Spirit Airlines
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Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines logo 2014.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1983 (as Charter One)[1]
Operating bases
Frequent-flyer programFREE SPIRIT
Fleet size122[2]
Traded as
HeadquartersMiramar, Florida, U.S.
Key people
Operating incomeDecrease US$388.79 million (2017)
Net incomeIncrease US$420.60 million (2017)[4]
Total assetsIncrease US$4.143 billion (2017)
Total equityIncrease US$1.777 billion (2017)
Employees6,795 (2017)

Spirit Airlines, Inc. is an American ultra-low-cost carrier headquartered in Miramar, Florida. It is the eighth largest commercial airline in North America. Spirit operates scheduled flights throughout the United States and in the Caribbean, Mexico, Latin America, and South America. The airline operates bases at Atlantic City, Chicago-O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Las Vegas[5]. As of 2018, Spirit remains the only two-star airline in the United States based on Skytrax Airline Quality Research.


Early years (1964-2006)

The company initially started as Clippert Trucking Company in 1964.[1][6] 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.[1] 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.[1][7] Scheduled flights between Detroit and Atlantic City began on June 1, 1992.[7] Scheduled flights between Boston and Providence began on June 15, 1992.[7]

On April 2, 1993, Spirit Airlines began scheduled service to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and St. Petersburg, Florida.[7] Flights between Atlantic City and Fort Myers, Florida, began on September 25, 1993.[8] Service at Philadelphia began in 1994.[9] 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.[10] 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.[10] 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.[10]

Spirit initially had their headquarters in Eastpointe, Michigan (formerly East Detroit) in Metro Detroit.[11] It relocated its headquarters in November 1999, moving to Miramar, Florida in the Miami Metropolitan Area.[1][12] Prior to the decision to move the headquarters to Miramar, Spirit considered Atlantic City, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15][16]

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 (2007-present)

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, 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.[17] These included having an agent print a boarding pass at check-in versus doing it online or at a kiosk,[18] for any large carry-on or checked bags, progressive fees for overweight bags, selected seat assignments, travel insurance, and more.[19] 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.[]

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.[20] In September 2008, Spirit began advertising on the side of aircraft, overhead bins, tray tables, seatback inserts and bulkheads.[21]

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.[22][23] 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.[24]

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.[25]

In February 2012, Spirit Airlines established a crew and maintenance base at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada.[26] On December 1, 2012, the airline opened a flight attendant and pilot crew base at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.[27]

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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30]

In August 2013, Spirit reached an agreement on a new five-year deal with the Transport Workers Union of America, who represent the airline's flight dispatchers.[31]

In November 2014, Morgan Stanley named Spirit the top growth airline pick for investors.[32]

In January 2016, Baldanza stepped down as CEO in order to relocate from Florida, and was replaced by former Air Tran CEO Robert L. Fornaro.[33] This prompted rumors of a merger with Frontier Airlines;[34] if the carriers were to merge, it would create the single largest ultra-low-cost carrier in the Americas.[35] Fornaro led an effort to change the company and improve working conditions as well as the guest experience, implementing multiple changes such as teaming up with the Disney Institute to create new service standards and changing policies internally to create a more welcoming environment.[36]

As of November 2017, Spirit's on-time performance is 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.[37] In February 2018, Spirit was the only airline in North America to make the list of the top 10 safest in the world.[38]

As of 2018, Spirit Airline charged a minimum of $50 each way for any bag where any dimension exceeded 18 x 14 x 8 inches.[39]

In May 2018, Spirit announced that they will be the first ultra low-cost carrier to fit their aircraft with high-speed WiFi access starting in the fall of 2018. All of their aircraft are expected to be equipped with WiFi by summer of 2019.[40]

Service expansion

Spirit Airlines check-in at O'Hare International Airport

On August 7, 2014, Spirit began new service out of Kansas City, Missouri to five destinations.[41]

In January 2017, Spirit announced a major expansion into Pittsburgh, which became the 61st city in the carrier's network. Spirit's first Pittsburgh flights launched May 25, when it began daily service to both Dallas/Fort Worth and Myrtle Beach, S.C. The carrier added seven more routes - to Fort Lauderdale, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tampa, Ft. Myers and Orlando - by July 13. Spirit began flying from Hartford with two routes to Florida and one to Myrtle Beach. Spirit's first flights from Hartford began April 27 when it launches daily flights to Orlando and four-times-a-week service to Myrtle Beach. Daily service to Fort Lauderdale started June 15. The Florida routes were intended to operate year-round; the South Carolina service to be seasonal.[42]

On Nov 10, 2016 Spirit announced new service to begin in Akron, Ohio via the Akron-Canton Airport creating six new routes, their flights launched November 10, when it began daily service to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Myers. Along with seasonal routes to Tampa, Las Vegas, and Myrtle Beach starting on April 27, 2017.[43]

