CEO Ben Baldanza on how Spirit Airlines does things differently
Ben Baldanza, president and CEO of Spirit Airlines, Inc., photographed in July 2010.
Refer to his airline as "the dollar store of the sky" or the "McDonalds of airlines," and Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza won't be offended. "I think we might have been the ones who tried to coin that," Baldanza says.
Spirit is one of the country's cheapest air carriers, offering deeply discounted fares to locations throughout the U.S., Central America, the Carribean, and South America from its hub in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
But while consumers pay less for their tickets, they'll be hit with lots of supplimental fees for things like using the overhead bin on a plane ($20-$45), or having a ticket agent print out their boarding passes at the airport ($5).
"We think of it as creating more 'optionality' [sic] for customers," says Baldanza, defending the practice. "What we do is we strip out all of the things that can be a decision point for the customer -- like whether you take bags or not, or if you want to pick where you sit on the plane, or whether you're going to eat on the plane or not."
Asked whether he believes leisure travel is still part of the American Dream at a time when many are still struggling financially, Baldanza gives an affirmative yes.
"Travel is a fundamental right, I think, in our country. So I think finding ways for people to travel more often and more affordably is really important, and it gives people more options in their life."