When a Spirit Airlines flight from Chicago arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Friday, it received a rock-star welcome.
A plume of water shot up 60 feet in the air and splashed over a Spirit plane. Elvis came, and a midriff-baring Las Vegas showgirl named Stacey posed for the cameras as more than 100 Chicago-style hot dogs were served.
To Spirit, airport officials and travelers, it was a celebration of lower airfares in the Twin Cities. Local fliers have long shouldered some of the nation's costliest plane tickets, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission is convinced that Spirit's ultra-low fares will drop prices.
"I'm excited. It opens up a whole group of [fliers to MSP] who are very cost-conscious," said Dan Boivin, chairman of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, during a ceremonial event Friday.
Spirit officially launched on Thursday with an evening flight bound for Las Vegas. The Miramar, Fla.-based carrier has three daily flights out of MSP to Chicago O'Hare and one nightly route to Vegas. Airport officials speculated that Spirit could eventually add nonstop flights to Fort Lauderdale, but the airline said it has no plans to do so.
"Obviously, if we see success, we look to do more," said Barry Biffle, Spirit's chief marketing officer.
Biffle said Spirit will monitor how full its MSP flights are and take a look at all of its routes next fall to determine where it will add more service. A Friday morning Spirit flight headed to Chicago was full.
Today and on Friday, Spirit marketed plane tickets as low as $9 one way, which amounts to $28.79 after taxes and fees. However, a sizable portion of the airline's sales, 31 percent, are made through a la carte fees, which include charging up to $45 for bags placed in the overhead bin and $3 for a soda. Spirit will raise its carry-on fees to up to $100 per bag in November.
Lawyer Steve Wheeler said he wasn't a fan. He paid $130 for his trip from Chicago to Minneapolis, along with $30 in baggage fees.
"We could have probably saved money if we went to a regular-priced airline," Wheeler said. "I'm back to Southwest."
But for Kris Beyer, a 49-year-old Minnesota homemaker, Spirit's arrival was a blessing.
Beyer recently drove seven hours each way to Chicago with her teen daughters so they could claim tickets for a concert in Chicago tonight. With Spirit's arrival, Beyer flew with her three girls to the Windy City for that concert, rather than endure the nonstop singing of her daughters to the tunes of European boy band One Direction.
"Four of us [can fly] for the price of one on Delta," Beyer said.
Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712