April 24--Spirit Airlines said Wednesday that it expands to cities that need more flights and have fares that can be undercut, and Kansas City filled the bill on both counts.
"It makes sense to us to stimulate those markets," said Mark Kopczak, the airline's vice president of network planning.
The Florida-based low-cost carrier will offer daily nonstop service to Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Dallas, Detroit and Las Vegas starting Aug 7. It will add Houston on Aug. 8. Kansas City will be the 56th city added to Spirit's route network.
City officials, civic leaders and Spirit representatives formally announced the new service Wednesday morning at Kansas City International Airport's Terminal C, where Spirit's flights will depart.
"Spirit has selected five key destinations from Kansas City that will benefit both leisure and business customers alike," said Mark VanLoh, director of aviation for the Kansas City Aviation Department.
Kopczak said it's too early to say whether other destinations could be added. The airline will initially have one daily flight to each of the five cities in August, and more could be added when there is enough demand. Spirit believes it will bring more people to KCI who stopped flying because of the cost.
"We are here to grow the market," he said.
The airline has 56 Airbus planes in service and has ordered an additional 100 for its growing and profitable business.
But Spirit also fights a reputation that it has made the skies decidedly less friendly. A poll released Wednesday by AirfareWatchdog.com said the airline had the rudest flight attendants out of all of America's airlines.
And a report last week by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said Spirit customers are more likely to complain to the U.S. Department of Transportation than customers of any other airline, in part because of the airline's myriad fees that inflate the cost of the base fare.
A few examples: Taking a carry-on bag can cost $50, although it's about half that if paid for when booking online. But if you wait until the very last minute and pay at the gate, it will cost $100. Modifying a flight is $115 to $125. Thirsty? A can of Dr Pepper is $3, and a cup of coffee is $2.
But Spirit notes that the complaints, though regrettable, come from a tiny fraction of its customers. And if its service is so bad, Spirit says, why is its business growing, filling more planes with passengers?
The airline also says its add-ons allow customers more control over their fare by deciding, for example, whether they want to pay for a $3 soft drink.
"That drink isn't free (on other airlines) because it's included in the price of the ticket," said Kopczak.
Southwest Airlines, which has the most flights at KCI, didn't have much to say when asked Wednesday for comment about Spirit's entry into the Kansas City market. But it did mention it had good customer service, no charges for bags and no fees for modifying reservations.
"We're committed to the Kansas City market," said Dan Landson, a spokesman for Southwest.
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