Spirit Airlines

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"Spirit Air" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Air spirit or Spirit of Manila Airlines.
Spirit Airlines
Spirit airlines logo14.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1980 (as Charter One)
Operating bases
Focus cities
Fleet size 79[3]
Destinations 57
Company slogan Less Money, More Go.
Parent company Publicly traded (NASDAQSAVE)
Headquarters Miramar, Florida, USA
Key people
Revenue Increase US$ 1.93 billion (2014)[4]
Net income Increase US$ 225.46 million (2014)[4]
Website spirit.com

Spirit Airlines, Inc. (NASDAQSAVE) is an American low-cost carrier headquartered in Miramar, Florida. Spirit operates scheduled flights throughout the U.S. as well as the Caribbean, Mexico, and Latin America. Major focus cities include: Fort Lauderdale, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Las Vegas, Chicago, Houston, Atlantic City, and Myrtle Beach. As of 2016, Spirit remains the only airline in the United States with a 2-Star Skytrax airline rating.[5]


Early years (1964-2006)[edit]

The company initially started as Clipper Trucking Company in 1964.[6] The airline service was founded in 1980 in Macomb County, Michigan, (by Ned Homfeld) as Charter One,[7] 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, R.I., to Atlantic City. On May 29, 1992, Charter One brought jet equipment into the fleet, changed its name to Spirit Airlines and inaugurated service from Detroit to Atlantic City.

In April 1993, Spirit Airlines began scheduled service to destinations in Florida. During the next five years, Spirit expanded rapidly, increasing service from Detroit and adding service in new markets such as Myrtle Beach, Los Angeles, and New York City.

Spirit initially had their headquarters in Eastpointe, Michigan (formerly East Detroit) in Greater Detroit.[8] It relocated its headquarters in November 1999, moving to Miramar, Florida in the Miami Metropolitan Area.[9] Prior to the decision to move the headquarters to Miramar, Spirit considered Atlantic City, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan.[10]

In 2000, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed to fine 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.

In 2006, Spirit exercised options to order 30 Airbus A320-200 aircraft for further expansion. Deliveries began in March 2010.

Transition to ultra low cost carrier and pilot strike (2007-2010)[edit]

Spirit DC-9-40 number N130NK, in old livery, lands at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts.

On March 6, 2007, Spirit began a transition to an ultra low-cost carrier. Their initial plan was to begin charging US$10 per checked bag for the first two bags, $5 if bags are reserved before 24 hours prior to the flight, in addition to charging $1 for drinks which were previously complimentary. On September 26, 2007, Spirit also unveiled a new branding for the airline.

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.[11] In September 2008, Spirit began advertising on the side of aircraft, overhead bins, tray tables, seatback inserts and bulkheads.[12]

In May 2009, Spirit pilots overwhelmingly voted in favor of strike action (98% of votes) due to stalled contract negotiations with management. Areas of dispute included compensation, work rules and benefits. At that time, Spirit pilots were among the lowest paid Airbus pilots in the United States.

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.[13]

On June 12, 2010, Spirit grounded its flights when its unionized pilots walked out on strike, stranding thousands of passengers.[14] The ultimately successful pilot strike came after more than four years of inconclusive negotiations between the airline and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents Spirit's pilots. 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 the Spirit pilots' compensation and benefits in line with comparable U.S. Airbus operators. Flights eventually resumed.[15] Of particular note, is that this was the first legal industrial action (strike) by U.S. ALPA represented pilots since 2005 (Polar Air Cargo), and the first passenger airline strike by U.S. ALPA represented pilots since 2001 (Comair).

Spirit Airbus A320 number NK-319 at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport, prior to boarding.


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.[16] The 76-year-old Vietnam veteran and former Marine tried to get his $197 back after learning his esophageal cancer was terminal and being told by his doctor not to fly.[17] 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 $5000 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project in Meekins' name.[18]

In February 2012, Spirit Airlines established a crew and maintenance base at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada.[19] On December 1, 2012, the airline opened a flight attendant and pilot crew base at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.[20]

On Monday, July 1, 2013, a Spirit Airlines jetliner came within two miles of a skydiving aircraft, but was found by the FAA to be in full regulatory compliance.[21] In August 2013, Spirit reached an agreement on a new five-year deal with Teamsters, who represent the airline's flight dispatchers.

