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Today in ultra-low-cost-carrier news, Spirit Airlines has unveiled new, ergonomically designed seats that aim to increase in-flight comfort for passengers, making good on its promise to invest in customer experience.

Designed by UK-based Acro Aircraft, the new seats include features such as thicker padding and better lumbar support. Middle seats will gain nearly an extra inch of width, and all seats will get nearly an extra inch of pre-recline. These adjustments give passengers an additional two inches of legroom and will add a variety of seating and reclining positions while in the air.

But what about the Big Front Seats? Spirit’s best seats will be upgraded with a new memory foam headrest and additional memory foam in the seat base.

Ted Christie, president and CEO of Spirit Airlines, signed a pledge last year to improve the guest experience where possible. Upgrading the seats is part of that pledge.

In a news release, Christie offered a sharp critique of the industry’s habit of using seat pitch as an accurate measurement of comfort. In partnership with the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF), Spirit conducted a study regarding what affects in-flight comfort.

During an era when low-cost carriers have gone out of business, been bought and restructured, or are at risk due to the Boeing scandal (looking at Air Berlin, WOW Air and Norwegian), Spirit Airlines has remained steadfast. Credit where credit is due: Spirit must be doing something right in listening to customers and developing improvements in a timely fashion.

While Spirit isn’t the most glamorous, the airline still manages to fill those big yellow planes. For passengers who just need to get from A to B, it’s worth the inexpensive base fare.

For example, I recently traveled from Lima, Peru, to Detroit using Spirit Airlines largely because Spirit’s fares were significantly cheaper than anyone else. Since I had a checked bag, I upgraded to “premium class,” which allowed me to check a bag, board early and sit in the emergency exit row, which was still cheaper than the next best option.

Spirit’s main port of entry from South America is Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and with just about an hour between my LIM-FLL itinerary and my FLL-DTW itinerary, I expected to miss the connection. Spoiler alert: I landed in FLL just in time for a 15-hour delay (and subsequent cancellation) of my original FLL-DTW itinerary. I had Spirit refund that leg and bought a Delta flight so that I could still get home that evening.

Maybe Spirit’s success also comes with a grain of expectation management. Because I was zero percent surprised that I had an issue in Fort Lauderdale, I wasn’t really fazed by having to collect a refund and buy a last-minute Delta flight. Spirit’s customer service was exceptionally helpful in Fort Lauderdale, especially since it’s a large Spirit hub and they are constantly moving folks between states and continents from there.

Besides the budget aspect of the airline, Spirit also offers a discount program called the $9 Fare Club. This club allows loyalty members to access the lowest possible fares, but the thing that has deterred me from joining is the $59.95 annual fee, which renews at $69.95. This fee would easily pay for itself in fare discounts if I used Spirit often, but I don’t.

The same analysis applies to the Spirit Airlines World MasterCard®. It’s a decent card with a $0 introductory annual fee, then $59 every year after that. The sign-up bonus of 30,000 bonus miles after making $500 in purchases within the first 90 days could make for several free Spirit flights, as flight redemptions begin at just 2,500 points. It’s a perfectly fine card to have in your wallet, but only if you’re a Spirit groupie.

The bottom line

If nothing else, Spirit is about to get a lot more comfortable. Look for the new seats as early as November and expect them to be available on all new aircraft by the end of 2020.