Spirit Airlines wants to be a kindler, gentler airline. Will it succeed?

Spirit Airlines want to be a nicer. Photo: Spirit. 

Spirit Airlines want to be a nicer. Photo: Spirit. 

Spirit Airlines is looking to "refine and improve" its model so customers will like it more, the carrier's new CEO said this week. 

Spirit, you may have seen this week, recently scored last among U.S. airlines in the American Customer Satisfaction Index's annual report. Spirit doesn't want to be No. 1 - it still wants to remain a no-frills carrier with low fares - but new CEO Robert Fornaro, who once ran Air Tran, wants to remake the carrier's image. In short, he wants it to be less hated. 

Fornaro told investment analysts Spirit can be a kindler, gentler airline with spending too much money to remake its image. In part, he wants his people to be nicer to customers, especially when flights are delayed or canceled. 

"It's not necessarily about money, a lot of this is about effort," Fornaro said, according to a SeekingAlpha.com transcript. "It's about apology, it's about you really caring."

Even during long delays, Fonaro believes Spirit can keep customers calm by communicating to customers. 

"There are [times,] particularly in terms of recovery after a four-hour delay, that we can be proactive ... and make sure we begin the process of apologizing and managing the problem," he said.  "You can do that before the customer even gets on."

But Spirit has a couple of unique issues that hurt it when flights get canceled or delayed.

First, the airline has few of its own employees working at airports. You may not notice it, but Spirit and other discount airlines tend to use contract employees. That's OK when flights are on-time, but these contract workers may struggle more than airline employees during irregular operations. Another issue for Spirit is that its employees cannot easily rebook passengers on other airlines. American and United, for example, can easily rebook passengers on one another's flights during irregular operations. 

Do you think Spirit can improve its image without spending too much money?