This is Ben Baldanza. He's the CEO of Spirit Airlines.
Ben's airline charges a lot of fees (including a particularly grating $45 fee for a carry-on bag; bags under the seat in front of you are free) and while they are irksome to the max, Ben can do that. He's operating within the law and this is how Ben chooses to run his business. He's allowed to make money. Making money isn't a sin in America. (Even though it feels that way sometimes.)
Ben was pretty stupid yesterday. Ben told Congress that he thinks luggage isn't essential when traveling for a vacation. He told this to an already-agitated panel of lawmakers.
It was the same in-your-face move that the auto CEOs made last year when they flew on their hoity-toity private jets all the way to DC, to ask Congress for money "because we're so broke, obvs."
You don't need luggage to go on vacation? BEN. AMERICANS NEED LUGGAGE TO GO ON VACATION. AMERICA IS VERY MATERIALISTIC.
I mean look, Ben. House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello thinks you're trying to hornswaggle him. If there's one thing ranking members of Congress hate? It's having a CEO try to hornswaggle them. They're Congress. They make the laws Ben. Respect the intelligence of Congress.
Jerry's not very happy. (Neither is Tom Petri from Wisconsin.)
This kind of waaaaay out of touch with reality comment is just HILARIOUS to me. Ben, you are the CEO of a private company. You can get away with a lot of boneheaded stuff. But one thing you don't want to do is piss off Congress. DO NOT PISS OFF CONGRESS! How is this ever going to turn out well?
Ben is also in the rare category of business that needs permission from the government to operate. He needs a FAA Part 121 certificate to operate scheduled air service in the United States. It is up for renewal every 24 months. If someone decides that he's not serving the American people with integrity? He might not get it renewed.
(The FAA does not mess around with people they think aren't trustworthy.)
So, it's with this context that I can't understand why he said that, with a straight face, and expected Congress to, I don't know, HAVE SYMPATHY for him? Or something? What was the intended result here?
Why didn't he just say, "This is how we are running our business," or "We're getting really good feedback from some people," or "This is more transparent than our competitors and we believe it's more honest." He did say those things, but then he muddied it up with the whole "you don't need luggage" part. He threw a bomb on all of his rational points with this totally made-up reason.
Basically, he lied to Congress. He made something up, that isn't true, and he told Congress they don't need to pack swim trunks when they take vacations to Turks and Caicos with their favorite lobbyists.
Um, Ben? Jerry looks like the kind of guy that might like to take several pair of swim trunks with him. Jerry needs a suitcase and so does Jerry's wife Georgia, their three kids and seven grandchildren. Jerry knows about packing for a family vacation, trust me. He has to cram all that shit in the car before they leave every summer.
Jerry is looking at you, right now, and thinking, "This guy is lying to me."
America is tired, SO TIRED, of CEOs that lie. And really, I think this is what annoys me (and everyone else) most about this offhand remark. It's the idea that this guy must think he's really powerful if he thinks he can lie to Congress, on live television, on the record, and get away with it.
I don't fly commercial much any more these days, but even if Spirit had the cheaper price overall, I don't think I'll ever choose to patronize Ben's business. I respect his ingenuity in pricing model and I admire the fact that he's unapologetic about what his business costs to run, but I hate being lied to.
I hope Congress feels the same way.