Passengers queue at a Spirit Airlines check-in counter at Orlando International Airport.
Paul Hennessy | Light Rocket | Getty Images
spirit airlines No mercy this week agreed to sell itself To jetblue airlines $3.8 billion in hours Discontinued merger agreement with Frontier Airlines We were unable to get enough shareholder support.
The new deal represents a big change for travelers if it clears regulatory hurdles.
JetBlue is known for its passenger comforts, including relatively generous legroom, seatback screens, live TV, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary snacks like Cheez-Its and Stellar vegan butter pretzel blades. again, business classwith a lie-flat sheet.
In contrast, the mind became a punchline for that bare minimum service. Bright yellow planes have smaller cabins and require passengers to pay extra for “optional services” such as carry-on bags and seat selection.
“It’s historic. This is the first time anyone has wanted Spirit Airlines,” “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert quipped about the deal on Thursday.
Still, Spirit has grown quickly and profitably by offering cheap tickets to popular vacation spots that aren’t as much as going to the movies and eating a few burgers. However, the airline’s “big front seats” offer him 36 inches of legroom for up to $250 extra.
With two different airlines pursuing consolidation plans, passengers can expect:
Jet Blue i want to grow upand the spirit has a plane and pilot to help it. The New York-based airline plans to revamp its Spirit planes in JetBlue style, removing crammed seats and giving them a more spacious layout with more amenities.
Together, the airline is the fifth largest airline in the country, American, delta, United When southwestBoth have a large presence in Florida and have expanded into Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years.JetBlue started last year flight to london.
The two airlines will continue to operate as separate airlines until the transaction, which requires regulatory approval, is completed. After that, if you’re still flying in an unmodified Spirit plane, your passengers can get confused.
JetBlue has some experience with this situation through its partnership with American Airlines in the Northeast. sell each other’s plane seatsJet Blue last year Website renewal This is to better emphasize the differences in in-flight features such as business class seats and free Wi-Fi.
Despite its comedian bargain, Spirit has improved its credibility in recent years, and in some ways it outperforms JetBlue.
According to the Department of Transportation’s latest available data, JetBlue ranked last among the 10 airlines for on-time arrivals through May this year, while Spirit was seventh.
A third of JetBlue’s flights have been delayed and 4% canceled so far this year, according to flight tracker FlightAware. By comparison, just over a quarter of Spirit’s flights arrived late and 2.7% were cancelled.
JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes says improving reliability is a priority.in career reduced Growth plans say they don’t want to overextend their crew or other resources.
“A big JetBlue that is late is not a better JetBlue,” said Henry Hartveldt, a former airline executive and founder of travel industry consultancy Atmosphere Research Group.
The disappearance of ultra-low-cost airlines could be a big deal, as the Biden administration has vowed to take a tough stance on both consolidation and inflation. tough selling.
“Spirit may not be an elegant experience, but it’s cheap,” said William Kovacic, a professor at the George Washington School of Law and former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. “If they disappear as independent companies…will that remove the source of downward pressure on prices?”
But JetBlue’s Hayes said the company needs to grow quickly and better compete with the big airlines, which control more than three-quarters of the US market. Hayes argues that a larger JetBlue means that fares to more destinations will be relatively cheap.
JetBlue has already added it, as have some major airlines. certain low fares Imitate a carrier like a spirit. These tickets also don’t come with seat assignments or other perks that were once standard on bus fares.
But JetBlue’s business model of providing more comfort costs more than the Spirit.
Meanwhile, Frontier Airlines has already said it’s happy to capture a larger share of the ultra-low-cost market after its deal with Spirit collapsed. Expecting 30% growth, it launched a fare sale selling 1 million seats at $19 a seat.
Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said: “That’s why it’s such a stroke of luck for our employees and shareholders.”
Not immediately. JetBlue and Spirit expect the deal to close in the first half of 2024, with regulatory approvals pending until late 2023 or early 2024.
Airline consolidation is a time-consuming and expensive process. For example, United Airlines and Continental Airlines flight attendants 8 years After the merger of these airlines in 2010.
Aircraft modifications can also take years, and JetBlue won’t be able to begin that process with the Spirit fleet until at least 2025.
“We’ve had a lot of experience lately on how to do that,” Hayes said.