Since Spirit Airlines announced plans to add in-flight Wi-Fi services four years ago, the carrier has planned to market its offering differently than other airlines. Now, two months after completing the A320/A321 installs and after a year of active testing, the service is out of beta and Spirit is kicking off a major marketing push.
New pricing plans are set, and Spirit added the ability for passengers to pre-purchase WiFi passes in its booking flow. The company hopes to boost take rate and customer satisfaction. And the associated ancillary revenues.
Low cost is in our DNA, and we’ve partnered with Thales on a very innovative solution that allowed us to get into the market, keep our costs down, and provide a solution we’re very proud of.– VP Ominchannel Sales Rana Ghosh
Spirit’s VP Ominchannel Sales Rana Ghosh recognizes that the passenger experience is more than just the seats on board. “The ability to provide browsing or streaming content. The ability to connect through text and social media. All of these are increasingly more important to our guests, and having a connected guest is very much the path we’re on.”
Read More: Spirit commits to inflight wifi
With that in mind, Ghosh is overseeing the effort to increase awareness around the product, and make sure passengers have many, many opportunities to purchase connectivity for their trip.
Pricing and participation may vary
The past year of beta testing allowed Spirit to experiment with many price points. And those numbers could still change. But, at least for now, the company has established a relatively consistent range of prices.
Browsing packages start at $2.99 per flight according to the company, while Streaming level services start at $5.99. Longer flights, such as transcons, will top out at $16. In most cases streaming – advertised as up to 20x faster than browsing – prices at just $2 more.
Here are some price points from a handful of routes (browse/stream package):
- BWI-LAS – $10/$12
- FLL-BOS – $8/$10
- FLL-ATL – $6/$8
- DFW-LAS – $7/$9
- FLL-MCO – $4/$7
- LAS-BUR – $4/$7
Free messaging? Not yet.
One pricing option not pursued during the year of beta testing? A free “messaging” plan for passengers. But Spirit recognizes the demand for that level of service.
Ghosh describes such a plan as a “high value item” that passengers would like to see. And while Spirit’s “model doesn’t generally lean towards free, we recognize there’s probably a variation that makes sense to offer.”
Read more: Spirit Airlines completes A320 WiFi installs
Technically the solution can be delivered by Thales. And, as Ghosh continues, “It is just a matter of timing at this point more than anything else, as to when we can introduce that.”
Getting the satellite hardware installed on the planes is a relatively quick task. The team in Melbourne doing the installs can typically turn a plane around in just a few days. But given the current peak summer demand levels, Spirit is loathe to remove aircraft from service. As a result, the newest few A320neo deliveries do not have the hardware on board.
Read more: Spirit Airlines WiFi goes live*
Later this fall the carrier will cycle them through the install process. And the next couple years of new deliveries will continue to see the system installed. But, in the meantime, there is a small risk that passengers will end up on one of Spirit’s newest planes and without the carrier’s newest offering. In those cases Ghosh says pre-paid WiFi purchases will be refunded, or passengers can keep the voucher for a future flight.
Also, Spirit has not yet committed to installing the system on the A319 fleet. A decision will be made on that eventually, based on the age of those aircraft and expected long-term value to the fleet. But more than 80% of departures should have the WiFi service active.
The power of bundling
Spirit’s true pricing power comes in its ability to unbundle and rebundle various ancillary products offered to travelers. Ghosh is keen to get Wi-Fi passes included in that process.
“We see a lot of opportunity to include it as part of the the combos and bundles that we offer today. We’ve got a couple of options already that we’ve looked at. We are trying to figure out what’s the right combination of products that make sense. And we’ll continue to play with that. We’ll test a number of bundles.”
For now, however, they will remain on the outside.
Similarly, Ghosh believes that integrating passes into the loyalty program could deliver value to the company and passengers. For now the only connection is that buying in advance will earn FreeSpirit points, just like with any other ancillary product. Going forward, however, Ghosh is optimistic about the idea of providing WiFi as “something that potentially you can earn your way into as well.”
Finally, Spirit is known for discounting ancillary features when purchased in the initial booking flow, with the price rising at the airport, at the gate, or once on board. That won’t be the case, at least for now, with the WiFi service. “We’re still trying to wrap our head around what the right set of price points. We’re trying to establish more of a baseline. Once we have a better sense of that, we’ll start thinking about what’s the what’s the appropriate pricing strategy for pre sales.”
It is clear that this is just the beginning for Spirit and the in-flight WiFi experience. The company will continue to tweak and optimize the offerings, aiming to strike the correct balance between customer satisfaction and profits.
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