"No one goes to Chick-fil-A and complains they can't get a burger. And people shouldn't come to Spirit if they want lots of legroom." That quote's source? Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza speaking to the Wall Street Journal, explaining that yes, there've been lots of gripes about his airline, but, he says, there's a reason people keep flocking back: They can't get enough of the airline's low fares. In fact, according to stats from the DOT, even though Spirit is the most-complained-about US airline, it's also the fastest-growing one, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A Spirit spokesman tells the paper that the main reason for the complaints is simple: First-time fliers may not be familiar with what the Dealer calls the airline's "unconventional business practices." And those "unconventional" practices include charging—on top of the low base fare—for pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.
Passengers pay extra for carry-on bags, seat assignments, and buying tickets with a credit card. In addition to the fee to check your first bag—up to $100—there's a $25 charge if it weighs more than 40 pounds (most other airlines have a 50-pound limit), a $10 fee to print a boarding pass, and charges for all snacks and drinks; even water costs $3. There's also the aforementioned legroom issue: The Journal notes that every Spirit row is 2 to 3 inches more cramped than similar coach seats on other airlines. But perhaps Baldanza's confidence isn't misplaced: Two frequent fliers tell the Journal they've been pleased with the airline because of the low fares, sometimes booked at the last minute. And Susan Glaser, who wrote about her own Spirit experience, says, "My flight was on time. We landed safely. The crew was great." She's already purchased tickets for her next trip. (Read more Spirit Airlines stories.)