Spirit talks seats and service with APEX CEO Dr Joe Leader


Spirit Airlines unveiled their new HACEO Vector Light and Vector Premium seats in dramatic fashion during this mornings Guest Experience & Ongoing Innovation session at the APEX/IFSA EXPO in Long Beach.

Standing before two seating configurations draped in black, APEX CEO Dr. Joe Leader kicked off the Guest Experience and Ongoing Innovation session this morning by acknowledging Spirit Airlines long-standing emphasis on customer service.

And though the seat reveal was definitely the star of the show, Leader’s discussion with Spirit’s VP Guest Experience Brand and Communications Lania Rittenhouse mostly focused on how improved seating is just one additional way Spirit’s ongoing Invest In The Guest initiative is changing up expectations for ultra low cost carriers.

“What I always like is when airlines really think about how to take care of their economy class passengers,” said Leader. “Because 80 to 90% of our customers. This is where they sit for sure.” 

“I’m glad you raised that because, again, as an ultra low fare carrier, we don’t believe you need to sacrifice service, so several years ago we rolled out our Spirit Signature Service Program,” explained Rittenhouse. “When I started at Spirit, I led the flight attendant team and part of the reason I was brought in was to answer the question: ‘How do we elevate the guest experience as an ultra low fare carrier?’ So, we partnered with the Disney Institute, we created a training program and we got everybody to work towards the North Star — making sure that our passengers were treated as guests.”

Changing not just the terminology and mindset about who was coming into the cabin, Rittenhouse said Spirit also empowered their flight crews with a sense of pride, purpose and the ability to own, what she called, the “dance floor” within which they needed to operate. 

And as Leader pointed out while lounging beside Rittenhouse in the carrier’s new-and-improved Big Front Seat (maybe include link back to previous Spirit story from today?), that approach definitely seems to be working. 

Rittenhouse agreed. “Honestly, what I’m most impressed with is when we carry a new guest onboard who’s only ever heard either funny things, or bad things, or whatever they’ve heard about us, and they come on board, and they have a great experience and they sit in our seats and they have our great signature service and they get there on time and they get off the aircraft and go: ‘What just happened? That was amazing!’ And they tell ten of their best friends. To me, that is the most gratifying thing because we have some incredibly dedicated team members that work on every aspect of delivering this type of service,” said Rittenhouse. 

“And it’s different, right? I mean, we’re not Emirates. We’re not Delta. We are Spirit Airlines. And we are very proud to be able to do what we do at the price that we deliver it and still deliver the best value in the sky. I think to me, being able to problem solve, work with team members, work across all aspects of the operation, improve on time, improve service, improve product, improve just everything, to me is incredibly gratifying.”