Spirit Airlines likes finding new ways to make money besides selling tickets.
But Spirit flight attendants say the airline went too far this week with its latest innovation: requiring them to wear aprons with a Bud Light beer logo on the front.
"Turning flight attendants into walking billboards is unacceptable," said Deborah Crowley, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA president for Spirit flight attendants, in a news release.
The ads are demeaning and diminish a flight attendant's primary job of keeping passengers safe, said Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the union. Their responsibilities include enforcing federal regulations against drunken passengers, and wearing a beer advertisement would send a mixed message at best, she said.
Spirit won't pull the logo from the aprons, the South Florida-based carrier said Wednesday. The airline should "be commended" for such moves that reduce costs and keep fares low for customers, said spokeswoman Misty Pinson in an e-mail.
"These initiatives not only support continued growth of the company but also help keep secure jobs for our valued employees at a time when the airline industry continues to cut capacity and jobs," she wrote.
Spirit is a small player at Tampa International, carrying nearly 400,000 travelers last year, about 2 percent of the airport's total traffic. The airline flies nonstop to Detroit, Fort Lauderdale and Atlantic City, N.J., from Tampa.
Spirit calls itself "the ultra-low cost" carrier. The airline imposed a fee for checking a single bag in June 2007, a year before major U.S. airlines adopted the idea.
Patricia Friend, international president of the flight attendant union, wrote this month to complain about Spirit reviving an ad campaign that uses abbreviations with sexual double meanings.
One shows a photo of a busty blonde in front of a Spirit jet with the message: MILF, Many Islands, Low Fares. The abbreviation also is vulgar reference to an attractive mother.
"If your intent was to insult and demean your customers, employees and future customers, you may well have succeeded," she wrote Spirit chief executive Ben Baldanza. "I can't imagine your strategy constitutes a sound and successful business model."
Spirit intends to continue with the ads, Pinson said. "Spirit promotes flights to fun, sexy destinations at incredibly low fares in a fun and cheeky way," she said.
Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.