Last updated: 10:22 PM ET, Sun August 14 2016

New Spirit CEO: We Have Work To Do, Changes To Make

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | June 21, 2016

New Spirit CEO: We Have Work To Do, Changes To Make

 Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Spirit Airlines has long been known as the low-budget carrier that almost revels in the amount of dislike many fliers have for the airline.

Some passengers are fine with the no-frills approach and the cheap fares, looking only to get from Point A to Point B. Others complain about the nickel-and-dime nature of Spirit’s business model.

Good, bad or indifferent, however, customers agree on one thing — they want to get there on time.

New Spirit CEO Robert Fornaro hears you.

In a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg News, Fornaro — who took over from Ben Baldanza in January — said his first priority would be to bring Spirit’s on-time performance up to industry standards.

“We’re No. 1 with price, and that creates a lot of benefits,” Fornaro told Bloomberg. “But it doesn’t mean you can’t be good with service.”

Last year, only 69 percent Spirit’s flights arrived on time, the lowest rate of the 13 airlines tracked by the U.S. Department of Transportation and below the industry average of 80 percent on-time arrival. Fornaro said his goal would be to raise the airline’s on-time performance by five percentage points over the summer and another five percent during the fall to help close the gap.

READ MORE: Spirit Introduces New Active Military Baggage Policy

In addition, Fornaro told Bloomberg that Spirit’s website will be updated and that he would create more communication with passengers and more training for employees to help shed its reputation as being flippant and unresponsive — and almost comically indifferent — leading to its branding as the most hated airline in the country.

“What we’re trying to do this summer and into the fall is create some stability,” he said.

Bloomberg noted that Fornaro is encouraging flight attendants to be friendlier — and to explain to passengers how paying for a cup of soda keeps fares low.

He added that he sees expansion not in major hub cities but in smaller markets.

 “We don’t need to be in the most important markets of our competitors on every decision we make,” Fornaro said.


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