Unintended Consequences Files: Spirit Airlines Announces Government Regulations Force Fee Hike

Well, I doubt this is what the government intended with its new regulations for airlines:

I received an email this afternoon from Spirit Airlines (an email that went out to most of their contacts I imagine) with this warning banner splashed across the top of the email. Spirit traditionally has used provocative advertising campaigns (including the image of a hot dog and stimulus innuendos). But this one was more direct. The body of the email reads:

WARNING: New government regulations require us to HIDE taxes in your fares.

This is not consumer-friendly or in your best interest. It’s wrong and you shouldn’t stand for it.

Starting January 24, 2012, fares are distorted.

Why? Thanks to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s latest fare rules, Spirit must now HIDE the government’s taxes and fees in your fares.

If the government can hide taxes in your airfares, then they can carry out their hidden agenda and quietly increase their taxes. (Yes, such talks are already underway.)

And if they can do it to the airline industry, what’s next? As the transparency leader and most consumer-friendly airline, Spirit DOES NOT support this new USDOT mandate. We believe the better form of transparency is to break out costs so customers know exactly what they’re buying.

What can you do to help stop this injustice? Join us in keeping government taxes and fees low and transparent by contacting your elected officials.

The email then includes links to contacting state and congressional representatives.

It is unclear whether the U.S. government thought airlines would just comply with this quietly or if they figure everyone wants the Kayak model of searching for airfare (Kayak will give you prices that include all the fees and taxes built in so you don’t find a low fare and then find out it has doubled when you go to buy it due to fees). Either way Spirit has blown the hatch on this “plot” and hopefully DOT backs off their intrusion into the affairs of business.

Update Feb. 2: CNN is reporting Spirit has declared another aspect of the new DOT rules for airlines as the “Department of Transportation Unintended Consequences Fee.” In addition to requiring airlines to publish fares that include taxes and fees built in, DOT also is forcing airlines to allow passengers to change flights 24 hours in advance without a changing fee. In order to compensation for the cost of having to hold seats open to comply with this new rule, Spirit is adding a $2 fee to every ticket—so people who don’t change their flight will be paying for those who do change their flights. Spirit wants to advertise its rates as very low, and then show customers what the taxes and fees added on by the government are. They also want to fill up their planes and only charge customers who want to make a last second change for that convenience. But with DOTs new regulations, Spirit feels backed into a corner and is letting the world know about its frustration.