Unbundling of Airline Services – My Experience with Spirit Air

I recently flew Spirit Airlines from LA to Las Vegas and encountered their business model of unbundling of services. What this means is that when you pay for your airfare, that’s all that you’re paying for – nothing else. You don’t get a free soda on the flight. You don’t get to carry on a rollerboard bag for free. You don’t even get to pick your seat without paying. All of the services and features that you typically expect from paying to fly are “unbundled” and you pay only for what you want or need.

Spirit Air Bare FareFor North American airlines (Ryan Air does this in Europe), this a-la-carte model is totally different and at first encounter, pretty shocking. I was annoyed when I checked in for my flight and realized that I had to pay $45 just to carry on my luggage (they do allow one personal item for free).  But then I thought about how the one-way airfare was only $36. And I thought more about how many people travel with just a personal item and nothing else, and they have to pay the same amount as those who carry on a bag and take up more space. I continued to ponder about how my wife and I would love to not pay for the 1000 channels that we get from our cable provider Comcast when we really only watch about 10 channels. Unbundling cable would be amazing.

Because the model is new, education is very important, and Spirit Air does do a good job of explaining the model on their website. The issue is that more and more flights are being booked on fare aggregators like Expedia and Orbitz (I booked the flight on Kayak), and the different airline offerings don’t get explained on these sites.

I think Spirit Air’s unbundling of services is going to be the preferred choice for many travelers, but the different business model needs to be explained upfront to avoid the unpleasant surprise of having to outlay money for every little thing, which can be shocking.

Have you ever flown Spirit or Ryan Air? What are your thoughts about this new unbundled airline model? Please let me know in the comments.

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Image courtesy of Spirit Airlines

4 thoughts on “Unbundling of Airline Services – My Experience with Spirit Air

  1. Hey Mike,

    I flew RyanAir and EasyJet (another discount airline) all the time when I lived in the UK. I always thought their model made a lot of sense as I should not have to subsidize the luggage or drinks or food of others. That said, however, these airlines would bombard passengers with advertisements via the flight attendants and that was awful, especially after you’re still hungover from a 3-day party in Prague! I have not flown Spirit yet, but primarily b/c they haven’t really penetrated to DC market much.

    1. We definitely weren’t bombarded with ads on our flight, which was good. Like Vicky said, the online experience had a little left to be desired, but overall a decent experience.

  2. I guess I’m not as forgiving as you… I’m still pretty bitter about paying more for the carry-on bag than the flight. I do agree that that’s because I was taken by surprise. Had I known during the purchasing process then I would’ve done the math and made peace with it. Also, their website for checking in needs improvement. I was able to perform only one function (either pay to pre-select a seat or pay for the carry-on bag) before I was forced to complete the check-in process.

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