Everyone’s in an uproar over Spirit Airlines’ plans to charge an unprecedented $45 fee for carry-on bags.But Fast Company co-founder Bill Taylor thinks that all the criticism is misdirected.
Yes, it’s a terrible idea, he writes in a post for Harvard Business Review — but the outrage isn’t really about charging vs. not charging.
The most important lesson here is that a company’s actions should line up with the message it’s been sending its customers all along. And, unfortunately, Spirit Airlines has never been clear about “what it stands for.”
Taylor presents the case studies of two other airlines with very opposite mantras.
On the one hand, there’s Southwest, which prides itself on not charging for amenities and even created an advertising campaign espousing the fact.
On the other, we have Ryanair, which is infamous for cutting all costs possible and charging for any perk beyond sitting in a seat.
Yet both have been incredibly successful while the rest of the airline business is suffering. So this issue can’t really be about charging or not charging.
Rather, Taylor asserts that, from the start, both airlines have been very clear in their messages about what they stand for. They set their customer expectations for how they would behave during the recession, and they haven’t failed to deliver.
Spirit hasn’t done so, and Taylor thinks it’s going to pay the price with its customers. His lesson to CEOs: “How you explain yourselves to the market is as important as what you do in the market.”
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