Airlines. (This weekend many grandmothers will be receiving iPads for Mother’s Day so they can follow their kids and grandchildren on Facebook; restricting minimal fees to landlines hardly seems exploitative unless you’re currently in jail, in which case you shouldn’t be traveling anyway.)

As PR professionals, businesspeople and capitalists, we understand that the airline industry is a tough venture. Customers want cheap prices, but the gate fees and fuel required to move those customers over state lines are very expensive. As businesses, airlines have to find some way to be profitable. So they cleverly have garnered their profits from the reliable shortcomings of human nature.

Back in the day Blockbuster raked in profits from late fees knowing that people consistently return movies past their return dates. That pronounced flaw in human nature also applies to travel, where passengers habitually make last minute plans and need to change their tickets or arrive with an extra carry-on bag. But Spirit Airlines, which has 71 different passenger fees, has taken this business strategy to another level.

So if you’re going to fly Spirit Airlines make sure you’re obsessively organized. And have a cell phone.