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20 Things You Didn't Know about Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines is one of the numerous carriers that can be found operating in the United States and beyond. There are a number of reasons that it stands out when compared with its counterparts. However,a fair number of these reasons are not what most people would consider to be positive in nature, meaning that it should come as no surprise to learn that Spirit Airlines has something of a mixed reputation. Here are 20 things that you may or may not have known about Spirit Airlines:

1. It Isn't a Low Cost Carrier

There are some carriers that pursue success by offering their services to interested individuals at lower prices than what said individuals can expect from most of their competitors. Generally speaking, these lower prices are made possible by a lot of cost-cutting, which tends to have a noticeable impact on the excellence of these carriers' services. Said carriers are called low cost carriers, but it is important to note that Spirit Airlines isn't considered one of them.

2. It Is an Ultra Low Cost Carrier

Instead, Spirit Airlines is considered to be an ultra low cost carrier. In short, an ultra low cost carrier is more or less what it sounds like, which is to say, a low cost carrier but even more so. On the one hand, this means that ultra low cost carriers can provide even better prices to interested individuals; on the other hand, well, suffice to say that said cost-cutting has an even more noticeable impact on the excellence of their services. Due to this, interested individuals should put some serious thought into whether this trade-off will be worth it for them or not.

3. Headquartered in Miramar, FL

Currently, Spirit Airlines is headquartered in a city called Miramar, which can be found in Broward County of the state of Florida. Primarily, it is famous for being one of the more notable cities that make up Greater Miami, which makes sense because it started out as a bedroom community for both Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Suffice to say that even when it was founded in the 1950s, the low cost of both its homes and its land brought in a lot of buyers, who provided the fledgling community with a much-needed boost.

4. Has Multiple U.S. Bases

Of course, Spirit Airlines isn't limited to a single base. Instead, it has multiple bases, which are located in places that range from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago and Los Vegas. With that said, it is important to note that these bases are located in the United States and nowhere else, which makes sense because Spirit Airlines' operations are very much concentrated in said country.

5. Has Operations in Other Regions

With that said, while most of Spirit Airlines's operations are situated in the United States, it should be noted that it offers flights to other regions as well. For example, it offers flights to both Mexico and the Caribbean, both of which are popular places to visit for American consumers. Furthermore, Spirit Airlines offers flights to much of South America as well.

6. Sole 2-Star Airline in the United States

Given the nature of the air travel industry, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are various bodies that provide interested individuals with professional opinions about the excellence of each of their air travel options. In the case of Skytrax, Spirit Airlines has the dubious distinction of being the sole airline in the United States to have a 2-star rating. For context, it should be noted that Spirit Airlines's ratings go up to 5 stars, meaning that this is not exactly something that someone would want for their airline.

7. Has a Frequent Flyer Program

Customer loyalty programs are very popular with carriers. After all, convincing someone to buy plane tickets can be a complicated and even time-consuming process, meaning that carriers have plenty of reasons to want to make the process as simple for them as possible. One tried and true method is marketing to previous customers rather than new potential customers because they tend to need less convincing so long as they found their previous experience to be satisfactory. As a result, customer loyalty programs are very common among carriers, as shown by Spirit Airlines's own frequent flyer program called FREE SPIRIT.

8. Wasn't Always a Carrier

It is interesting to note that Spirit Airlines wasn't always a carrier. Of course, considering its current name, this means that it used to go by something else. In short, the company was founded as Clippert Trucking Company in 1964, which was exactly what most people would expect based on such a name. Eventually, the Clippert Trucking Company became Ground Air Transfer, though it wasn't until 1983 that it would see the launch of its operations as a carrier.

9. Involved in Tourism

Initially, the company's carrier operations started out as a charter tour operator. Said operator was based out of Detroit. However, it offers interested individuals travel packages to popular tourist destinations in both the United States and beyond. Unsurprisingly, both Atlantic City and Las Vegas were included from the start. However, it is interesting to note that the Bahamas was included as well, meaning that there was never a time when the company that became Spirit Airlines was limited to just the United States and nowhere else.

10. Built Up Over Time

Naturally, it took a fair amount of build-up before the company that became Spirit Airlines could become something more than a charter tour operator. For example, it took until 1990 for Charter One to start offering a small number of scheduled flights, all of which connected various cities to Atlantic City. Likewise, it wasn't until 1992 that Charter One started adding jets to its fleet, which was followed up by the additions of more scheduled flights. Speaking of which, it was in 1992 that Charter One made the choice to rename itself Spirit Airlines, which served as a simple but nonetheless necessary recognition of how its services had changed over time.

