Ben Baldanza was one of my favorite airline executives even though and because he ran Spirit. That’s because he unabashedly said what he thought, and defended his business from his perspective. Spirit Airlines isn’t a great customer experience but they make travel affordable and have driven fares in the industry, and their Big Front Seat has been one of the best values in travel. So what if he accidentally replied-all to a customer complaint email telling the customer where they could go?
He and Seth Kaplan have a regular weekly podcast, Airlines Confidential. Seth used to run Airline Weekly before selling it to Skift.
During the most recent episode Baldanza told one of the best ‘hidden city ticketing’ stories ever. Before Baldanza ran Spirit he had been Vice President overseeing marketing (including Dividend Miles) at US Airways. Ironically he led the public charge to only reward full fare tickets with status miles. At Spirit Baldanza once ran a campaign to reward customers more who saved the most money.
- Baldanza explained that Greensboro, North Carolina was frequently used as a ‘hidden city’ for Charlotte flights. Greensboro was always cheaper because US Airways had a near-monopoly for non-stops from the Charlotte market.
- Some customers actually flew to Greensboro rather than just throwing away the segment. The two cities are an easy drive.
- One rental car location in Greensboro found that their biggest book of business was one-way rentals between Charlotte and Greensboro, and they were all US Airways customers.
So the rental outfit contacted US Airways Dividend Miles looking to do a deal to incentivize these customers with miles. US Airways declined to incentivize customers to save money on airfare flying out of Greensboro.
Baldanza’s comments years ago at US Airways that customers buying the cheap tickets his airline offered weren’t showing ‘the kind of loyalty’ they wanted spurred the ‘US Airways cockroach’ movement. And US Airways found themselves going through bankruptcy twice. His podcast though is definitely worth a listen, and his blog is worth reading too he just doesn’t update it enough.