Usually when airline CEOs leave their jobs, they fade away, at least for a few years. That's part of the reason no one has seen former United CEO Jeff Smisek recently. (The other reason is the government investigation into his actions at United.) It's also why former American CEO Tom Horton isn't a fixture on the cable news circuit. Both may resurface at some point - like ex-Continental Gordon Bethune, who seems to enjoy TV - but that does not seem likely soon.
But at Spirit Airlines, Ben Badanza was a different type of CEO. So even though he unexpectedly left his job in January, Ben is making the media rounds. First he did an interesting interview with Airways News. And now he's on NPR discussing airline pricing.
Ben ran America's most disliked discount airline, but before that he worked for several full-service carriers, including Continental, Northwest, American and US Airways. The man knows pricing.
Here are some of the highlights of his chat on NPR.
Want a lower fare? Buy on a Tuesday or Wednesday. "Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the lowest travel days of the week," he says. "Airlines are businesses. If they have more empty seats they're going to price them competitively to try to fill them."
He's miffed that people expect all seats on a plane should be sold at the same price. Isn't an aisle in the first row worth more to a passenger than a middle seat in the back? "There are absolutely differences in the seats on airplanes. And, you know, we don't think about that oddly when we go see a Broadway show or when we go to a ballgame. You expect seats close to the stage are going to be more expensive than those in the nosebleed section."
He doesn't know why passengers book a flight on an ultra low cost carrier like Frontier or Spirit and expect Delta-like service. "Spirit isn't Delta and it's not JetBlue. They're all three very different airlines. And so one can't just look at just the prices and say, I want that airline without thinking about what comes with that price."
I always liked interviewing Baldanza because I always found him honest. I'm glad he's not disappearing. I'm also pleased to see he has joined the board of Wow Air, the Icelandic discounter.