In November 2017, Spirit announced a new service expansion in Columbus, Ohio via the John Glenn Columbus International Airport announcing seven new routes for the city - to Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, and Orlando year round. Also providing seasonal service to Fort Myers and Tampa. They will offer flights to Myrtle Beach and New Orleans three times per week with service to begin on February 14, 2018.[44]

Also in November 2017, Spirit announced service to Richmond, VA through Richmond International Airport which began on March 15, 2018, announcing that passengers would be able to connect through either Fort Lauderdale or Orlando to 11 other destinations, including New Orleans and Tampa as well to international destinations like San Jose, Costa Rica; Managua, Nicaragua; and Lima, Peru.[44] On March 18, 2018 Spirit began service by holding drawings at the airport for complimentary same day vacations on the inaugural flight to Orlando.[45]


Spirit currently flies to 67 destinations throughout Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and the United States. As of April 2018, It maintains crew bases at Atlantic City, Chicago-O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, and Las Vegas.[46][47]

Controversies & lawsuits

Spirit Airlines has been the target of a number of controversial class action lawsuits and punitive actions by the US Department of Transportation. Most of the claims against the company are for allegations of deceptive advertising practices, customer service, and the airline's policies for charging additional fees at the time of purchase. In 2013 and again in 2015 the Department of Transportation received more passenger complaints about Spirit than any other airline; the rate of complaints was "dramatically higher" than the overall rate for the industry.[48][49]

In 2011, the US DOT fined Spirit $50,000 for alleged deceptive advertising practices. The complaint claims 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.[50][51]

In January 2012, the US DOT fined Spirit $100,000 for mishandling of complaints related to its treatment of customers with disabilities.[52][53]


A Spirit Airlines Airbus A321-200 in the current ('taxi') livery, introduced in fall 2014.
A Spirit Airlines Airbus A319-100 in the earlier blue paint scheme, used from the late-2000s until 2014.
A Spirit Airlines Airbus A319-100 painted in the grayscale livery of the mid-2000s

Current fleet

As of October 2018, the Spirit Airlines fleet consists entirely of Airbus A320 family aircraft.[54][55]

Spirit Airlines fleet[56]
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes/sources
B E Total
Airbus A319-100 31 -- 10 135 145 One aircraft to be retired in 2021[55]
Airbus A320-200 56 6 8 174 182 Deliveries through 2019[55]
Airbus A320neo 5 50 Deliveries through 2021[55]
First U.S. airline to fly the A320neo[57]
Airbus A321-200 30 -- 8 220 228
Total 122 56

Historical fleet

The following aircraft formerly operated 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


