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“At the end, when everybody has the lie-flat seats, all they did was raise their costs for the same traffic base,” he says. “The allure of a temporary share gain ends up costing the industry.”

This from a guy who sells ads for timeshares and casinos on overhead bins.

Baldanza refilled our iced tea and diet sodas and noted nobody had touched the wine in a box I brought. It seemed like the perfect gift for a CEO who sells wine in a can on flights; though he apparently doesn’t like the taste.

“It’s too sweet,” Baldanza says. But there is a market for it: “People who buy wine spritzers.”

More than two hours into the game, I start to get the hang of it. Unfortunately, Baldanza snags a few more cities and wins. Nobody is surprised.

As I help him clean up, we discuss the future of his airline. Spirit currently has 54 planes and plans to expand to 143 within seven years. Latin America helped drive Spirit’s growth but Baldanza sees its importance decreasing.

“The domestic market has more fruit on the tree right now,” he says.

For Baldanza, staying one step ahead of his passengers is also a game. The airline is always trying to squeeze extra cash out of fliers, but Baldanza knows passengers have their own tricks to hold onto their cash. He’s been watching passengers avoid paying pet carrying fees by claiming under the Americans with Disabilities Act that they are comfort animals.

“We’re waiting for someone to claim another human being as a comfort animal,” Baldanza half jokes. “Someone’s going to do it at some point.”


Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at