Spirit Airlines is going high tech. The Florida-based ultra-low-cost airline announced on Friday that its entire fleet will be equipped with WiFi by the summer of 2019.
For an airline known best for its rock-bottom prices and no-frills flying experience, the ability to stream movies at 30,000 feet will be a pleasant surprise for many.
“We’re excited to make this announcement,” Spirit Airlines president Ted Christie told us in an interview. “We’ve given a lot of thought on ways to enhance the product and to deliver value to our guests all in ways that are consistent with the company’s business model.”
Spirit will offer high-speed WiFi for an average price of $6.50 per flight. The price will vary based on demand and how much bandwidth is required, Christie explained. For instance, those who only need enough bandwidth to web browse will pay a different price than those who want to stream high-definition videos.
For Spirit, affordable WiFi is one part of a larger strategy to improve the airline’s overall experience.
“It does enhance the overall offering that we can make available to our guests,” the airline’s president said. “But it’s just one component of an overall promise we are making to our guests which is that we will continue to invest in our product to make it better all the time.”
Christie, who will become Spirit’s new CEO in January, pointed to his airline’s improved operational reliability, customer service, and a brand new fleet of Airbus jets.
Spirit Airlines operates a fleet of around 120 Airbus A320-family jet with an average age of just 5.3 years.
But even as Spirit works to improve, the no-frills airline has struggled in consumer satisfaction surveys. In fact, it finished last in both the latest Consumer Reports and American Consumer Satisfaction Index studies.
“The thing about those results and data and some of those polls is that they tend to be very backward-looking and some cases extremely dated,” he said.
Instead, Christie relies on customer feedback and independent surveys that show major improvement in guest satisfaction over the past year following a major management and strategy shake-up at the airline in 2016.
According to the Christie, this improvement will become more evident in future surveys.
Spirit has selected Thales Group’s ka-band HTS satellite-based system to supply high-speed internet for its planes. According to the airline, the system is expected to be able to provide service coverage for 97% of its routes immediately upon entry into service. Future service improvements will allow WiFi coverage for Spirit’s entire route network.