On August 7, 2014, Spirit Airlines began new service out of Kansas City, Missouri to five destinations.[22] In November 2014, Morgan Stanley named Spirit the top growth airline pick for investors.[23]

In January 2016, Baldanza stepped down as CEO in order to relocate from Florida, replaced with former Air Tran CEO Robert L. Fornaro.[24] Fornaro has stated that he's interested in merging Spirit with its main rival, Frontier Airlines. [25] If the 2 carriers were to merge, it would create the single largest ultra-low cost carrier in the Americas. [26]

Service concept[edit]

Spirit Airlines Check In At O'Hare International Airport


As an ultra low-cost carrier, the airline gives customers many options for customizing their base ticket price, each of which carries a charge. These includes having an agent print a boarding pass at check-in versus doing it online or at a kiosk,[27] for any large carry-on or checked bags, progressive fees for overweight bags, selected seat assignments, travel insurance, and more.[28]

On October 1, 2007, Spirit began to charge $3 for all drinks.[29] [30] On June 21, 2011, Spirit began charging a $5 fee to passengers who have their boarding passes printed at a check-in desk.[31]

On April 6, 2010, USA Today reported that Spirit would charge for carry-on bags on flights starting August 1, 2010, purchased after April 6, 2010. Bags that fit under the seat and measure 16"x14"x12" are still free but passengers wanting to bring larger bags to put in overhead bins are charged.[32] In October 2011, Spirit reduced the weight limit for checked luggage from 50 pounds per bag to 40 pounds per bag, charging $25 for the first 9 extra pounds, and up to $100 for bags approaching 59 pounds over the 40 pound limit.[30] On June 19, 2014, Spirit Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to temporarily increase their checked baggage fees. The airline increased the checked bag fees by $2 in order to encourage passengers to bring fewer checked bags. For tickets purchased between 6/19/14 through 8/18/14, the first checked bag fee at the airport is $47, the second checked bag is $57.[33]

In 2011, 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.


  • A Department of Transportation Statistics report concluded that in 2008 Spirit had the highest number of complaints per passenger among U.S. airlines that carry more than 5 million passengers.[34]
  • On Thursday September 17, 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration fined Spirit Airlines $375,000 for violating the agency's consumer protection regulations, including not compensating bumped passengers, violating various rules regarding delayed baggage compensation, and not including fees in advertised fares.[35]
  • Spirit Airlines has received generally extremely negative reviews from passengers. In January 2013, Skytrax Airline Quality Research downgraded Spirit Airlines to a ranking of 2 out of 5 stars.[36]


Spirit currently flies to 57 destinations throughout Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and the United States. It maintains bases in Fort Lauderdale and Detroit with focus cities in Houston, Myrtle Beach, Chicago-O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Las Vegas.

Spirit's top ten airports listed by number of departures (November 2015)[37]
Rank Airport Flights
1 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 52
2 Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois 30
3 Las Vegas, Nevada 28
4 Detroit, Michigan 26
5 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 24
6 Atlanta, Georgia 20
7 Houston–Intercontinental, Texas 17
8 Los Angeles, California 17
9 Orlando, Florida 16
10 Tampa, Florida 14


Spirit Airlines Airbus A320 moments from touching down at Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport, the main operating base of Spirit Airlines. This plane is painted in the early 2010s livery.


Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 taxiing into take-off position at LaGuardia Airport in New York City. This plane is painted in the newest "taxi" livery, introduced in fall 2014.

The Spirit Airlines all-Airbus fleet consists of the following aircraft (as of December 2015):

Spirit Airlines current fleet[3]
Aircraft In Service Orders Seats Notes
B E Total
Airbus A319-100 29 0 10 135 145 Retirement for older aircraft begins in 2016.
Airbus A320-200 42 22 4 174 178 Deliveries through 2018.
Airbus A320neo 0 45 8 174 182
Airbus A321-200 2 0 4 214 218
6 24 8 220 228 Deliveries through 2018.
Airbus A321neo 0 10
Total 79 101
Spirit Airlines Airbus A319 touching down at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. This plane is painted in the grayscale livery of the mid-2000s.


The following aircraft no longer operate in the Spirit Airlines fleet:

Spirit Airlines historical fleet
Aircraft Total Year retired Replacement
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

Controversial advertising campaigns[edit]

Over the years, Spirit has worked to get publicity, good and bad, by advertising using current controversial events.


