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Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sat Mar 20, 2004 10:30 pm

Courtesy: Detroit Free Press

Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Entertainment systems to be upgraded
March 20, 2004


Spirit Airlines started almost 20 years ago as a no-frills, low-fare airline, but now it is taking a page out of JetBlue Airways' business plan and attempting to improve on it.

Within a year, Detroit Metro Airport's second-largest carrier plans to equip its jets with the latest in-flight entertainment system -- more modern than those on JetBlue's planes, the airline said Friday.

While no-frills Southwest Airlines is the grandfather of the successful low-fare airline, JetBlue has been creating a new model since it was launched four years ago.

Instead of eliminating frills, it took off with gleaming new planes that boasted leather seats, extra legroom and television screens at each seat showing 24 channels of satellite television from DirecTV.

By offering this and low fares, JetBlue planes are the fullest in the industry.

Spirit's decision to model itself more after JetBlue is a major step that will be noticed by fliers.

Spirit CEO Jacob Schorr said Spirit's entertainment system will be "more modern than JetBlue because it will be the latest and not like the one designed in 1999."

Earlier this week, Spirit lowered its cancellation charges from $75 per ticket to $25, matching those of JetBlue.

And in the next few months, Spirit passengers should be able to order meals by paying extra.

Schorr discussed Spirit's expansion plans the day after it announced its order with Airbus Industrie for 35 new jets worth $2 billion and an option to buy 60 more. The total value of the deal could reach $5 billion.

Spirit Airlines' move to offer state-of-the-art entertainment systems would benefit travelers, including those in Detroit and at the same time heat up competition with larger airlines such as Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest Airlines Inc., experts said.

"If you got a choice between flying an airline with an in-flight entertainment system and another without an in-flight entertainment, it's a no-brainer," said Terry Trippler, a Minneapolis airline consultant at Cheap

Spirit's new jets would gradually replace its old fleet of Boeing MD-80s. Only the new Airbus jets would have in-flight entertainment systems.

Schorr said six of the 35 planes would be 124-passenger A319s and 29 would be 220-passenger A321s. The airline plans to use the A321s on high-traffic routes.

The first plane is scheduled to arrive in March 2005. The airline expects to have 12 by the end of 2005, a similar number by the end of 2006 and 11 by the end of 2007.

With more planes, Spirit plans to double its number of daily flights from 115 to as much as 230. In Detroit, Spirit plans to add about 15 new daily flights by the end of 2006 and about 25 by the end of 2008, Schorr said. Currently, Spirit has between 20 and 25 daily nonstop flights from Detroit.

Schorr said the airline could announce a nonstop flight from Detroit to Cancun, Mexico, as soon as it gets regulatory approval to fly the route. The flight would be Spirit's first direct international service from Detroit.

Most Michiganders are not familiar with JetBlue's version of low-cost travel because it doesn't fly here -- or many other places in the Midwest.

But launched just four years ago, JetBlue has rewritten much of the book on start-up discount airlines.

It serves 23 cities, primarily in the Northeast, Southeast and West. New York's Kennedy International Airport is its primary hub. Buffalo is the nearest city to Detroit that it serves.

Not only is JetBlue popular with passengers, it has the highest profit margin in the industry -- 16.9 percent in 2003, although the carrier said that promotions and stiff competition will drop the operating margin in the first three months of this year to as low as 9 percent.

But the carrier's underlying model is "rock solid," said Jon Ash of Global Aviation Associates in Washington, D.C.

JetBlue's costs are the lowest of any big airline when measured by what a carrier pays to fly one seat one air mile, or a seat mile.

"They ought to be able to produce margins in the high teens, and that's just not too shabby," Ash said, noting that any carrier would drool for such figures. "I don't see any reason why that wouldn't be sustainable for them."
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sat Mar 20, 2004 10:41 pm

Interesting, thanks for posting......

6 A319s + 29 A321s......those are different numbers than previously discussed. Original information was that the order was to be evenly spilt between the A319 and A321......does Spirit need the A321 for the majority of its routes? Even in a normal configuraiton (say about 175 pax, not the 220 mentioned in the artlicle) that is about a 25% increase over the MD80.

220 seats in an A321.......does not sound right, especially if they plan to offer a first class cabin.

124 seats in an A319......very generous layout similiar to that used by traditional airlines worldwide.

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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sat Mar 20, 2004 10:48 pm


Your right those numbers don't add up at all! Scary....We shall see.

I hope they have not bitten off more than they can Handel. They may be profitable right now, keep in mind they have the one a/c type, "used" a/c...they are now going to have HUGE costs with training and such..that is not cheep to add different A/C to a fleet.

