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Spirit Airlines goes all-in on its newest city with 5 additional routes

June 24, 2021
4 min read
Spirit Airlines goes all-in on its newest city with 5 additional routes
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Despite the pandemic, Spirit Airlines' route network continues to grow.

The latest addition comes to the airline's newest city, Milwaukee (MKE), which saw its first-ever Spirit commercial service take off on Thursday. At the launch event for the inaugural, the carrier unveiled a five-route expansion from MKE, with the new flights slated to take off at the beginning of the fall season.

The Miramar, Florida-based carrier will start flying daily to the following four cities on Nov. 17:

  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Fort Myers (RSW)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Tampa (TPA)

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In addition, Spirit will launch its first international route from Milwaukee — to Cancun (CUN) — with three weekly flights commencing on Dec. 23, during the peak winter holiday travel period.

Flights to Florida will be operated year-round, while service to Cancun and Phoenix will be seasonal, though a carrier spokesperson confirmed that the airline would upgrade those routes to annual service depending on demand.

The five new routes nearly triple Spirit's MKE service which launched on Thursday, and includes daily flights to Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX) and Orlando (MCO).

(Graphic courtesy of Spirit)

“We see a vibrant future full of new opportunities for travel here in the Badger State,” John Kirby, vice president of network planning for Spirit Airlines, said in a statement. "We can’t wait to take more Milwaukee Guests to ‘sun and sand’ destinations and bring travelers from all over to enjoy Wisconsin’s great festivals, sports scene and fun outdoor activities.”

Based on Kirby's statement, it appears that the carrier views Milwaukee as a market for both originating and terminating traffic. However, the latest five-route expansion seemingly fits more of the former than the latter. During the cold and snowy winters, local flyers will likely seek warm-weather destinations with plenty of outdoor activities. Cities in Florida, Arizona and Mexico fit the bill, and align with Spirit's existing leisure-focused network strategy.

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In particular, by launching flights to its Fort Lauderdale base, Spirit can offer one-stop connections to 16 destinations across Latin American and the Caribbean, giving flyers even more opportunities to escape the cold.

While Spirit seemingly hopes for a splashy launch, the competitive headwinds are strong. Milwaukee is already saturated with ultra-low-cost carriers, including flights with Frontier and Sun Country on most of Spirit's new routes. Plus, the carrier also will go head-to-head against Southwest and other network carriers like American and United.

In particular, the MKE to Fort Myers market could present the biggest challenge for Spirit. Frontier plans daily flights in January 2022, while Sun Country and Southwest are both slated to operate two weekly flights during the month, averaging 280 available seats each day, per Cirium schedules.

Related: Spirit Airlines adds 6 routes to its 2 newest destinations

In 2019 — well before the pandemic disrupted the industry and dampened demand — roughly 280 passengers flew between the cities each day, according to Department of Transportation data, so Spirit's going to need to compete fiercely to attract its share of flyers with the extra capacity it's going to add to the market.

Nonetheless, the carrier is making a calculated entrance into Milwaukee. By starting with three routes and then expanding with five more later this year, Spirit can grow brand awareness in its newest city — the same strategy it's deploying in Louisville (SDF) and St. Louis (STL), two other new cities for the airline.

The good news for travelers is that such competition usually brings frequent fare sales and other promotional offers.

Either way, Spirit's not afraid to disrupt a market — just take a look at the carrier's 30-route launch in Miami — so it'll be interesting to follow how these new flights perform in MKE.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023