In 2006, the airline released a “Hunt for Hoffa” advertising campaign with the tagline “Help us find Hoffa with our Hunt for Hoffa game and enjoy fares from just $39 each way.” The point of the game was to dig for Jimmy Hoffa’s body by clicking grids on the airline’s website, and “winners” were taken to another webpage, saying "You found Hoffa!" thanking them for assisting the National Spirit Sale Center find the union leader’s body.[38] Within hours of the campagn debuting, the airline received a large number of complaints. The promotion was quickly taken down and changed to another promotion, simply titled Happy Sale. This promotion was later listed as #8 on CNN Money’s 101 Dumbest Moments in Business that year.[39]


In December 2007, the airline released a sale with the acronym MILF, standing for “Many Islands, Low Fares.” Online and TV media picked up on this and noted that MILF was popularized in the movie American Pie. This controversy was covered on CBS and ABC News, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and The O'Reilly Factor.[40]


In April 2008, the airline sent an email to its marketing subscription list announcing “We’re having a threesome. Join us in the fun.” Offering "three sales in one," the email repeatedly proposes the "threesome."[41]


On January 8, 2009, the airline reintroduced the MILF Special, described as meaning "Many Islands, Low Fares".[42][43]

On December 2, 2009, shortly after a well publicized car accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Spirit launched lowered fares in a promotion called the "Eye of the Tiger Sale". Imagery for the campaign featured an SUV crashing into a fire hydrant, with a tiger leaning out the driver's side window.[44]


On February 2, 2010, the airline offered the "Many Unbelievably Fantastic Fares (MUFF) to Diving Destinations" promotion. Many of their prominent Caribbean or Floridian destinations were featured.

On June 22, 2010, the airline offered the "Check Out The Oil On Our Beaches" promotion. The ad was in reference to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest in United States history.[45]

On August 12, the airline offered the "Don't Be Blue, Slide Down To Low Fares with Double Fisted Savings". The ad was in reference to a jetBlue flight where a flight attendant deployed an emergency slide and left the aircraft with two bottles of beer. Imagery for the ad featured an opened aircraft door and a flight attendant going down an emergency slide with two beer bottles.[46]


On January 12, the airline offered a promotion entitled "Free at Last! Free at Last! Air travel is Free at Last!", which applied for travel the following weekend, celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Spirit made a "Go south" Valentine's Day themed ad showing a woman in a bikini and placed a candy heart with the initial "VD" on her crotch, poking fun at venereal disease.

Shortly afterwards, Spirit made another Valentine's themed ad comparing a diamond ring to vacation packages (while saying "Why not slip her a big package") then showing a gift box directly in front of a man's crotch.

On June 7, amidst the Anthony Weiner Twitter photo scandal, Spirit offered "The Weiner Sale: With Fares Too HARD To Resist." The email promotion included the subject line "Want To See Our Weiner?"


Spirit capitalized on the Summit of the Americas prostitution scandal by featuring an advert with women in pink bikinis, around an agent implying secrecy, and the slogan "More Bang for your Buck" for flights to Cartagena, Colombia – the location of the scandal – as well as other destinations. Colombian officials complained, and Spirit removed the ad after its scheduled 36 hour run.[47]


In November 2013, Spirit advertised flights to the Greater Toronto area (Niagara Falls NY) using an ad reading "Flights to Toronto for $29.99, we're not smoking crack." This campaign was launched following Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's admission to smoking crack cocaine, along with many other behavioral issues that got media attention across Canada and the United States.


