Spirit Airlines Gets… Sexual?

Ah yes… Yet another mildly hilarious social media mistake in the books. But this time I find myself wondering how in the world did this happen? Why in the world would they want this to happen? What team of Spirit Airlines employees worked together for months putting together this campaign? Essentially, the low-cost airline carrier informed customers of a promotion, which celebrated the addition of their 69th airplane and offered flights for $69. No… this was no mistake. This was no team of naive corporate executives who were culturally uninformed. This deal was real and the team even made that obvious by recalling a moment from their childhood when they “found that magazine under our brother’s bed. A section of the announcement was as follows…

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Now, after making this shockingly bold move, the company certainly received A LOT of publicity and A LOT of laughs. A couple Twitter users claimed it was “the BEST airline company around” and made punny and allusive jokes. However, do you really want to run a campaign that will make your company seem like a joke? In my opinion, I’m all for sparking some laughter and being creative with campaigns, but I think it looks much better for the company to create classier and more intellectual humor than a joke that a middle-schooler could have made. Amidst the laughs, some Twitter users claimed the company had “gone too far” with the campaign and were disgusted by it.

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And even after all of the praise and, alternatively, all of the ridicule, the CEO didn’t take the ordeal very seriously, but rather as a big joke, appearing in a video produced by the airline where he was interviewed with a puppet. The video had more to do with general complaints rather than in regards to this particular campaign, but was released just a day after the company began the offering. However, the video does offer some fair points, explaining how the airlines sole purpose is low-cost flights, not high-quality experiences. Paul Berry, a spokesman for the company, explained that “Spirit isn’t your typical airline and we don’t want to be. We enjoy being different than other airlines”. One could argue that Spirit was being authentic with the offering and staying true to their values of individuality and humor. I will say, some of their videos do make me laugh.

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At the end of the day, if Spirit Airlines (@SpiritAirlines if you want to check them out on social media) was trying to use this campaign to promote their brand, then yes, it might have gotten them some extra brand recognition. However, it does not change the fact that the company has terribly low-quality customer experience. If you search #SpiritAirlines on Twitter, several complaints crowd the feed, with customers claiming they are experiencing “eternal frustration” and that they “#shouldajustshippedmybodyonfedex”.

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To put a cherry on top of this post, the “promotion” ACTUALLY ends up costing around $130 after joining the $9 Fare Club, and that doesn’t even include any checked baggage. Perhaps Spirit should invest some of their time into improving the experience rather than on a promotion for #69 airplanes.





  1. Although it may seem baffling to us why a company would make such a move, it is actually a great way of gaining publicity. Some people say that any publicity is good publicity and they seemed to embrace this motto with this campaign. It seemed to work, as people were taking to social media to discuss the campaign and the reactions associated with it. So while it did gather plenty of publicity and recognition, they still run the risk of being seen as a desperate company. It is probably better to stay professional and make a funny campaign that will not reek of desperation.

  2. Really interesting post this week. I caught sight of this while I was procrastinating on Facebook this week (what’s new?) and had some initial thoughts similar to yours. While I understand Spirit needs to have a unique marketing strategy due to their low-cost tickets and uncomfortable amenities, I honestly don’t think this is the right approach. In having an interesting approach, I turn to Virgin Airlines. They are able to give a cool, edgy image without being vulgar or offensive. Yes, Spirit’s targeted segment is the young crowd, but I can imagine there are a lot of people our age that still don’t think this is a good strategy. I think they could have gone in many routes, but I don’t think an extended sexual joke is ideal. Great job on capturing the company and how the CEO and customers responded!

  3. Honestly, sexual puns can work when it’s in a related industry and it makes sense for a company’s target audience (see Taco Bell’s Valentine’s Day campaign). But Spirit?! Those employees have customer lives at stake. I don’t want my airline to be known for making sex jokes when the industry they’re in is meant to be serious. I understand that some airlines have moved to making flying “fun,” such as Song Airlines (now owned by Delta,) which created interactive in-air games to be played with other passengers using the seat screens. But Spirit is going over the top with this tweet. Even looking at its ads (http://marketing.spirit.com/how-to-fly-spirit-airlines/en/), in comparison to JetBlue and Southwest, they look cartoonish and unprofessional. Check out their Bare Fare ads, which conveniently show $69 flights and a guy and girl stripping down to underwear. It may be Spirit’s brand, but I don’t see it doing it any good. Spirit is obviously targeting younger people who need to fly cheap, but young flyers also care about having some quality. I’d rather spend the extra bucks to fly JetBlue. Especially given that every single flying experience I’ve had with Spirit has been awful. Just the name itself has terrible associations for me and my family given the nature of the company’s customer service.

  4. I heard about this promotion as well — the main drawback I saw is everyone always kind of sees Spirit as the airline that is subpar. To make a joke like this almost seems like they don’t take themselves seriously (as you stated). The last thing a customer wants is an unreliable airline admitting you’re not serious which is definitely not the kind of airline I would want to ride on. It was also somewhat an immature joke. There are many more funny jokes that would get publicity, so I am very interested in the thought process behind this specific one. While I am bashing it, at the same time, a lot of airlines also do need to take themselves less seriously — and it is in fact a way to differentiate yourself. I think the less serious airlines will be the direction of a lot of airlines, but I don’t think anyone will ever be as low of a maturity level as Spirit.

