Spirit Airlines, the Florida-based airline that will charge $45 to stow carry-ons in the overhead bin starting August 1, is plumbing new depths of customer annoyance by announcing today that it would begin placing ads for a toothbrush company on its lavatory mirrors.
The toothbrush company, which will get no additional publicity here, apparently believes Spirit’s media kit claim that the ads will get “100% saturation, with a targeted, captive audience that is actively engaged by ads for an average of three hours.”
It’s difficult not to snigger at the phrase “captive audience.”
Spirit, which recently installed cheap and uncomfortable “pre-reclined” seats on many of its aircraft so it could increase the passenger load, has sold advertising on barf bags, tray tables, bulkhead panels, beverage napkins, ticket envelopes and more. In years past it mandated flight attendants to wear aprons imprinted with the Bud Light logo.
Folks, this is a seriously whacked-out airline. In the wake of Spirit’s carry-on fee announcement last month, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said the surcharge was “a slap in the face to travelers.” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, at the same time, said, “I don’t think they care about their customers.”
Let me repeat that. United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said: “I don’t think they care about their customers.”
It’s one thing for Spirit to turn its planes into tacky flying billboards. The airline’s own advertising efforts have been equally atrocious, and blatantly inappropriate as well. One of their ads begins, “We’re having a threesome. Come join the fun.” Nudge nudge, wink wink. Another ad touted their “MILF” promotion; Spirit claimed to be unaware that the acronym was actually a crude sexual reference for attractive mothers, saying instead that MILF stands for Many Islands, Low Fares. It’s clear to me that, as Scott Carmichael wrote at Gadling.com, Spirit airlines is the Beavis and Butthead of the domestic aviation industry. Let me rephrase that: Spirit is Beavis and Butthead without the charm and intellect.
But none of this is new. You’ll find numerous negative comments about the airline going back several years. At My3Cents.com, Spirit has more reader complaints than any other airline. Consumeraffairs.com has 38 web pages of complaints going back to 2001. By the way, if you Google the phrase “I hate Spirit Airlines” you will get 2,100 results in about a quarter of a second.
Spirit Airlines has 2,099 fans on Facebook. I’m pretty sure my dentist has more fans.
But at least Spirit is good for a laugh:
First Man: I won a contest and got a free ticket on Spirit Airlines.
Second Man: What did the losers get?
First Man: Two tickets…
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is also the international editor at Travel + Leisure.