Spirit to enter Miami with 30 routes in major competitive shake-up
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Things are getting really hot in Miami, and it’s not just the temperature.
Spirit Airlines announced on Tuesday that it will start flying to Miami, with a total of 30 routes taking off later this year launching in early October through mid-November. The airline will fly to a slew of domestic and international cities from Florida’s second-busiest airport, without cutting any of its existing service from its nearby hub in Fort Lauderdale.
But Spirit’s bombshell announcement is different from any other Miami-focused route-map adjustment we’ve seen recently. With its 30 routes, the airline will instantly become the second-largest carrier in Miami, according to vice president of network planning John Kirby.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
30 new routes to Spirit’s newest city
Though Spirit’s route map has grown steadily throughout the pandemic, Tuesday’s announcement is its biggest single expansion yet.
You’ll find the full list of 30 routes below, but highlights include ten international cities and twenty destinations in the U.S., with most of the routes operating at least daily.
|Destination||Flights Available||Start Date|
|Atlantic City (ACY)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Atlanta (ATL)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Baltimore (BWI)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Bogota (BOG)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Guatemala City (GUA)||4x per week||Oct. 6|
|Medellin (MDE)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Newark (EWR)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Port-au-Prince (PAP)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|Santo Domingo (SDQ)||Daily||Oct. 6|
|San Salvador (SAL)||3x 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 Pedro Sula (SAP)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|San José, C.R. (SJO)||4x per week||Nov. 17|
|San Juan (SJU)||Daily||Nov. 17|
|St. Thomas (STT)||3x per week||Nov. 18|
As for how Spirit chose these initial routes, Kirby told TPG that it went with some of the largest markets in the region.
“We know the region very well and the customer base because of our large presence in Fort Lauderdale… So it’s a combination of big markets that we’re familiar with as well as smaller, more niche plays that are also markets we’re familiar with,” he said.
Spirit is releasing the list of destinations it intends to serve, along with the commencement dates, as part of the approval process for starting service in Miami. After this public filing, the airport authorities will assess the request and coordinate gate and ticket counter space for Spirit, assuming everything is approved. The airline will announce fares and put the routes on sale at a later date.
Kirby isn’t worried that Spirit will get the short end of the stick, saying that “we expect to get the space we need to operate.”
Spirit’s Miami expansion really hits home
Though the carrier has expanded rapidly throughout the pandemic, this latest route-map shake-up really hits home.
That’s because Spirit already operates a major base in Fort Lauderdale (FLL), just a 30-minute drive from Miami on the rare occasion when traffic is in your favor. Spirit’s Miramar, Florida, headquarters are just a short drive away as well.
Some might wonder if expanding to Miami would put the airline’s massive FLL operation in jeopardy — Spirit is the biggest carrier at FLL with 100 daily departures this July.
But downsizing isn’t in the cards, according to Kirby. Adding Miami has been in Spirit’s playbook for “several years,” with the stars only aligning now during the pandemic.
Additionally, he cited the fact that Spirit’s grown its FLL base by about 30 flights during the pandemic, and Miami is “going to compliment what we do in Fort Lauderdale… We actually think we are going to capture more guests by serving both airports.”
To fuel the growth, Spirit will deploy both newly delivered planes — “we’re taking 16 planes this year,” Kirby said — and existing ones that weren’t being used to full capacity due to the pandemic. The carrier will bring crews back from voluntary leaves to “give us the capacity to grow the marketplace,” he said.
It’s not often that an airline enters a market with enough routes to land a spot on its top ten list of airports served.
But, with the addition of 30 new routes — one of the largest market entries in recent memory — Miami suddenly becomes one of the top ten busiest airports in the Spirit network. “Miami, I think will be somewhere, probably tied for eighth through twelfth in our network, somewhere along those lines,” Kirby said.
A fortress hub under assault
Flying from Miami isn’t just about Spirit flexing its presence in South Florida. While that’s a big announcement on its own merit, it also pits the carrier against American Airlines, which has long operated a fortress hub there.
Of the 30 new routes, 28 are already served at least once daily by American Airlines, according to Cirium data. Atlantic City and Myrtle Beach are the only new Spirit markets that AA doesn’t currently serve from Miami.
With its 30 new routes, Spirit will become the second-largest carrier in Miami, both in terms of departures per day and seats per day relative to June 2021 and November 2021 data, according to Kirby.
Despite the splashy entrance, Kirby cautions that this isn’t an offensive against AA, adding that “we view this as offering complimentary service that really allows us to better serve the region.”
He did acknowledge, however, that the market has long been dominated by one major carrier. “The fact that 29 flights gets you the number two position means that obviously, the largest carrier enjoys a very dominant position,” he said.
For its part, AA unveiled a major Miami-focused expansion in February, adding a brand-new long-haul flight, two new route-map pins and increased capacity and frequencies across Latin American and the Caribbean.
In addition to going head-to-head with American on many of its bread-and-butter routes, Spirit will also leapfrog the other domestic airlines that have recently started service there.
However, the Miami Airport switched to a preferential-cost model during the pandemic, which has “probably led to the proliferation of new entrants into Miami over the last year,” according to Kirby,
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 now flies to 34 destinations, 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.
Altogether, entering Miami isn’t just good for Spirit, its network and its flyers. The move also brings fierce competition to Miami, where American Airlines has grown for years without significant competition.
Now that changes — and the mercury is rising.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees