Texas flyers looking for low fares have a new option at Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Spirit Airlines has announced that it will begin service to Houston on Sept. 20, with direct service to Dallas/Fort Worth and connecting flights to Baltimore/Washington, Las Vegas, Phoenix/Mesa, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Toluca/Mexico City, and Portland, Ore.
Spirit will be offering two flights a day to DFW airport, with fares in late September starting as low as $29. But while the taxes, fuel add-ons and fees that make up that fare are clearly presented (as the amusingly titled "government's cut") for many travelers the expense doesn't end there.
Spirit says it "empowers customers to save money on air travel by offering ultra low base fares with a range of optional services for a fee, allowing customers the freedom to choose only the extras they value." Booked in advance, a carry-on bag fee starts at $30, and two checked bags will run you $63 (a single checked bag is $28). There's also a fare for selecting your own seat, with a few spacious, leather seats up front fetching a $50 premium.
So a fare that starts out at $29 can quickly grow to two or three times that amount, and according to Spirit's earnings report for the first quarter of 2012 (as reported by Consumerist) it earns $103.36 in non-ticket revenue for each customer who travels round-trip.
It will be interesting to see if low base fares are enough to woo budget-conscious travelers away from low-cost king Southwest Airlines.
From Houston Hobby to Dallas Love Field, the lowest Southwest fare is $59, more than double Spirit's rate. But when you include two free checked bags, a lenient (and free!) flight change and cancelation policy, as well as the fact that Southwest runs 25 flights a day to Dallas, Southwest's deal doesn't look so bad, either.
Spirit is also by far the leader in customer complaints, with more than eight per 100,000 flyers, while Southwest fields .2 complaints from the same amount of people, the lowest number domestically. While Southwest is known to enjoy playing the cleavage police, Spirit makes news for refusing to give a $197 refund to a veteran dying of cancer.
Are you excited about Spirit coming to Houston? Which budget airline would you rather fly?