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."

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.
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Spirit is absolutely the worst!

Their continued existence is a mockery of decent business practices and corporate social responsibility. It's time we do something about it!

Join Us!

Spirit Airlines SUCKS!!! And their CEO Sucks!! What a flop of a company. How hard it must be to be married to Ben Baldanza, or worse, be one of his kids!! Hey Ben... Get into Trash Collection or something a little less sophisticated... You certainly don't know HOW to run an airline you Jack A&&!!

I'm a Huge Fan of Spirit Airlines! I just flew round trip from Chicago to St. Paul for under $80 (Eighty) total....my trip next week will be $65 (Sixty Five) round trip. I pack light (clothes in my laptop bag) and am not picky about my seat. I take advantage of modern technology and print my boarding pass at a FedEx Office or Library before I head to the airport. Even with the nickle and dime fees, you're still paying a fraction of the cost the same flight would be on any other carrier. I think of Spirit as an Air Taxi - get me from point A to point B in one piece with my bag - no frills required. I love it.

I made the mistake of flying Spirit after the holidays. I had to opt to reserve specific seats so that I would be guaranteed of sitting by my 5-year-old. Customer service didn't tell me that the flight was delayed for two hours. Baggage claim took a full hour for the bags to appear, and to top it all off, the seats don't recline! I WILL NEVER FLY SPIRIT AGAIN!

Biggest series of softball questions resulting in a fluff interview. Despite recent media coverage about Spirit's ongoing and worsening dispute with its crewmembers over their pay/working conditions, Hobson let Baldanza wax poetic about the "American Dream" but didn't bother to ask about how Spirit Airlines' workers can hope to achieve the American Dream of a basic living wage without food stamps. Answer: they can't.

travel is a fundamental right for grandmothers to travel and visit their grandchildren without any luggage..LOL! based on those fees, Spirit looks pretty expensive!

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