Spirit Airlines brand model is screw you

Spirit Airlines, known as a traveler’s worst friend, is considering going all out and charging customers if they want to talk to a person at the airport. This would be in keeping with Spirit’s long and distinguished history of viewing its customers as chattel. Just last week the airline began charging for carry on bags.

nospirit Customer screwage like this starts at the top, and in this case the top is CEO Ben Baldanza, who has never had much time for the people who make it possible for him to get a paycheck. This was documented a few years ago in Baldanza’s response to a customer email. The customers had written what has been characterized as a “long but polite” letter asking for a $376.84 refund to cover a trip ruined by a three-hour delay to their Spirit Airlines flight. In an email meant instructing a staffer how to respond Baldanza wrote: “Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny. “

The icing on this particular pile of crap was the “spin” the company’s head of communications tried to put on things: “No, we really don’t believe we have anything to apologize for regarding Ben’s e-mail. I can tell you that Ben cares enormously about our customers and our customer service. Ben said what is exactly true: that we don’t owe the customer anything. People can and do post whatever they would like on the Internet. But it cannot alter your adherence to your company policy or your procedures.”

Why aren’t these guys working for BP?

Oil spill is a crude and growing advertising trend

bullshitplug400x566 It’s an ill tide that … Spirit Airlines latched on to The BP Oil Spill as a way to divert attention from its own PR fiasco of charging for carry-on bags. So they launched a campaign with bikini-clad women in all glistening in sun screen with the tag of "Check Out The Oil On Our Beaches. While I’ve seen more risqué (and clever) things on the Benny Hill Show, someone somewhere objected to this. (And pardon me if I suspect Spirit of being behind this.)

Twitter users from all over the world have been tweeting about the advert while an indignant Facebook user has started the group ‘Tell Spirit Airlines their oil ads are offensive’.

Meanwhile, a chain of NYC gyms managed to come up with something slightly funnier. The NYSC is running ads which read, “Exercise sharpens the brain. Oil execs come in ASAP.” (For some reason CNN called the ad “tasteless.” A bazillion gallons of oil in the Gulf and you think this is tasteless?)

The marketing is seeping into new media with apps for both the Droid and iPhone that let you A) plug the spill or B) save a little yellow duck from turning brown. Elsewhere, everyone is trying to make political hay from the oil. In Minnesota, the Democratic opponent to Michelle Bachmann (R-Loon Lake) is flinging petrol-soaked mud because Bachmann also said the government was extorting money from BP to pay for the spill. In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley claims his opponent is an oil company stooge because he once voted for tax breaks for the oil companies. Not to be outdone, the GOP has a video blasting President Obama for having the temerity to play golf during the oil spill. I really am not ready for a world in which the GOP disapproves of someone playing golf. That’s like the Democrats attacking brie. Have you no sense of decency, man?

What little quality advertising has been done about the oil spill has come at BP’s expense both thematically and fiscally. The beleaguered Gulf state tourism boards are desperate to get people to come visit. To that end, New Orleans launched a campaign with the tagline: “This isn’t the first time New Orleans has survived the British.” You know you’re desperate when your ads are built around a reference to the War of 1812. Next up, a Millard Fillmore quote. Probably the best thing about these ads is that BP is picking up the tab for them. Florida has already burned through the $25 million BP gave them for advertising and is now preparing to go back to the well for more.

But my personal favorite BP-related marketing effort comes from TerrorBull Games – the company which brought us War On Terror: The Boardgame. They are offering a free, downloadable game called Operation: Bullshit Plug (my but they do love colons over there).

This game is for two players. Each player takes a role – either ‘BP’ or ‘The Public’ and each player has two cards that represent two possible strategies. BP is trying to shore up its dwindling share price, while the public just want the leak plugged. Both players pick a strategy and play it face down, simultaneously. These are then revealed and the effects on the share price and the leak are worked out. This action is then repeated until the game ends. It’s very simple, takes just a few minutes to play, but is also quite devilish and deceiving.

Plus you get that cool/disgusting Ralph Steadman-esque picture.

Airline CEO crashes and burns his marketing as private email goes public

Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza “inadvertently sent an e-mail intended as an internal memo to a Spirit Airlines staff member to a couple who had e-mailed Baldanza a complaint about bad service on his airline.

The customers had written what has been characterized as a “long but polite” letter asking for a $376.84 refund to cover a trip ruined by a three-hour delay to their Spirit Airlines flight. In an email meant instructing a staffer how to respond Baldanza wrote: “Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny. ”

He then hit “reply all.”

BTW, Aviation.com (from whence I got this story) said that the customers “were more angry over the rudeness and bad service they felt they had experienced at the hands of Spirit Airlines staff during the three-hour delay than at the fact of the delay itself.”

(I am late to the story, it broke a couple of weeks ago when one of the customers in question posted the story to another blog and then it went into WIDE circulation.)

Aviation.com also quotes the Orlando Sentinal who got the following amazing quotes from one Alison Russell, Spirit Airlines’ director of corporate communications in North America:

  • “No, we really don’t believe we have anything to apologize for regarding Ben’s e-mail.”
  • “I can tell you that Ben cares enormously about our customers and our customer service. Ben said what is exactly true: that we don’t owe the customer anything. People can and do post whatever they would like on the Internet. But it cannot alter your adherence to your company policy or your procedures.”
  • “Truthfully, I’m genuinely not concerned,” she said. “People are going to have a blog for good things or bad things. We are very pleased with our customer service, we are very pleased with what we do.”

It’s always been my understanding that when it comes to customer service, it’s the customer who should determine whether or not a company is pleased with what it does.

Repeat after me, Mr. Baldanza & Ms. Russell, “I’m sorry. We screwed up. This is not how we want to operate. This kind of attitude starts with the top leadership and I clearly need to take full responsibility.” Then you list the concrete actions you are taking to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

There’s a simple lesson that spies and journalists learn early on: Don’t write anything down unless you’re comfortable with it appearing on the front page of the New York Times. Fortunately for spies and journalists, very few people learn that lesson.

Hmmm, seems to be airline theme week …

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