Spirit Airlines is introducing a new fee, but it’s for an option the carrier thinks customers will be happy about: in-flight Wi-Fi.
Spirit announced Friday that it will become the first North American no-frills "ultra low-cost carrier" to add that capability, unveiling an aggressive plan to equip its entire fleet of about 120 planes with Wi-Fi by next summer.
Spirit touted the move as fitting into a broader strategy to "invest in the guest” and its ongoing effort to improve customers’ experiences with the carrier.
It"™s an abrupt turn for Spirit, sometimes referred to as "America"™s most-hated airline" "” a tag earned earlier this decade when it struggled with on-time performance, customer complaints and an uneven roll-out of what was then a new fee-heavy business model.
But that has changed, says Spirit president Ted Christie, who points to an on-time arrival rate that recently has been among the industry"™s best and an improving rate of customer complaints.
Christie says adding Wi-Fi is is part of an “evolution” that’s proving low-fare budget air travel doesn"™t have to be awful.
"Someone who may have traveled with us five or six years ago is going to have a completely different experience today," Christie says in an interview with USA TODAY. "I think that"™s what we"™re excited to crow about."
"We can show we are a best-in-class operator," he says about the carrier"™s efforts to improve punctuality and reduce cancellations.
"We can show that our overall onboard experience is improving," he continues, noting what he calls "the friendliest flight attendants in the business who have now received guest-satisfaction training (and) the newest fleet in America with the cleanest airplanes.".