|Founded||1983 (as Charter One)|
|Frequent-flyer program||FREE SPIRIT|
|Headquarters||Miramar, Florida, U.S.|
|Revenue||US$3.23 billion (2018)|
|Operating income||US$350.91 million (2018)|
|Net income||US$155.75 million (2018)|
|Total assets||US$5.165 billion (2018)|
|Total equity||US$1.929 billion (2018)|
Spirit Airlines, Inc. is an American ultra-low-cost carrier headquartered in Miramar, Florida. It is the seventh largest commercial airline in the United States. Spirit operates scheduled flights throughout the United States and in the Caribbean, Mexico, Latin America, and South America. The airline operates bases at Atlantic City, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, and Orlando.
Early years (1964–2006)
The company initially started as Clippert Trucking Company in 1964. The company changed its name to Ground Air Transfer, Inc., in 1974. The airline service was founded in 1983 in Macomb County, Michigan, by Ned Homfeld as Charter One, a Detroit-based charter tour operator providing travel packages to entertainment destinations such as Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and the Bahamas. In 1990, Charter One began scheduled service from Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, to Atlantic City. On May 29, 1992, Charter One brought jet aircraft into the fleet and changed its name to Spirit Airlines. Scheduled flights between Detroit and Atlantic City began on June 1, 1992. Scheduled flights between Boston and Providence began on June 15, 1992.
On April 2, 1993, Spirit Airlines began scheduled service to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and St. Petersburg, Florida. Flights between Atlantic City and Fort Myers, Florida, began on September 25, 1993. Service at Philadelphia began in 1994. During the next five years, Spirit expanded further, increasing service from Detroit and adding service in new markets such as Myrtle Beach, Los Angeles, and New York City.
In the summer of 1994, Spirit Airlines overbooked flights, and 1,400 customers' tickets were canceled. The overbooking occurred because Spirit Airlines had given incorrect instructions to travel agents, causing those tickets not to be valid, even though the customers had paid for the flights. In response to criticism, Spirit Airlines said it would make sure all paid customers would always be able to fly to their destination, even if Spirit Airlines had to book them on a competitor's airline.
Spirit initially had their headquarters in Eastpointe, Michigan (formerly East Detroit) in Metro Detroit. It relocated its headquarters in November 1999, moving to Miramar, Florida in the Miami Metropolitan Area. Prior to the decision to move the headquarters to Miramar, Spirit considered Atlantic City, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan.
In 2000, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) fined Spirit Airlines $67,000 for allegedly violating federal regulations on cabin and seat markings and placards. Discrepancies were found in the marking and placarding of emergency equipment, passenger seats, storage areas and doors on eight of Spirit's DC9 and MD80 aircraft.
In November 2001, Spirit inaugurated service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and implemented a fully integrated Spanish-language customer service plan including a website and dedicated reservation line.
In the fall of 2003, Spirit resumed flights to Washington, D.C.'s Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which were suspended after the September 11 attacks. Spirit also began service to Grand Cayman, San Francisco, and Boston in 2006, and in 2007 filed DOT applications to offer service to Costa Rica, Haiti, the Netherlands Antilles and Venezuela.
Transition to ultra low cost carrier (2007–present)
On March 6, 2007, Spirit began a transition to an ultra low-cost carrier, following a fare model that decoupled amenities that are often included in the base ticket price of traditional carriers. Passengers who wanted to customize their itinerary or flight experience paid an add-on fee for each additional feature, which enabled the carrier to earn ancillary revenue in excess of 40% of total revenue. These included having an agent print a boarding pass at check-in versus doing it online or at a kiosk, for any large carry-on or checked bags, progressive fees for overweight bags, selected seat assignments, travel insurance, and more. In April 2010, Spirit Airlines became the first U.S. airline to charge passengers for carry-on bags. They were later followed by Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines.
On June 3, 2008, Spirit Airlines made a WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice) application to potentially relocate or lay off hundreds of pilots and flight attendants, and the closure of their San Juan and LaGuardia crew bases. In September 2008, Spirit began advertising on the side of aircraft, overhead bins, tray tables, seatback inserts and bulkheads.
In May 2009, after more than four years of inconclusive negotiations between the airline and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Spirit pilots overwhelmingly (98% of votes) voted in favor of strike action over compensation, work rules and benefits. At that time, Spirit pilots were among the lowest paid Airbus pilots in the United States. On June 12, 2010, Spirit grounded its flights when its unionized pilots walked out on strike, stranding thousands of passengers. This was the first passenger airline strike by American ALPA-represented pilots since Comair in 2001. On June 15, negotiations between the airline and ALPA resumed, and a tentative agreement was reached late in the evening on June 16. The tentative agreement, which Spirit pilots later ratified by a 74% margin, brought Spirit pilots' compensation and benefits in line with comparable Airbus operators in the US. Flights eventually resumed on June 18.
On June 20, 2010, Spirit Plus was rebranded as "Big Front Seat" and business class service was discontinued. For an additional fee, a person could choose "Big Front Seat", or upgrade at the airport. In December 2010, Spirit Airlines introduced the Free Spirit World MasterCard.
In February 2012, Spirit Airlines established a crew and maintenance base at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. On December 1, 2012, the airline opened a flight attendant and pilot crew base at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
In April 2012, citing the airline's strict refund policy, Spirit Airlines representative Misty Pinson announced that the airline would not issue a refund to dying veteran Jerry Meekins, who had purchased a non-refundable ticket between Florida and Atlantic City. The 76-year-old Vietnam veteran and Marine tried to get his $197 back after learning his esophageal cancer was terminal and being told by his doctor not to fly. The decision caused outrage among veterans' groups and the general public, some of whom threatened to boycott Spirit unless both a refund and apology were issued. On May 4, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza apologized for how the situation was handled and personally refunded Meekins' ticket. Additionally, the airline made a $5,000 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project in Meekins' name.
