Say what you will about Spirit Airlines: Some people love the low-cost carrier for its a la carte pricing, while others accuse the airline of nickel-and-diming passengers with exorbitant fees – charging for checked bags, carry-on items, fees to speak to a customer service representative and everything else.
But no matter what you think about Spirit, this past week the company unveiled what some are calling a rather goofy promotion. The “Hate Thousand Miles” promotion gives everyone a chance to vent their frustrations at Spirit – or any other airline – and in return receive 8,000 Free Spirit (frequent flier) miles. Of course those 8,000 miles are meaningless unless you truly are a Spirit frequent flyer, in which case they might have some value for you.
Regardless what anyone thinks of the promotion, it was obviously done as a vehicle to drive publicity. And here’s the thing: it worked. Not only did it work, but what appears to be a seemingly silly promotion landed a number of national media opportunities and positive interviews about an airline that many claim to hate.
In an interview with Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza does an outstanding job of taking advantage of three minutes of national airtime to promote his airline. In every question Cavuto asks, Baldanza manages to respond perfectly – basically turning those three minutes on Fox into a commercial for Spirit.
Notice the wording Baldanza uses:
“People can get frustrated with airlines, and Spirit is trying to lower airfares for everyone.”
“We’re trying to make this more transparent for people.”
“We don’t want anyone to be surprised [with our fees].”
“If you buy from Spirit on our website, it works really well and you see that.”
“We’re working with our customers who buy from outlets other than Spirit to be more transparent.”
“We’re working on signage at the airport to be more transparent.”
“We want no one to be surprised when they show up for their flights.”
The best part of the interview is after Baldanza is off the air and Cavuto goes on to endorse Spirit, making comments like, “Whether you’re for or against these fees, it’s all right there for you to see,” and “Unlike these other airlines in the industry that hide these things…”
Would this kind of promotion generate the same positive publicity for every company? Probably not. But for Spirit it works so well because they’re not afraid of what the press, or anyone else for that matter, thinks. And because they are such a controversial company, Baldanza’s PR team knew the whole interview wouldn’t be focused solely on just this promotion; they knew it would be a chance to essentially advertise the airline in the national media for free if they armed their CEO properly. And he delivered. It’s another great example of how the media can add credibility to your brand, and this kind of credibility carries tremendous weight.
People will tell you they hate being “nickeled and dimed” and refuse to fly Spirit, but ignore what they say and look at what they do. The airline is doing something right: it ranked among the top five airlines in the world by operating profit margin for 2013. And with positive national media interviews like the one between Baldanza and Cavuto, it’s easy to see why.