|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 in the Miami metropolitan area. It is the seventh largest commercial airline in the United States. Spirit operates scheduled flights throughout the United States and in the Caribbean and Latin 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.
In 1996, Janet Patton became Spirit Airline’s first woman pilot, and in 1998 she became the first woman captain. At the time Spirit was utilizing DC-9 and MD-80 aircraft.
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 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 $5,000 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project in Meekins' name.
In January 2016, former AirTran CEO Robert L. Fornaro replaced Baldanza as CEO. This prompted rumors of a merger with Frontier Airlines, which would have created the largest ultra-low-cost carrier in the Americas. Fornaro announced the airline would be teaming up with the Disney Institute to “create a common purpose and a fresh set of service standards”, and changing policies internally to create a more welcoming environment.
In November 2017, Spirit's on-time performance was second in the country, behind only Delta Air Lines, a significant improvement from December 2015, when it ranked last among thirteen airlines with 68.7% of flights arriving on time. In February 2018, Spirit was the only airline in North America to make the list of the top 10 safest in the world.
In May 2018, Spirit announced that they would be the first ultra low-cost carrier to fit their aircraft with high-speed WiFi access that started in the fall of 2018. All of their aircraft were expected to be equipped with WiFi by summer of 2019.
On December 23, 2019, Spirit Airlines announced its intention to purchase 100 new Airbus A320neo family aircraft.
The key trends for Spirit Airlines are (years ending December 31):
|Net profit after tax ($m)||225||317||263||416||156|
|Number of employees (average FTE)||3,722||4,326||5,159||6,100||7,110|
|Number of passengers ('flight segments')(m)||14.3||17.9||21.6||24.2||29.3|
|Passenger load factor (%)||86.7||84.7||84.7||83.1||83.9|
|Number of aircraft (at year end)||65||79||95||112||128|
Spirit has its headquarters at 2800 Executive Way, Miramar, Florida, having moved there from its previous Eastpointe location in 1999. As of 2016[update] there were 600 located in the office. Chris Sloan of Airways Magazine stated that the building was "nondescript low slung". Sloan added that the interior, prior to a 2014 renovation, was, "To put it charitably, [...] a dump", but that employees felt ownership over the office.
In 2019 the airline announced that it would move to a new up to 500,000-square-foot (46,000 m2) headquarters in the Dania Pointe development in Dania Beach, Florida, spending $250 million. The airline anticipates that it will house 1,000 employees.
Spirit currently flies to 77 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.
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|
Concerns and conflicts
Spirit Airlines has been the subject of complaints and to punitive actions by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). Most of the claims against the company were for allegations of deceptive advertising practices, customer service, and the airline's policies for charging additional fees at the time of purchase:
- In November 2011, the DOT fined Spirit $43,900 for alleged deceptive advertising practices. The complaint claimed 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.
- In January 2012, the DOT fined Spirit $100,000 for mishandling of complaints related to its treatment of customers with disabilities.
- In 2013, and again in 2015, the DOT received more passenger complaints about Spirit than any other airline; the rate of complaints was "dramatically higher" than the overall rate for the industry.
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- Wittkowski, Donald. "Small Airline Expands A.C. Flights with Jets". The Press of Atlantic City. May 30, 1992.
- "Spirit Expands Fla./Atlantic City Air Service". The Press of Atlantic City. September 5, 1993.
- Belden, Tom. "Atlanta-based Line Plans Phila. Flights". The Philadelphia Inquirer. April 12, 1994.
- Sangiacomo, Michael. "Spirit Airlines Pledges That Anyone With Ticket Will Fly". The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). June 8, 1994.
- "World Airline Directory". Flight International. March 25–31, 1998. p. 92. Archived from the original on 2014-07-18 – via Flight Global/Archive.
Spirit Airlines: 18121 East 8 Mile Road, Eastpointe, 48021, Michigan, USA
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- "Spirit Airlines tops global ancillary revenue per PAX rankings". www.frontiermagazine.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2018-02-01. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
- "Spirit to double fee for agent-printed boarding passes in April". Sun-Sentinel. 2013-03-13.
