Spirit Airlines wants your loyalty and is betting that everything from a new app to improved operations and an updated cabin will keep travelers coming back.
The South Florida-based carrier unveiled the first aircraft, an Airbus A320neo registered N920NK, with its new seats and cabin at an event in Spirit’s Detroit (DTW) hangar Tuesday. The cabin highlights Spirit’s eye-catching black-and-yellow color palette — down to the stitching on the seats — while adding what airline executives tout as “usable legroom” in an aim to make flying more comfortable.
“This really is a new Spirit,” Lania Rittenhouse, vice president of inflight experience at Spirit, told reporters onboard the first aircraft.
Unveiled in September, the new seats have 28 inches of pitch but effectively feature more “useable” space by moving the literature pocket to the top of the seatback, and adding contouring to seat shell. The chairs also have thicker padding, more lumbar support, and bigger tray tables than Spirit’s previous seats.
Spirit’s cabin still features two rows of its Big Front Seat in a 2-2 layout, with the rest of the cabin in a 3-3 layout. A notable feature of the new fittings is a wider middle seat at 18 inches, compared to 17 inches for both the aisle and window seats.
Anecdotally, the new seats feel as if they have more more room for passengers’ legs and knees than the old seats when compared to the previous fittings on an adjacent A320 in the hangar.
The new onboard product is part of a larger suite of customer-focused investments at Spirit. Other passenger-facing investments include improved operational reliability, a new app, eventually inflight Wi-Fi and a new loyalty program. The airline has also increased training for its crews, and is building a new headquarters near the Fort Lauderdale (FLL) airport.
“We’re on a mission for guest loyalty right now,” said Benjamin Lewis, senior director of commercial and operational analytics at Spirit, in Detroit. All of the investments are aimed at engendering that loyalty while keeping with the carrier’s low-cost ethos, he added.
For example, the new cabin does not feature power outlets. Rittenhouse told TPG that Spirit looked at installing them but opted not to until it can develop a business case for the amenity that does not add costs for travelers.
Spirit’s first A320neo with the new cabin entered service on Dec. 13, on a flight from Detroit to New Orleans (MSY). The jet has operated 13 flights in the days since, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.
The airline’s second aircraft with the product will be delivered from Airbus on Dec. 19, Spirit executives said. The carrier plans to have 90 jets outfitted with the updated cabin in two years, including 48 new A320neo deliveries and retrofits of 40 aircraft already in its fleet.
Spirit will have 145 A320 family jets in its fleet at the end of September, its latest fleet plan shows.
Featured image by Edward Russell/TPG.