11. Changed by Overbooking Incident in Summer of 1994

In the summer of 1994, Spirit Airlines ran into a bit of trouble. What happened was that Spirit Airlines had provided incorrect instructions to various travel agents, with the result that it overbooked its flights, so much so that 1,400 tickets had to be cancelled. Unsurprisingly, the customers with the cancelled tickets were furious, which prompted Spirit Airlines to make a promise that its paid customers would always be able to fly to their intended destinations. Something that would be fulfilled even if Spirit Airlines had to pay other carriers to get the job done instead of handling it through their own capabilities.

12. Moved Headquarters in 1999

Since Spirit Airlines used to be limited to offering charter flights from Detroit, it shouldn't be a challenge to predict that it used to be headquartered in that particular part of the United States as well. To be exact, the company that went on to become Spirit Airlines was headquartered in Eastpointe, though for a fair amount of the time that it was there, said place would have been called East Detroit rather than Eastpointe. Something that was changed because its residents wanted to be associated with the affluent communities of the Grosse Pointes rather than Detroit. Regardless, Spirit Airlines moved to its current headquarters in 1999, though at the time, it considered other locations as well.

13. Got Fined in 2000

In 2000, Spirit Airlines got hit with a $67,000 fine by the Federal Aviation Administration, which is the part of the U.S. federal government with the power to regulate the various aspects of civil aviation. For example, it is responsible for overseeing how carriers are run. However, it is also responsible for matters such as the construction of new airports. As for the fine, it was issued because it was found that Spirit Airlines had violated its rules and regulations for markings and placards on eight of its planes that bore discrepancies.

14. Started Turning into an Ultra Low Cost Carrier in 2007

Spirit Airlines started the process of turning into an ultra low carrier in 2007. Essentially, this meant that it stopped offering a lot of the features that most people would expect from standard flights in the base ticket. Presumably, Spirit Airlines saw a niche in the air travel market that wasn't filled out to an adequate extent by its competitors, with the result that it went for it. Something that is supported by how other U.S. airlines followed in its wake to some extent.

15. Said Features Are Still Available

Of course, the features that were no longer included in the base ticket price were still available. However, interested individuals had to pay more for them, thus enabling Spirit Airlines to capture more consumer surplus. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, consumer surplus is the difference between what people are willing to pay and what people actually pay. By setting up its model, Spirit Airlines enabled itself to convince people who are willing to pay more to pay more, thus eating up what would have become consumer surplus under other circumstances. In a sense, it is a more extractive version of what airlines had already been doing for a very long time.

16. First U.S. Carrier to Charge for Carry-On Bags

In 2011, Spirit Airlines gained the dubious distinction of being the first U.S. carrier to charge its passengers for their carry-on bags. Suffice to say that this made it the target of a lot of jokes at the time because while it had seen use in other countries, it was new for people in the United States. With that said, it wasn't too long before other carriers catering to similar niches followed suit.

17. Got Hit by Pilot Strike in 2009

In May of 2009, Spirit Airlines got hit by a strike by its pilots, who voted 98 percent in favor of going on strike. This was perhaps unsurprising, seeing as how the vote followed four years of unproductive negotiations between the pilots and the carrier over their compensation as well as other issues. Moreover, it is important to note that at the time, Spirit Airlines pilots were some of the lowest paid Airbus pilots in the whole of the United States. Due to this, it wasn't until that their compensation had been brought more in-line with other Airbus pilots that they voted to end the strike.

18. Got Hit by PR Crisis in 2012

Unsurprisingly, Spirit Airlines has a pretty strict refund policy, which can be summed up as it being very, very unenthusiastic about issuing refunds. Unfortunately, this caused it to run right into a PR nightmare in the April of 2012 when it refused to refund a non-refundable ticket for a Vietnam War veteran, who was seeking a refund because he had been told by his doctor not to fly because his esophageal cancer was terminal. This resulted in some hasty action on the part of Spirit Airlines, which offered an apology, a refund, and a charitable donation in the veteran's name.

19. Has Been Fined More than Once by the Department of Transportation

Spirit Airlines has gotten into trouble with the Department of Transportation. For example, there was the time when its marketing practices were found to be deceptive because while they posted very attractive rates in their marketing materials, they failed to disclose anything about their penchant for charging extra fees. Likewise, there was the time when Spirit Airlines got fined $100,000 because of how it had botched the handling of complaints from customers with disabilities.

20. Has Seen Improvements in Recent Times

Curiously, Spirit Airlines has seen some improvements in recent times, though it remains an ultra low cost carrier. For example, it has excellent on-time performance, so much so that it was beaten out by just Delta Airlines in 2017. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Spirit Airlines is considered to be one of the safest airlines out there as well, which is why it managed to make a list of the 10 safest airlines in February of 2018. Something that was particularly noticeable because it was the only North American airline to manage that particular feat.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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