NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Spirit Airlines, recently dubbed the "most complained about" airline in America, is on a mission to "hug the haters" in its latest campaign. The company is awarding up to one billion free Spirit miles to travelers who feel they've been wronged by any airline, including Spirit.
Spirit is encouraging travelers to visit HateThousandMiles.com and submit up to 140 characters about a negative experience they've had on a commercial airline. Participants will be given 8,000 free Spirit miles to use toward an award flight.
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"We want to change the way people think about air travel and educate them about the Spirit way of traveling," said Ben Baldanza, CEO of Spirit Airlines. "We're going to hug the haters. They can share their frustrations with flying, and in return, we're going to give them 8,000 free Spirit miles, which gets them very close to an award flight."
Spirit takes an à la carte approach to ticket pricing by providing a "Bare Fare," which the company says is the lowest possible price to get from point A to B and includes one personal item. Passengers are then given the option to pay for many other add-ons, such as a checked bag, which ranges from $21 during booking to $100 at the gate, or a carry-on, $26 during booking or up to $100 at the gate.
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Along with their promotion, Spirit is also reiterating its Bare Fare approach by publicizing two videos of a guy and girl stripping down to their underwear before boarding their flight, filling their carry-ons with everything they'll need for their quick getaways.
"When you fly, you shouldn't have to pay for a checked bag, carry-on, water or snacks if you don't want them," said Paul Berry, spokesperson for Spirit. "We give customers that option. Other airlines include those charges in their fare, but customers just don't see it."
Berry explains that although customers are happy when they book their low fares on Spirit, six weeks or so later when it's time to board the plane, they are disgruntled about being charged for bags, water, sodas, snacks and more.
In addition to Spirit customers believing they are being nickel-and-dimed, many often complain about having little to no legroom on flights and that they can't recline their economy seats.
"We call it the carpool effect," Berry said. "When we can put more people onto a plane, everybody pays less."
As part of a rebranding effort, Spirit also set up an informational Spirit 101 site to educate consumers.
"What we're doing is very different for many consumers in the U.S. It's been going on in Europe for quite awhile," Berry said. "We understand that if you're expecting a traditional flying experience from five years ago, even one year ago – flying with Spirit can be a shock."
The airline is confident it can turn all of that around.
"We know many customers love us and our approach to air travel," said Baldanza. "We're confident once the haters see how we're different, and how much money they can save, they'll learn to love us as well."
--Written by Renee Morad for MainStreet