Spirit Airlines-Hated and Profitable!

Passengers on Spirit Airlines file more complaints with the U.S. government than any other airline. Yet by all financial measures, Spirit is the winner in a competitive industry using personas to target ideal customers.

Personas are used for understanding its ideal market , including its unique needs. The ideal Spirit passenger goes something like this: head of a household who works all year for a family vacation, and when that time comes, travel is only a necessary inconvenience to get to and from a resort destination. Everyone else whose expectations of the regular services offered on other airlines, will have a unpleasant experience.

Jennifer Lawson, a fourteen-year-old, returning from camp in Houston, Texas, was traveling Spirit to the East Coast about two thousand miles or halfway across the country. Prior to boarding, Jennifer laid out the rest of her cash at the ticket counter to cover the costs of a bag fee, plus ten dollars to print the boarding pass.

During the flight, she became extremely thirsty and asked an attendant for water. The stewardess put out her hand for seven dollars, and Jennifer told the attendant she had spent the rest her money at the counter to get on the plane. To which the attendant said, “There are no exceptions,” and walked away.

Jennifer got out of her seat and followed the attendant down the aisle protesting. She did not need a whole bottle, she told the attendant, just a few sips. So, the attendant held open the bathroom door and offered her the bathroom sink, which was labeled “non-potable.”
Spirit is loosely modeled on Ryan Air’s no-frills shuttle that transports passengers between European cities for roughly forty dollars a trip. Ryan Air, whose concept is nothing more than a flying bus, solves the needs of several personas, including business travelers and young tourists. Spirit operates across vast distances between cities in the United States. Its market has to accept enduring whatever it takes to reach the other end, and still feel enormously satisfied by having saved a few bucks.

Organizations that use personas to understand their markets – and ultimately satisfy their needs – will find similar success

Steven Slater

Steven has spent decades in the service industry, aligned to building programs (services) for membership organizations, consumer brands, professional services, and, public agencies and non-profits reach the general public or specific demographics. Steven has a Master’s in Marketing Sciences (MBA program) from the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University; a Master’s in Arts in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University; a Bachelor’s of Arts in International Relations and Communications from Syracuse University; and an International Baccalaureate from the International School of Geneva, Switzerland.

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