Spirit Airlines’ CEO Is Stepping Down

Dec 13, 2017

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Spirit Airlines‘ CEO will step down from his position in 2019, the ultra low-cost carrier said on Wednesday. Effective 2019, Robert Fornaro, who took over just last year, will hand over the company’s top position to current Chief Financial Officer Ted Christie.

As reported by Bloomberg, on January 1, 2019, Fornaro will step down and Christie will take over. In the interim, Christie will become president of the airline and will join its board beginning in 2018.

“Over the past two years as CEO, Bob has led a real transformation at Spirit, driving dramatic improvements in operational reliability and in the customer experience while strengthening our executive team,” said Spirit Chairman Mac Gardner. “He has also provided nimble, experienced leadership through a volatile competitive environment.”

AirTran Chairman, President & CEO Robert L. Fornaro gives a press conference about Southwest Airlines' plan to merger with AirTran Airways at Southwest Airlines Corporate Headquarters September 27, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. In a trend of continuing airline consolidation Southwest will buy its rival AirTran for an estimated $1.4 billion. (Photo by Lawrence Jenkins/Getty Images)
Fornaro speaking as the AirTran Chairman, President and CEO at a 2010 press conference about Southwest Airlines’ plan to merger with AirTran Airways. Image by Lawrence Jenkins / Getty Images.

In the past few months, Spirit has made a concerted effort to become a more passenger-friendly airline — especially when it comes to its notorious fee structure and abysmal on-time performance. In November, the carrier added new bundle options for passengers to avoid paying out-of-pocket fees when they get to the airport. In addition, in September, the carrier didn’t rank last in on-time arrivals, a spot that JetBlue took. However, the carrier still struggles mightily with cancellations, bumped passengers and customer complaints.

Since Fornaro took over as the company’s head last year, Spirit has had its ups and downs. Most recently, it has struggled to remain competitive with legacy carriers as they’ve introduced new basic economy fare classes. On July 27, Spirit’s shares fell 18%, which was the biggest drop in a day for the stock since May 2011.

Christie, 47, has been with the company since 2012. The soon-to-be-chief comes from a history of commercial airline work with both Pinnacle Airlines and Spirit’s ultra low-cost competitor, Frontier.

“With our improved operations, balanced growth and stable costs, I’m confident we will strengthen our position as the leading ultra low-cost carrier in the Americas,” Christie said.

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