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- "Spirit Airlines to Charge New Fee for Carry-On Luggage". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2017-04-15. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
- "Flying Spirit, Frontier or Allegiant? Here are 12 things you need to know". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on 2019-01-29. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
- "New York Business News – Business, Money, Financial & Corporate News". NBC New York. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
- Hugo Martin (21 May 2010). "Are carry-on bag fees hurting Spirit Airlines?". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-01-09.
- Staff, By the CNN Wire. "Spirit Airlines cancels all flights as pilots go on strike – CNN.com". Archived from the original on 2018-04-08. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
- Arnoult, Sandra (14 June 2010). "Shutdown continues after Spirit pilots reject 29% base pay increase". Flightglobal.com. Flight International. Archived from the original on 2010-06-18. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- Ranson, Lori. "Spirit pilots plan to return to work on 18 June". FlightGlobal. Flight International. Archived from the original on 2010-06-21. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- "Spirit Airlines World MasterCard® Credit Card". Bank of America. Archived from the original on 2014-09-20. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
- "Spirit Airlines' final answer to dying Vietnam vet seeking ticket refund: No". Fox News. 30 April 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
- "Spirit Airlines' boss calls industry-high complaint rate 'irrelevant,' says dying veteran should've bought insurance". Fox News. April 7, 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-05-27. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
- Joshua Rhett Miller (2010-04-07). "Spirit bows to pressure: Airline CEO to refund dying veteran's fare". Fox News. Archived from the original on 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
- "TWU Dispatchers Ratify New Agreement With Spirit Airlines". Transport Workers Union of America. 20 August 2013. Archived from the original on 2017-10-19. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- Tuttle, Brad. "America's Cheapest Airline Looks to Make Flights Even Cheaper". Time. Archived from the original on 2014-11-12. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
- "Brash, Fee-Happy CEO of Spirit Airlines Abruptly Replaced". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2016-01-06. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
- "ANALYSIS: New Spirit chief refuels Frontier merger rumours". FlightGlobal. 2016-01-06. Archived from the original on 2018-02-18. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- Levine-Weinberg, Adam (1 November 2016). "Spirit Airlines Gets a New CEO: Reading Between the Lines". The Motley Fool. Archived from the original on 2016-01-10. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
- Martin, Hugo. "Spirit Airlines turns to Disney to improve its customer service". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2018-04-08. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
- Martin, Grant. "Spirit Airlines Now Delivers More Flights On Time Than American Or United". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2018-04-08. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
- "Airline Safety Ranking 2018". www.jacdec.de (in German). Archived from the original on 2018-04-19. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
- "Spirit is first budget airline in the US to offer WiFi". 11 May 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-05-21. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
- "Spirit Airlines to buy 100 Airbus A320neo family aircraft". CNBC. 2019-12-23. Retrieved 2020-01-12.
- "Spirit Airlines FORM 10-K December 31, 2018" (PDF). 2019-02-13. Retrieved 2019-11-16.
- "Spirit Airlines, Inc. 2014 Annual Report" (PDF). February 18, 2015. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
- "Spirit Airlines, Inc. 2016 Annual Report" (PDF). February 13, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
- Sloan, Chris (2016-05-13). "A Look into Spirit Airlines' Frills-Free Corporate HQ and OCC". Airways Magazine. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
- Pounds, Marcia Heroux (2019-10-17). "Spirit Airlines to invest $250 million in new headquarters and move 1,000 employees". South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
- Satchell, Arlene (June 3, 2015). "Spirit recruits hundreds of flight attendants". Sun-Sentinel. Fort Lauderdale. Archived from the original on 2017-01-07. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
- "Spirit Airlines expands again, adds new route to U.S. Virgin Islands". Archived from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
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- "DOT Fines Spirit Airlines for Violating Price Advertising Rulest". US Department of Transportation. 2011-11-21. Archived from the original on 2018-05-09. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
- Martin, Hugo (November 22, 2011). "Spirit Airlines fined for how it advertised $9 airfares". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2016-05-30. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
- "DOT Fines Spirit Airlines Over Handling of Disability Complaints". US Department of Transportation. 2012-01-27. Archived from the original on 2018-05-09. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
- Martin, Hugo (January 27, 2012). "Spirit Airlines fined $100,000 over disabled passengers' complaints". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2017-07-23. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
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