In January 2016, Baldanza stepped down as CEO in order to relocate from Florida, and was replaced by former AirTran CEO Robert L. Fornaro. This prompted rumors of a merger with Frontier Airlines; if the carriers were to merge, it would create the single largest ultra-low-cost carrier in the Americas. Fornaro led an effort to change the company and improve working conditions as well as the guest experience, implementing multiple changes such as teaming up with the Disney Institute to create new service standards and changing policies internally to create a more welcoming environment.
As of November 2017, Spirit's on-time performance is second in the country, behind only Delta Air Lines, a significant improvement from December 2015, when it ranked last among thirteen airlines with 68.7% of flights arriving on time. In February 2018, Spirit was the only airline in North America to make the list of the top 10 safest in the world.
In May 2018, Spirit announced that they would be the first ultra low-cost carrier to fit their aircraft with high-speed WiFi access that started in the fall of 2018. All of their aircraft are expected to be equipped with WiFi by summer of 2019.
In January 2017, Spirit announced a major expansion into Pittsburgh, which became the 61st city in the carrier's network. Spirit's first Pittsburgh flights launched May 25, when it began daily service to both Dallas/Fort Worth and Myrtle Beach, S.C. The carrier added seven more routes – to Fort Lauderdale, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tampa, Ft. Myers and Orlando – by July 13. Spirit began flying from Hartford with two routes to Florida and one to Myrtle Beach. Spirit's first flights from Hartford began April 27 when it launched daily flights to Orlando and four-times-a-week service to Myrtle Beach. Daily service to Fort Lauderdale started June 15. The Florida routes were intended to operate year-round; the South Carolina service to be seasonal.
On November 10, 2016, Spirit announced new service to begin in Akron, Ohio via the Akron–Canton Airport creating six new routes, their flights launched November 10, when it began daily service to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Myers. Along with seasonal routes to Tampa, Las Vegas, and Myrtle Beach starting on April 27, 2017.
In November 2017, Spirit announced a new service expansion in Columbus, Ohio via the John Glenn Columbus International Airport announcing seven new routes for the city – to Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, and Orlando year round. Also providing seasonal service to Fort Myers and Tampa. They will offer flights to Myrtle Beach and New Orleans three times per week with service to begin on February 14, 2018.
Also in November 2017, Spirit announced service to Richmond, VA through Richmond International Airport which began on March 15, 2018, announcing that passengers would be able to connect through either Fort Lauderdale or Orlando to 11 other destinations, including New Orleans and Tampa as well to international destinations like San Jose, Costa Rica; Managua, Nicaragua; and Lima, Peru. On March 18, 2018 Spirit began service by holding drawings at the airport for complimentary same day vacations on the inaugural flight to Orlando.
In December 2018, Spirit announced service to Indianapolis, with nonstop daily service to Orlando and Las Vegas which began in March 2019. In March 2019, Spirit announced expansion from Indianapolis International Airport, with seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina which began in May 2019. Additional routes to Tampa and Fort Myers Florida will be added in November 2019.
In January 2019, Spirit announced 7 destinations out of Raleigh, NC through Raleigh–Durham International Airport which began on May 1, 2019. Destinations include Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, and Boston. A month later, Spirit announced service to Charlotte, North Carolina through Charlotte Douglas International Airport starting on June 20, 2019. Destinations include Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Newark and Baltimore..
In June 2019, Spirit announced 5 destinations out of Nashville, Tennessee through Nashville International Airport which will begin on October 10, 2019. Destinations include Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Orlando and Tampa which will begin on November 5, 2019.
Spirit currently flies to 76 destinations throughout Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and the United States. As of April 2018[update], It maintains crew bases at Atlantic City, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, and Orlando.
Controversies & lawsuits
Spirit Airlines has been the target of a number of controversial class action lawsuits and punitive actions by the US Department of Transportation. Most of the claims against the company are for allegations of deceptive advertising practices, customer service, and the airline's policies for charging additional fees at the time of purchase. In 2013 and again in 2015 the Department of Transportation received more passenger complaints about Spirit than any other airline; the rate of complaints was "dramatically higher" than the overall rate for the industry.
In 2011, the US DOT fined Spirit $43,900 for alleged deceptive advertising practices. The complaint claims that the airline had been running an advertising campaign which promoted specific discounted fares on billboards, posters, and Twitter, but did not disclose full details regarding extra fees added onto the advertised rates.
|Airbus A320-200||62||2||8||174||182||Deliveries through 2019|
|Airbus A320neo||12||43||Deliveries through 2021|
First U.S. airline to fly the A320neo
The following aircraft formerly operated in the Spirit Airlines fleet:
|Aircraft||Total||Year retired||Replaced By|
|McDonnell Douglas DC-9-20||3||2006||Airbus A320 family|
|McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30||13||2006||Airbus A320 family|
|McDonnell Douglas DC-9-40||2||2006||Airbus A320 family|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-81||7||2006||Airbus A320 family|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-82||14||2006||Airbus A320 family|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-83||15||2006||Airbus A320 family|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-87||2||2006||Airbus A320 family|
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Media related to Spirit Airlines at Wikimedia Commons