MIRAMAR, FLORIDA – In an unprecedented move, Spirit Airlines, Inc. (NASDAQ: SAVE) announced on Thursday its first Airbus A380 aircraft is scheduled to roll out this summer, and will serve a select route from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Passengers were notified via Spirit Airlines text messaging and in an e-mail announcing the route and the subsequent benefits of such an aircraft.
Spirit is known for its bright yellow no-frills, ultra low-cost carrier option to many major cities around the United States such as Atlantic City, Boston, and Las Vegas. The airline predominantly flies a fleet of smaller Airbus aircraft, such as the A319 and A320. Over the years, many customers have praised Spirit for it s low cost tickets, such as $9 fares to popular vacation destinations. Still, some passengers and critics have been skeptical of the airline’s ‘nickel-and-diming’ cost structure, such as charging passengers for seat belts, oxygen, and in at least one case, the actual jetway connecting to the aircraft.
Airbus was surprised that Spirit showed an interest in such a large aircraft. “This is the first time a low cost carrier has purchased an A380, let alone an ultra low-cost airline, like Spirit,” said Jacob Grande, spokesperson for Airbus said Thursday. “We look forward to serving Spirit and hopefully future low-cost markets across America and the world.”
Spirit Airlines spoke with us and told our reporters just how efficient the new double-decker A380 would be. “What we have found is that through our surveys, it has been shown that more passengers would rather save $1.80 on a ticket than sit down. We also found out through Google Trends and other related search tools, most passengers have a much higher tolerance for depression, anger, hypoglycemia, and dehydration than we once thought,” said Robert Elliot, PR representative for Spirit. “Combining these factors together, we concluded that seats, refreshments, snacks, lavatories, and in fact all flight attendants were completely unnecessary,” he added.
The engineering department also obtained files from Airbus and tested the A380.
They tested the design of the aircraft in multiple simulations, and concluded that the plane could properly fly on three engines. “Basically, the advantage is multi-fold. We can reduce cost, weight, and drag, while still having a safe and enjoyable flight,” Elliot said. Spirit would be removing the fourth engine on the A380 because of this.
As for costs, passengers can expect to save. A lot.
“On average, tickets between Florida and Chicago will be $4.50 each,” Elliot explained. “The aircraft, because of its lack of seats and any amenities, is standing-room only and can fit approximately 920 passengers.” For an additional charge of $2.00, customers can get access to the ‘bar-fight’, which is essentially “a showdown; a fist-fight of sorts, for customers to duke it out and decide who can ‘hold the bar'”. ‘The bar’ refers to the hand bars that are often found on buses and subways. The engineering team tested the A380 with no seats under extreme turbulence and found that the average chance of survival goes from 47% to an astonishing 55% when holding onto the light, dirty, and rather small metal bars throughout the aircraft; a statistically significant number.
“Safety is a priority here. We believe in a sort of natural selection. If you’re not capable of beating people at the bar-fight, chances are, you’re better knocked out before we hit turbulence to begin with,” Elliot explained. “Studies show more injuries occur in turbulence if you are conscious.”
Removing seats isn’t the only thing the airline is doing to save room for the nearly 1000 passengers expected to board on this aircraft. The airline has also completely gotten rid of the lavatories, and sealed all emergency exits to ensure passengers can be pressed against them (without fear of them opening in flight).
The first flight of the A380 is expected to depart from O’Hare on the morning on Friday, August 4th, and already the airline has sold over 400 tickets for that flight. A number of customers have also decided for an upgrade. “Over half of the customers have decided to participate in the bar-fight, which takes place at the gate, 20 minutes prior to departure,” Elliot said. “Chances are we might have to drag some passengers onto the plane.”