Spirit Airlines inaugurates Miami service with first of what will soon be a whopping 31 routes
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Welcome to Miami, Spirit Airlines.
America’s largest ultra-low-cost carrier inaugurated service Wednesday at Miami International Airport (MIA), with Flight 3104 landing at 8:54 a.m. local time from Atlantic City, New Jersey (ACY). Spirit Flight 3105 was the first yellow Airbus to depart the airport at 10:20 a.m., bound for Port-au-Prince, Haiti (PAP).
The inaugural is the first of 31 Miami routes that will launch by January 2022, in what’s arguably the single-largest network expansion we’ve seen during the pandemic. It’ll make Spirit the second-biggest airline in the city after American Airlines as measured by number of flights.
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To celebrate the occasion, the airline — along with airport officials — hosted a media event in the arrivals level of the airline’s new Concourse J home. In attendance were a slew of dignitaries, high-ranking executives, including the airline and airport CEO, as well as a group of local media.
The crowd — the largest I’ve seen at a media event since before the pandemic — was visibly excited. The airline’s new Miami-based employees were gathered together for a photoshoot, while others mingled in the check-in area to enjoy some live music and catch up with colleagues and friends.
Spirit pulled out all the stops for the celebration — Juan Valdez coffee, a local favorite, was on offer, in addition to gift bags with Spirit-branded mugs and face masks.
At the event, Spirit CEO Ted Christie remarked that “we are Florida’s hometown airline. The only one. We are the only major airline headquartered in South Florida, and we’ve called South Florida our home for 20 years.”
To underscore the importance of the day, Christie continued, “this is a big milestone moment for Spirit. We pulled out all the stops for our arrival in Miami.”
Spirit’s Miami operation is based in the airport’s Concourse J. The airline currently has ten check-in counters, with eight more opening by Thanksgiving. At the outset, the airline will exclusively use one gate at the airport J4, though it’ll expand to four more in Concourse G as more routes launch in the coming weeks.
In addition to the celebration for invited guests, all Spirit flyers nationwide can partake in a new “Free Spirit Flyaway” promotion in which the airline will give away 31 pairs of round-trip tickets in honor of each of its new Miami routes. Any Free Spirit loyalty member can enter at spirit.com/flyaway from Oct. 6 through Nov. 3.
The day ushers in a new era for competitive landscape in Miami.
For one, it’s an interesting — and perhaps somewhat surprising — move on Spirit’s part. The airline’s main South Florida operating base is located just 30 miles north along the Interstate 95 corridor, in Fort Lauderdale.
Despite the proximity, Spirit isn’t adding just a handful of flights. Rather, the airline will serve 31 routes by January 2022 (three were delayed at the last minute due to getting access to gates) — a quick expansion that will make Spirit the second-largest carrier in Miami after American Airlines.
To support the growth, Spirit is staffing more than 200 new employees at the airport, and it’ll deploy some of its 16 new Airbus A320neos on the routes.
As such, this isn’t just any other pin on Spirit’s route map. Though it’s not yet a hub according to John Kirby, Spirit’s vice president of network planning, it’s certainly beginning to look like one to an outsider. “It’s really complementary,” Kirby explained to TPG about serving both Miami and Fort Lauderdale with many overlapping routes.
Spirit’s move to enter Miami is a major competitive shake-up for an airport that’s long been dominated by American. Until the pandemic, the Fort Worth-based carrier operated many of its domestic and international routes without any head-to-head competition.
However, during the pandemic, both Southwest and JetBlue made headlines for starting service to Miami, a city they’ve long avoided in favor of nearby Fort Lauderdale due to its historically lower operating costs.
One of Spirit’s biggest ultra-low-cost competitors, Frontier Airlines, already has a sizeable presence in Miami. The Denver-based carrier added Miami to its route map in 2014 and has since classified the city as one of its hubs. Frontier opened a new crew base there last year and will fly to 35 destinations in January 2022, according to Cirium schedule data.
Finally, Spirit’s splashy entrance brings competitive headwinds to Delta’s planned Miami expansion.
In July 2020, the Atlanta-based carrier doubled down on its proposed pan-American partnership with LATAM that includes a new “gateway hub” in Miami. Delta unveiled plans to add at least 20 new U.S. domestic departures under its proposed joint venture with LATAM, though the timeline remains unclear.
Delta took a 20% stake in LATAM in September 2019, wooing the carrier away from the Oneworld alliance and its former partner, American Airlines.
As for Spirit, the airline is clearly jazzed about the service launch. “We know the South Florida marketplace very well. It’s a big win for us and for Miami, ” Christie concluded.
You’ll find a full list of Spirit’s Miami routes below
|Destination||Flights Available||Start Date|
|Atlanta (ATL)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Atlantic City (ACY)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Baltimore (BWI)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Medellin (MDE)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Newark (EWR)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Port-au-Prince (PAP)||4x per week||Oct. 6|
|Santo Domingo (SDQ)||3x per week||Oct. 6|
|Bogota (BOG)||Daily||Oct. 7|
|Guatemala City (GUA)||4x per week||Oct. 7|
|Barranquilla (BAQ)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Boston (BOS)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Cali (CLO)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Chicago O’Hare (ORD)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Cleveland (CLE)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Denver (DEN)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Detroit (DTW)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Hartford-Bradley (BDL)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Houston Intercontinental (IAH)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Las Vegas (LAS)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Myrtle Beach (MYR)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|New York LaGuardia (LGA)||2x daily||Nov. 17|
|Orlando (MCO)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Philadelphia (PHL)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Raleigh-Durham (RDU)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|San Juan (SJU)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|Tegucigalpa-Palmerola (XPL)||4x per week||Nov. 17|
|San Pedro Sula (SAP)||3x per week||Nov. 18|
|San José, C.R. (SJO)||4x per week||Jan. 6|
|San Salvador (SAL)||3x per week||Jan. 6|
|St. Thomas (STT)||3x per week||Jan. 6|
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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