I know we get a lot of Spirit passengers who come back to NWA and share about the night mare of flying on them...esp the DTW-LAS, DTW-LAX time will see.
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sat Mar 20, 2004 10:54 pm

They should have ordered a bigger number of A319's than what was mentioned in the article (at least I hope so). 29 A321's does sound like a big number of A321's- I would guess only half of their current routes would need such capacity. Now going bacck to the original topic, I'm glad to see Spirit adding this state of the art IFE- it will make flying with them more enjoyable and will give them some competitive advantage over airlines that currently dont have IFE. I wish Spirit the best luck in this new venture.
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sat Mar 20, 2004 11:12 pm

lets look close at this one. ordering A319s and A321s but no A320. replacing 150 seaters but ordering no new 150 seaters? can only make me believe there will be a takeover by Jet Blue, which already has a large 150 seat order with airbus, was boeing not interested or was it really spirit not interested in boeing for this reason. look at the hubs if it happens KLGB,KFLL,KDTW,KJFK, all four corners of the country covered with international service to boot, your thoughts? Alittle forward thinking here on this order?

RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sat Mar 20, 2004 11:44 pm

Interesting how jetBlue has changed the business model for several other LCCs away from something that has been proven to work over the last few decades..... better hope jetBlue is right in the next decade or two.
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sun Mar 21, 2004 3:29 am

I think this is a good move for Spirit.

Although I think they should go to 3 cabins... Spirit Plus, Coach, then "tourist" class which has barebones service ;P

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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sun Mar 21, 2004 4:51 am

Stick a fork in 'em, they're done.

Segment King writes in, and I quote>>"I think this is a good move for Spirit.

Although I think they should go to 3 cabins... Spirit Plus, Coach, then "tourist" class which has barebones service"<<

Once again you have a low cost airline that would like to make as much money as the king of low cost airlines (WN) but has elected to throw the business plan over the side.

Why does WN make a lot of money? It's not low wages to employees, it isn;t high fares, it isn't the route network (although it could well be a combination of many of those things.)

The real reason is simplicity.

One type of airplane.

One class of service.

A very simple and limited in quantity of fare buckets. (In truth there ought to be just two...peak and off-peak, but we'll argue that another day)

A very simple but reasonably decent FF program.

So you have Spirit, who wanted to be a low fare airline and make a lot of money. So now they decide to make things complicate.

Add fleet types.
Add different levels of cabin service.

Folks wonder why, since deregulation, so many start ups have failed. All these many airlines have started up prophesying that they will be the next WN. And the first thing they do is decide they are smarter than the boys and girls down in Dallas and that they can do an "upscale" Southwest.

In the end it;s not frills nor lack thereof. In the end it's all about simplicity.

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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sun Mar 21, 2004 6:22 am

To all:

I recently had a chance to fly Spirit from DTW and I was hardly impressed; Airtran or Southwest they are not. The plane was shoddy, uncomfortable and possessed of an odor I found more peculiar than disturbing. Late leaving, late arrival. The flight was not crowded. Up to this point, I always looked forward to a flight on a Super80.

Although I do not travel for my employer with the regularity I once did, I do like Airtran and Southwest. Although both have their oddities(especially WN),
I have always been satisfied with the service and the product. Even from BUF-PHX non-stop, I have never felt uncomfortable although I prefer the 73G to the 733's. I have only flown jetblue once. It was nice, but hardly the cult experience some would suggest. Nevertheless, if Spirit has those types of aspirations, they need more than new Airbii to get them there.

In all actuality, I am surprised by their order, especially the 321's. I would agree with some that additional MD's or new EMB's would seem to suit them better. I am curious about no offer from Boeing with regard to new a/c.
Perhaps Airbus was more willing to risk it?

Good luck, Spirit. You will need it.


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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sun Mar 21, 2004 8:38 am

Add fleet types.
Add different levels of cabin service.

They already, very successfully, offer two levels of cabin service. They are also not "adding fleet types". They are replacing one fleet type - the MD80 family - with one other - the A320 family. There no major mechanical difference between the 319 and 321. Length is the only significant difference. It is the same as how SW flies four (?) types of 737s.
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sun Mar 21, 2004 9:10 am

Is that look good for A319 & A321 for Spirit Airlines? So it will able deliveries into March 2005. I am really looking forward see first one of Airbus. It is look like same as jetBlue have LiveTV into their fleet and other older MD-80 has no LiveTV.
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sun Mar 21, 2004 10:35 am

NK is a very good candidate for bumping up to the B6 level. It looks like a great idea on paper and I hope it works. NK offers flights to the carribean and some of the major airports here in FL. They also all ready have a "F" cabin as it is rite now.

