By Benjamin Pham
Spirit Airlines Adds Third Destination in Puerto Rico
The persistent COVID-19 ordeal disrupted and altered the airline industry, forcing several major carriers to quickly reevaluate their current strategy and adapt to stay afloat and survive during the crisis. However, with the significant push for vaccinations and subsequent booster shots to combat the spread, some airlines see this as an opportunity to appeal to as many passengers as possible. In an industry filled with cutthroat and fierce competition for flight routes and passengers, Spirit Airlines’ notable ultra-low-cost (ULCC) and point-to-point business model — which is typically targeted towards leisure travelers and tourists — continues its broad expansion, as the carrier recently announced more flights to Puerto Rico.
The Miramar, Fla.-based carrier will soon serve three cities across the Caribbean island, once the airline inaugurates its new flights during this winter travel season. Flights from Orlando, Fla. to Ponce, Puerto Rico, will begin on Feb. 16, joining the carrier’s two other existing routes to/from San Juan and Aguadilla.
“Adding Ponce as our third market in Puerto Rico is a fantastic way to celebrate 20 years of Spirit serving the island,” John Kirby, Spirit’s Vice President of Network Planning, said. “Our new nonstop flights to Orlando provide connectivity to many high-value travel options for flying in or out of Ponce, along with serving the vibrant and growing Puerto Rican community in Central Florida.”
As the ULCC expects to strengthen and expand its presence from Orlando and other cities in the state, Spirit expects to use the mecca for leisure travel in the state of Florida, as one of the connections to the rest of its route network.
There is no question that Florida is known for its tourism and crowds that flock to the state year-round. Orlando has a large array of low-cost carriers such as Southwest, Frontier, JetBlue and Spirit — who all have a large presence at the airport — but Spirit recently became the latest low-cost airline to inaugurate flights to Miami, complementing its extensive, existing base in Fort Lauderdale.
Earlier this month, Spirit began its brand new flight operations with service to nine destinations. By January, the carrier expects to operate flights to 31 destinations from Miami — 21 domestic cities and 11 international destinations.
“Launching nonstop flights to 31 destinations right out of the gate in Miami is a huge milestone for us, and we want to share all that excitement with our Guests. Combined with our flights from West Palm Beach and our position as the largest carrier in Fort Lauderdale, we’re giving our guests more options in South Florida than ever,” Ted Christie, President and CEO of Spirit Airlines, said, a sentiment accurately portrayed by the airline’s strategy to pump hundreds of seats into Miami and expanding its presence in the region.
Spirit faces fierce competition at both airports, as Miami is a stronghold for American Airlines while the carrier goes face-to-face with JetBlue in Fort Lauderdale. However, with the carrier’s new routes on the map, Spirit has the opportunity to have the leverage it needs to potentially overcome its competitors.
In addition, in early August, Spirit experienced a sudden operational disruption, leading to hundreds of flights being canceled due to the effects of the COVID-19 predicament, weather and crew scheduling. On the other hand, the airline has the possibility to rebound and use its brand new flight routes as its pathway towards recovery.
Evidently, Spirit is preparing itself to follow its pathway towards recovering from the slump in passenger travel demand. However, as the carrier enters new, unfamiliar markets, it is essential for the airline to continue evaluating and observing its route network for connectivity.