  5. Some of the comments above have briefly mentioned this, but I believe that there are positives and negatives to Spirit Airline’s bold move on SM. The negatives are obvious: poor brand image, maybe even turning away potential and loyal customers. However, the positives are a little less obvious, with the main one in my opinion being that no publicity is bad publicity. Put this way: I would not have heard of this Airline were it not for this post, which would not have been written unless the Airline mad a bold move on SM. Its and interesting balance to think about! Great Post!

  6. Well we now all know Gronks new favorite airline…….

    In all seriousness I have no problem with this campaign. Spirit Airlines thinks that this advertisement will resonate with their customer segment and they are probably right. I got a chuckle out of the company being less than politically correct in their advertising.

    Similar to when we debated about the Nationwide Super Bowl commercial, if the ad generates a discussion about the company, then brand awareness is growing. More people are talking and debating about Spirit Airlines. I don’t think when people see that Spirit has the cheapest flight, they won’t choose the airline because of their raunchy advertising campaigns. This type of advertising would not work for an established airline like Delta, but for Spirit, why not?

  7. Interesting Post! To be really honest I do believe that the people in the company knows who their target audience and main consumer base is. (wtuggle44 I think you’re spot on.) I think its a great way to appeal to their audience. I am guessing that 40 year old successful corporate men will not wish to travel with Spirit so what harm really it can cause the company? I have never heard of this company until now when you mentioned it! So when I need to travel and am looking for the lowest cost carriers, I might look to Spirit!

  8. To be honest I have to give Spirit Airlines props for this campaign because I had no idea the existed prior to it. That being said, I’m no more likely to actually fly with them, but their brand recognition did skyrocket. It’s so difficult now-a-days to recognize if a company runs campaigns like this under the pretense that they think it will actually work, or if they’re just doing it for the attention. Social media is to blame for these types of marketing behaviors because of how fast it allows news to travel. Companies can achieve this type of brand recognition thanks to platforms like Twitter and Facebook because users will be spreading the campaign like wildfire. If these platforms didn’t exist, these types of campaigns would flop because they would reach such a limited audience, and chances are that audience would not find the humor in it.

  9. Great post! Like my classmates, I too saw this advertisement while wasting time on Facebook (jacksonarettig you are not alone). I understand the side of the argument that is being made–this airline is known for being the cheaper way to get to your destination and usually attracts a younger crowd. However, this advertising does not appeal to me because when it comes to air travel I am truly looking for safety and timeliness. I really could care less what sort of extra features are on the plane, as long as it safely and quickly gets me to my destination for a reasonable price I will pay for that flight. I think that a better way of marketing this #69thplane milestone could have been to take a still funny but also critical approach, saying something along the lines of the funny jokes as well as the fact that despite all of this we still have the lowest rates and the safest service. Many bigger airlines have had different landing or delay disasters, and capitalizing on the fact that Spirit has not might just be the way to catch the customer’s eye and ultimately get their business.

  10. After reading your post, I am not sure if the promotion was detrimental to the company. As some others have mentioned, As you mentioned, Spirit does not have the best reputation for customer experience and an ad like this may only help to increase much needed publicity for the company. Will it help the company in the long-run? Most likely not, but it doesn’t hurt to garner some short term interest in hope of capitalizing. I think this would be a much bigger issue if it came from a much more reputable airline like United or KLM. As for now, some will either look into Spirit as a result of this ad or shake their heads because this promotion isn’t a surprise and is viewed to sadly be another flaw of the airline.

  11. I’ll start this off by saying I almost began laughing in O’Neil Library when I began to read your post… How in the world… rather why in the world would an airline company use this to attract customers? I’ll admit that it made me laugh but it in no way made me want to fly Spirit. As many of my classmates have already mentioned, I too have flown Sprit before and can honestly say it was my worst airline experience. When my life is in the hands of a company thousands of feet up in the air, I prefer a more professional tone to sex jokes. Cheap flights I’m all for but cheap jokes from those I’m trusting with my safety I’m not a big fan of.

  12. I have never flown Spirit, nor do I intend to. What I do know about them is that they are going for a very particular niche of customers. “No frills” airlines have been attempted in the past. It may be that this campaign appeals to the niche of customers for whom Spirit does appeal to.

  13. As someone who has flown Spirit frequently in the past, I was not surprised by this campaign from Spirit. At least twice a month I will receive a promotional email from the company. The emails contain pretty standard deals and promotions, but the subjects are ALWAYS bordering on inappropriate. Some of the emails that stick out in my memory involved subjects about Tiger Woods (following his self-imposed “hiatus”), Linsanity, and other taboo topics/pop culture events. As has been mentioned in other comments…Spirit is targeting specific customers with these types of promotional emails. Part of me respects that, and part of me cannot take them seriously.

    With all of that being said, I HATE Spirit Airlines. They charge you for EVERYTHING on the plane – I’m pretty sure you get charged for buckling your seatbelt. Sorry…I know this isn’t TripAdvisor, but I had to get my opinion in here.

    Nice post!

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