  1. ^ "Spirit to Expand Fort Lauderdale, Houston Service". Airchive. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Spirit Airlines focus cities". January 6, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Spirit Airlines Fleet Details and History". Planespotters.net. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "SAVE Key Statistics". marketwatch.com. Retrieved 2015-08-27. 
  5. ^ "The world's 2 Star Airlines". Skytrax. Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  6. ^ Nicas, Jack (May 12, 2012). "A Stingy Spirit Lifts Airline's Profit". The Wall Street Journal. pp. A1, A12. 
  7. ^ "Spirit Airlines History". Spirit Airlines. August 2011. Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  8. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 25–31, 1998. "Spirit Airlines" p. 92. "18121 East 8 Mile Road, Eastpointe, 48021, Michigan, USA"
  9. ^ Spirit Airlines Honored as 'Good Corporate Citizen of the Year'; Miramar Business Appreciation 2003. Business Wire. February 13, 2003. Retrieved on December 17, 2009.
  10. ^ Hemlock, Doreen. "Spirit Airlines to Relocate from Detroit Area to South Florida." Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. March 17, 1999. Retrieved on December 17, 2009.
  11. ^ New York Business News – Business, Money, Financial & Corporate News Business News | NBC New York. Wnbc.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  12. ^ Hugo Martin (21 May 2010). "Are carry-on bag fees hurting Spirit Airlines?". Los Angeles Times (LAtimes.com). Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  13. ^ "Spirit Airlines World MasterCard® Credit Card". Bank of America. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Arnoult, Sandra (14 June 2010). "Shutdown continues after Spirit pilots reject 29% base pay increase". Flightglobal.com. Flight International. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  15. ^ Ranson, Lori. "Spirit pilots plan to return to work on 18 June". Flightglobal.com. Flight International. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  16. ^ "Spirit Airlines' final answer to dying Vietnam vet seeking ticket refund: No". Fox News. 30 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  17. ^ Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET (2010-04-07). "Spirit Airlines' boss calls industry-high complaint rate 'irrelevant,' says dying veteran should've bought insurance". Fox News. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  18. ^ Joshua Rhett Miller (2010-04-07). "Spirit bows to pressure: Airline CEO to refund dying veteran's fare". Fox News. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  19. ^ "Spirit Airlines to establish crew, maintenance base in Las Vegas - Business - ReviewJournal.com". Lvrj.com. 2011-11-15. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  20. ^ "Spirit opening flight attendant, pilot crew base at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  21. ^ "Detroit Spirit Jet, Skydiving Plane's Close Call In The Air Prompts FAA Probe". Huffingtonpost.com. 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  22. ^ "Spirit Airlines will launch KCI service in August". kansascity. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  23. ^ Tuttle, Brad. "America’s Cheapest Airline Looks to Make Flights Even Cheaper". TIME. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  24. ^ "Brash, Fee-Happy CEO of Spirit Airlines Abruptly Replaced". ABC News. Retrieved 2016-01-05. 
  25. ^ https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/analysis-new-spirit-chief-refuels-frontier-merger-r-420538/
  26. ^ http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/01/06/spirit-airlines-gets-a-new-ceo-reading-between-the.aspx
  27. ^ "Spirit to double fee for agent-printed boarding passes in April". Sun-Sentinel. 2013-03-13. 
  28. ^ "Our optional fees". Spirit Airlines. Retrieved 2013-05-12. 
  29. ^ SpiritAir.com Archived November 15, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ a b Spirit Airlines. Spirit.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  31. ^ Carey, Susan (22 June 2011). "Spirit Air's New First: Levying Fee for Passes". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 June 2011. 
  32. ^ Jones, Charisse (2010-04-07). "Spirit Airlines to charge a $20–$45 fee for carry-on bags". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-12-13. 
  33. ^ "Spirit Airlines baggage options". Spirit Airlines. 2014-06-19. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  34. ^ Segal, David. (2009-03-28) Don’t Come Crying to This Airline – NYTimes.com. Travel.nytimes.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  35. ^ Frogameni, Bill. "Spirit Airlines hit with record fine." Atlanta Business Journal. Friday September 18, 2009. Retrieved on September 20, 2009.
  36. ^ "Spirit Airlines is downgraded to 2-Star Airline status following latest Skytrax Ranking review" Skytrax. Since then, reviews for Spirit Airlines have worsened. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  37. ^ "Flight Stats". anonymous. January 2016. 
  38. ^ "Airline scraps online 'Hoffa' game". USA Today. 2006-07-19. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  39. ^ Horowitz, Adam; David Jacobson; Tom McNichol; Owen Thomas. "8. Spirit Airlines". 101 Dumbest Moments in Business (CNNMoney.com). Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  40. ^ "Fort Lauderdale’s Spirit in the sky". anna.aero. 15 August 2008. 
  41. ^ Gorell, Robert (2007-04-01). "Spirit Airlines Proposes a Threesome With Me". Spirit Airlines Proposes a Threesome With Me. Future Now (grokdotcom.com). Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  42. ^ "Over the Line?". The O'Reilly Factor. Over the Line?. 2007-12-11. Fox News Channel. 
  43. ^ Spirit Airlines[dead link]
  44. ^ Spirit Airlines' Tiger Woods Ad (PHOTOS). Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  45. ^ "Spinning the spill, for fun and profit". Yahoo News. 2010-06-23. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  46. ^ Spirit Airlines – cheap tickets, cheap flights, discount airfare, cheap hotels, cheap car rentals, cheap travel. Marketing.spiritair.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  47. ^ "Spirit Airlines pulls 'More bang for your buck' ad that spoofed Secret Service". MSNBC. 21 April 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 

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