Passengers wait in line on the Spirit Airlines check-in counter at Orlando International Airport.
Paul Hennessy | LightRocket | Getty Images
Spirit Airlines relented this week and agreed to promote itself to JetBlue Airways for $3.8 billion, hours after breaking off a merger settlement with Frontier Airlines that did not win sufficient shareholder help.
The new deal would imply huge adjustments for vacationers if it passes regulatory hurdles.
JetBlue has earned a fame for passenger comforts like comparatively beneficiant legroom, seatback screens, dwell tv, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary snacks like Cheez-Its and Stellar vegan butter pretzel braids. It additionally provides enterprise class, with lie-flat seats.
Spirit, in contrast, has turn into a punchline for its bare-bones service. The cabins in its vivid yellow planes are extra cramped, and passengers need to pay additional for “optionally available companies” like carry-on baggage and getting to choose a seat.
“It’s historic. This is the primary time anybody wished Spirit Airlines,” quipped “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert in regards to the deal on Thursday.
Still, Spirit has expanded quickly and profitably by providing low cost tickets to trip hotspots that may typically run lower than a visit to the films or just a few burgers. The airline’s “Big Front Seat,” nonetheless, does provide 36 inches of legroom for a surcharge of as much as $250.
As the 2 distinct airways push forward with their plans to mix, here is what passengers can count on:
What are JetBlue’s plans for Spirit?
JetBlue needs to get larger, and Spirit has the planes and pilots to assist it try this. The New York-based service plans to retrofit Spirit’s planes in JetBlue’s type, ripping out the packed-in seats for a roomier structure with extra facilities.
Combined, the airways would turn into the nation’s fifth-largest service, behind American, Delta, United and Southwest. Both have an enormous presence in Florida and every has expanded into Central and South America in addition to the Caribbean in recent times. JetBlue final yr began flying to London.
The two carriers will proceed to function as separate airways till after the deal closes, which is topic to regulatory approval. Afterward, passengers could be confused in the event that they’re flying in Spirit planes that have not been retrofitted but.
JetBlue has some expertise with such conditions by its alliance with American within the Northeast, which permits the carriers to promote seats on every others’ planes. Last yr, JetBlue revamped its web site to raised spotlight the variations in onboard options like enterprise class seats or free Wi-Fi.
Despite comedians’ digs, Spirit has improved its reliability in recent times — and is faring higher than JetBlue by some measures.
JetBlue got here in final amongst 10 airways in on-time arrivals this yr by May, whereas Spirit ranked seventh, in response to the Department’s newest obtainable information.
So far this yr, a 3rd of JetBlue’s flights had been delayed and 4% have been canceled, in response to flight tracker FlightAware. By comparability, barely greater than 1 / 4 of Spirit’s flights have arrived late and a pair of.7% have been canceled.
JetBlue’s CEO Robin Hayes says enhancing reliability is a precedence. The service has scaled again development plans, saying it didn’t need to overextend its crews and different assets.
“An even bigger JetBlue that’s late isn’t a greater JetBlue,” mentioned Henry Harteveldt, a former airline government and founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel-industry consulting agency.
Is this the tip of low cost fares?
The Biden administration has vowed to take a tricky stance on each consolidation and inflation, so the disappearance of an extremely low-cost airline could be a tricky promote.
“Spirit may not be a sublime expertise, however they’re low cost,” mentioned William Kovacic, a professor on the George Washington School of Law and a former chair of the Federal Trade Commission. “If they disappear as an unbiased enterprise … is that going to take away a supply of downward stress on worth?”
But JetBlue’s Hayes says the airline must develop shortly and higher compete with huge airways that management greater than three-quarters of the US market. Hayes argues a much bigger JetBlue would imply extra comparatively decrease fares to extra locations.
Like some of the airline giants, JetBlue has already added sure low fares that mimic carriers like Spirit. Those tickets additionally do not include seat assignments or different perks that had been as soon as normal with a coach fare.
But JetBlue’s enterprise mannequin of providing extra comforts prices greater than Spirit’s, that means it seemingly will not provide as many of the all-time low fares that Spirit does.
Frontier Airlines, in the meantime, is already saying it is completely happy to tackle a much bigger share of the ultra-low-cost market after its Spirit deal fell aside. Shortly after the airways introduced the tip of their settlement, Frontier projected it will develop 30% subsequent yr and began a fare sale with 1 million seats going for $19 apiece.
The airline will turn into the most important low cost service within the US if Spirit is finally acquired. Others embody Allegiant and Sun Country.
“That simply offers us an enormous quantity of respiration room for development,” mentioned Frontier CEO Barry Biffle. “That’s why that is such a windfall for our staff and our shareholders.”
When is that this occurring?
Not instantly. JetBlue and Spirit count on the deal will not get regulatory approval till late 2023 or early 2024, then shut within the first half of 2024.
Integrating airways is a prolonged and expensive course of. For instance, United and Continental flight attendants did not even fly collectively till eight years after these airways merged in 2010.
Retrofitting planes can take years too, and JetBlue would not be capable of begin that course of with Spirit’s fleet till at the very least 2025. But the airline notes it not too long ago outfitted greater than 100 of its Airbus planes with new interiors.
“We’ve received lots of current expertise in the way to do it,” mentioned Hayes.