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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sun Mar 21, 2004 10:40 am

Now that Spirit Airlines is getting these Airbus A319-100's and Airbus A321's, how long will their MD-80's stay in the fleet?
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Sun Mar 21, 2004 11:00 am

They will keep the Mad Dogs as spares for when the Airbii are down for unsched mx--just ask Northwest.

I dunno, folks, this stuff looks like a lot of risk. Another Southwest rule is to take small risks- do your homework, expand when you have proven to yourself that it will be worthwhile.

Spirit has been profitable lately, right? So why change things? New planes, okay, but "pull- out- all- the- stops- and change everything?" Uncomfortable...
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Thu Mar 25, 2004 7:16 am

This is not an aggressive nor risky move.

1. They are making firm orders for the same number of aircraft they currently have (and will retire). So we are not talking about radical growth.

2. Crew and maintenance training will probably be highly subsidized by Airbus. They will remain a one-type carrier with all of the associated efficiencies.

3. Most of the complaints about Spirit relate to the older aircraft that they fly. This eliminates that problem entirely.

4. Spirit has kept ultra-low operating costs with a fleet that is expensive to maintain and fuel-thirsty. Quite a feat. The initial benefits of a fleet replacement should enhance this profitability.

I really hate the thought of those MD80s going away, but progress marches forward...
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Thu Mar 25, 2004 10:46 am

They would need to replace the MD80's sooner or later. Would be nice if the MD90 were still in production but it's not. In that size bracket they had 2 choices ONLY: 737NG and A320 family.

It seems to me they made their choice and are moving forward. They NEED to get more aggressive and they are doing it. WN, B6, FL , TZ and F9 seem to get all the press (and most of the threads on ANet). They either need to step up to the plate and blow their own horn a bit or be an also-ran.

I think all the LLC's are positioning themselves for a legacy failure, most likely US. If that happens (I hope not but then too many great carriers are gone) Spirit will be well poised to pick up a good chunk of the slack in the East. If there is no legacy failure, and they don't expand too rapidly, there will be a profitable future for them.

My two cents.
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Thu Mar 25, 2004 1:07 pm

SOUTHWEST WILL ADD T.V's TO OUR AIRCRAFT.....The talk around LUV is HERB gave the green light to update our aircraft...Also we are adding life rafts to all are 700's and soon winglets to our 300's......lGbnOTguy Big grin
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Fri Mar 26, 2004 1:42 am

TxagKuwait... I think you get that Spitit isn't a start up. they've been around for 13 years. That just doesn't come across in your biased post. They have been very successful to this point, and by increasing their level of service slightly they stand to gain exponentially in increased traffic. New airplanes are an inevitable move forward for an airline of this age.

F4N... you said Spirit is going to need more than new airplanes to make them a better airline, yet all of your complaints were something to do with the airplane you were on. Don't you think if you were on a brand new Airbus with IFE you would've come out with a different opinion? Sure, the flight may still have been delayed, yet every airline experiences delays every day.

I've never flown Spirit before, but I have spent some time with their employees in Detroit when training agents for QQ there. They're a fun bunch and I am excited for them they have something to look forward too.
The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect my employer’s views.
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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Fri Mar 26, 2004 2:11 am


Although I was annoyed by the actual ship I was on, my overall impression of the overall product was negative in relation to my experiences w/ Southwest and AirTran. An new a/c does not make a successful carrier although they are a component part of it. Service, timeliness, comman courtesies, price, facilities, ect all work to create an overall impression (especially for a seasoned traveller) that is positive, value for money and well worth repeating or it is not.

Spirit failed. While many people are different, I do not bother to pursue failed options when there are better alternatives available. Competition at work.


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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Fri Mar 26, 2004 2:38 pm

If the "dangling on the edge of extinction" airline known as ValuJet, could turn into the AirTran of today, then I say ANYTHING is possible in this industry. We too did it overnight.

September 23, 1997 we were wearing khaki shorts and yellow and blue polo shirts, with open seating and on board "trivia games". September 24, 1997, there were seat assignments, a business class, a frequent flier program, ties and blazers, and a new creamy paint job.

Don't count Spirit out just yet.....

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RE: Spirit Airlines To Add Frills

Fri Mar 26, 2004 2:48 pm

I hope this is just the beginning for Spirit (as well as all the other LCCs)!


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