  1. ^ a b c d e "Spirit Airlines - History" (PDF). Spirit Airlines, Inc. 2011-08-01. Retrieved .
  2. ^ "Spirit Airlines Fleet Details and History". Planespotters.net. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ "Company Profile". Spirit.com. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ a b "SAVE-2017.12.31-10K iXBRL" (PDF). ir.spirit.com. Retrieved .
  5. ^ https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/1518986002
  6. ^ Nicas, Jack (May 12, 2012). "A Stingy Spirit Lifts Airline's Profit". The Wall Street Journal. pp. A1, A12.
  7. ^ a b c d Wittkowski, Donald. "Small Airline Expands A.C. Flights with Jets". The Press of Atlantic City. May 30, 1992.
  8. ^ "Spirit Expands Fla./Atlantic City Air Service". The Press of Atlantic City. September 5, 1993.
  9. ^ Belden, Tom. "Atlanta-based Line Plans Phila. Flights". The Philadelphia Inquirer. April 12, 1994.
  10. ^ a b c Sangiacomo, Michael. "Spirit Airlines Pledges That Anyone With Ticket Will Fly". The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio). June 8, 1994.
  11. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 25-31, 1998. "Spirit Airlines" p. 92. "18121 East 8 Mile Road, Eastpointe, 48021, Michigan, USA"
  12. ^ Spirit Airlines Honored as 'Good Corporate Citizen of the Year'; Miramar Business Appreciation 2003. Business Wire. February 13, 2003. Retrieved on December 17, 2009.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "- SPIRIT AIRLINES INC | Violation Tracker". violationtracker.goodjobsfirst.org. Retrieved .
  15. ^ "FAA To Fine TWA, Spirit For Violations". aviationweek.com. Retrieved .
  16. ^ "Ex-employee of Spirit Airlines files suit on maintenance records". Skift. 2013-02-17. Retrieved .
  17. ^ "Spirit Airlines tops global ancillary revenue per PAX rankings". www.frontiermagazine.co.uk. Retrieved .
  18. ^ "Spirit to double fee for agent-printed boarding passes in April". Sun-Sentinel. 2013-03-13.
  19. ^ "Our optional fees". Spirit Airlines. Retrieved .
  20. ^ "New York Business News - Business, Money, Financial & Corporate News". NBC New York. Retrieved .
  21. ^ Hugo Martin (21 May 2010). "Are carry-on bag fees hurting Spirit Airlines?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved .
  22. ^ Staff, By the CNN Wire. "Spirit Airlines cancels all flights as pilots go on strike - CNN.com". Retrieved .
  23. ^ Arnoult, Sandra (14 June 2010). "Shutdown continues after Spirit pilots reject 29% base pay increase". Flightglobal.com. Flight International. Retrieved 2010.
  24. ^ Ranson, Lori. "Spirit pilots plan to return to work on 18 June". FlightGlobal. Flight International. Retrieved 2010.
  25. ^ "Spirit Airlines World MasterCard® Credit Card". Bank of America. Retrieved 2013.
  26. ^ "Spirit Airlines to establish crew, maintenance base in Las Vegas -". Lvrj.com. 2011-11-15. Retrieved .
  27. ^ "Spirit opening flight attendant, pilot crew base at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 2013.
  28. ^ "Spirit Airlines' final answer to dying Vietnam vet seeking ticket refund: No". Fox News. 30 April 2012. Retrieved .
  29. ^ "Spirit Airlines' boss calls industry-high complaint rate 'irrelevant,' says dying veteran should've bought insurance". Fox News. April 7, 2010. Retrieved .
  30. ^ Joshua Rhett Miller (2010-04-07). "Spirit bows to pressure: Airline CEO to refund dying veteran's fare". Fox News. Retrieved .
  31. ^ "TWU Dispatchers Ratify New Agreement With Spirit Airlines". Transport Workers Union of America. 20 August 2013. Retrieved 2017.
  32. ^ Tuttle, Brad. "America's Cheapest Airline Looks to Make Flights Even Cheaper". Time. Retrieved 2014.
  33. ^ "Brash, Fee-Happy CEO of Spirit Airlines Abruptly Replaced". ABC News. Retrieved .
  34. ^ "ANALYSIS: New Spirit chief refuels Frontier merger rumours". Flightglobal.com. 2016-01-06. Retrieved .
  35. ^ Levine-Weinberg, Adam (1 November 2016). "Spirit Airlines Gets a New CEO: Reading Between the Lines". The Motley Fool.
  36. ^ Martin, Hugo. "Spirit Airlines turns to Disney to improve its customer service". latimes.com. Retrieved .
  37. ^ Martin, Grant. "Spirit Airlines Now Delivers More Flights On Time Than American Or United". Forbes. Retrieved .
  38. ^ "Airline Safety Ranking 2018". www.jacdec.de (in German). Retrieved .
  39. ^ www.spirit.com
  40. ^ "Spirit is first budget airline in the US to offer WiFi".
  41. ^ "Spirit Airlines will launch KCI service in August". kansascity.com. Retrieved 2015.
  42. ^ "February route roundup: Where airlines are adding service". USA Today. February 27, 2017.
  43. ^ https://ir.spirit.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=998860
  44. ^ a b "Spirit Airlines: Columbus is next city for expanding budget carrier".
  45. ^ Times-Dispatch, ROBERT ZULLO Richmond. "With free flights and fanfare, Spirit Airlines launches in Richmond".
  46. ^ Satchell, Arlene (June 3, 2015). "Spirit recruits hundreds of flight attendants". Sun-Sentinel. Fort Lauderdale. Retrieved 2017.
  47. ^ "Spirit Airlines expands again, adds new route to U.S. Virgin Islands".
  48. ^ LeBeau, Phil (February 18, 2016). "Spirit Airlines triggered the most complaints". CNBC. Retrieved 2018.
  49. ^ Christie, Les (April 11, 2014). "Spirit Airlines tops complaint list". CNN Money. Retrieved 2018.
  50. ^ "DOT Fines Spirit Airlines for Violating Price Advertising Rulest". US Department of Transportation. 2011-11-21. Retrieved .
  51. ^ Martin, Hugo (November 22, 2011). "Spirit Airlines fined for how it advertised $9 airfares". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018.
  52. ^ "DOT Fines Spirit Airlines Over Handling of Disability Complaints". US Department of Transportation. 2012-01-27. Retrieved .
  53. ^ Martin, Hugo (January 27, 2012). "Spirit Airlines fined $100,000 over disabled passengers' complaints". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018.
  54. ^ "Spirit Airlines Fleet Details and History". www.planespotters.net. Retrieved .
  55. ^ a b c d "Fleet Plan - Spirit Airlines, Inc".
  56. ^ "Spirit Airlines Fleet Update July 2018".
  57. ^ "Spirit Airlines takes delivery of first A320neo in United States". Airbus. Retrieved .

External links

Media related to Spirit Airlines at Wikimedia Commons

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