Spirit Airlines says government is hiding taxes


Spirit Airlines is protesting the new fare rules requiring full disclosure of all costs for a flight, claiming that the government is requiring them to hide the taxes from their customers. And they’re doing it in style. Their main homepage now shows this when you visit:

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If you click the link offered you get this:

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Thanks to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s latest fare rules, Spirit must now HIDE the government’s taxes and fees in your fares.

If the government can hide taxes in your airfares, then they can carry out their hidden agenda and quietly increase their taxes. (Yes, such talks are already underway.)

And if they can do it to the airline industry, what’s next?

As the transparency leader and most consumer-friendly airline, Spirit DOES NOT support this new USDOT mandate. We believe the better form of transparency is to break out costs so customers know exactly what they’re buying.

The scary thing here is that I almost actually agree with them.

It is true that, by requiring the big, final price number to be displayed to the customer the actual tax burden is obfuscated. So they’re not really wrong there. But that obfuscation also prevents all sorts of other fees from being hidden, the sorts of fees that Spirit is famous for. And that’s a good thing.

Plus, at the end of the day, most customers care much less about how much of the fare is for taxes and how much is for the airline. A $300 ticket is a $300 debit on my credit card. Whether the airline keeps $150 or $250 of that doesn’t skew whether I think it is a good price for the trip.

Besides, there is nothing stopping Spirit from showing the full breakdown underneath the all-in price. That way they can continue to be a "transparency leader and most consumer-friendly airline" as they always have.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

11 Comments

  1. Can they be sued for giving false information? Because the new regulation doesn’t require the taxes to be hidden; as you noted, Spirit are free to give the price breakdown if anyone’s interested in it.

  2. Wow… I’m amazed at how Spirit can spin this new rule LOL. Like everyone has said, they can simply show the tax breakdown in their advertisements.

  3. “That way they can continue to be a “transparency leader and most consumer-friendly airline” as they always have.”

    That was nicely put

  4. Can’t stand Spirit; they’re just using this as another way to promote the airline. Its not like the customer can opt not to pay the taxes; they have to pay it so just tell me up front the total fare when you show me the flights and be done with it.

  5. I just received this email from Spirit Airlines. I am flying with them n a few weeks. I do appreciate Spirit’s unbundling of prices – even the seat selection and carry-on fees – because I believe that it’s good for consumers. I did pay much less on Spirit despite the myriad of fees than I would have on their cheapest competitor. (I’m NOT a fan of their $16.95 “processing fee” on their website, which seems to serve no purpose other than to permit advertising an imposisble-to-get low fare.

    But I disagree completely with their sentinment about the new government regulations. When I make the decision to fly, the final cost is what matters for the service I want, not how it is broken up and which parts have to be paid to the government. Many countries require all taxes to be included in any advertised price and on the price sticker in the store.

  6. What they meant is that now they need to advertise the full pice, that is why the meant that they will need to “hide” the taxes.

    Everybody want to know the full price of course, but they are smart and they are trying to full us, since hide the taxes means a different thing for them.

  7. I guess that gas stations should disclose their taxes too…boy, does it irk me when I can’t tell how much of that $3.509/gal is an evil gov’t tax.

  8. A lot of taxes are “hidden” in the costs of things you buy every day. Payroll taxes, for example, or health care surcharges like at San Francisco restaurants. While Spirit may be correct, they don’t necessarily have a reason to expect special treatment. I would prefer that all taxes be included in every advertised price.

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