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Posted: 2:52 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8, 2014

Would You Fly Stinky Spirit Air Just To Save Money?


Spirit Air flight on the runway photo
Aero Icarus / Flickr

Spirit Air is known for its low fares and poor customer service. Would you fly them just to save some money?

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Yes. I'll do ANYTHING to save a few bucks.

No. My dignity as a passenger is worth more than that.

I'm not sure.

By Clark Howard

Spirit Air offers seemingly great bargains, but I almost never talk about them on the show because they're not a crowd pleaser.

In fact, an analysis from British-based aviation research group SkyTrax named Spirit the only U.S. carrier among the world's worst airlines!

They're right down there with relative unknowns like Tajik Air, Rossiya, Merpati Nusantara, Air Koryo, Ukraine International, and Turkmenistan Airlines -- many of them fleets that fly the skies over the former Soviet Union.

Here's why people keep flying Spirit

Despite the terrible customer service, the unreliable schedules, the junk fees for everything, and seat space that is the tightest in the Western world, people keep going for their dirt-cheap fares; they have the highest profit margins of any airline in the U.S.

Spirit charges up to $100 for a carry-on bag. Fortunately, there are special carry-ons sold at Costco for $29 that will let you avoid any baggage fees. I got one of these things and was able to pack for a 3 day/2 night trip with it.

But by playing this gotcha game and others, Spirit earns more than $100 per passenger in add-on junk fees after you've booked a $150 ticket, according to their latest filings with Wall Street. So if you're considering flying them, be prepared that whatever low fare you may get will actually cost you another two-thirds by the time you're done.

Meanwhile, Spirit remains unapologetic and unrepentant about its ways.

"We're not even Wal-Mart," Ben Baldanza told NPR a few months back. "We're Dollar General. And we like being Dollar General, because we save people lots of money."

Ben told me the same when I recently sat down with him for an interview in Ft. Lauderdale.

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