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Spirit Airlines grabs coronavirus opportunity, adds Orange County flights

Sept. 01, 2020
4 min read
Spirit Airlines grabs coronavirus opportunity, adds Orange County flights
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Spirit Airlines is taking advantage of cuts by other carriers to add a third Los Angeles-area airport to its route map.

The South Florida-based discounter will add service to Orange County's John Wayne Airport (SNA) beginning Nov. 17, Spirit unveiled Tuesday. Spirit will offer a total of three daily flights to Las Vegas (LAS) and Oakland (OAK).

Tickets for the new Orange County flights are available on Spirit's website. Fares begin at $37.29 one-way to both Las Vegas and Oakland.

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The Orange County addition comes as other airlines have sharply curtailed flights to the airport amid cuts related to the coronavirus pandemic. The Southern California gateway will handle roughly half the number of flights in September than it did a year ago, according to Cirium schedules.

Flights to Orange County airport are governed by a 1985 agreement designed to limit noise for the surrounding communities. In addition to a strict curfew that limits flights to between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. local time, the total number of passengers is also capped with landing and takeoff rights divvied up annually to carriers.

These flight allocations can work both for and against airlines. For example, Spirit is able to add flights as other carriers have curtailed operations while, in 2018, Delta Air Lines was forced to suspend flights between New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Orange County when it lost a slot in the annual process.

Related: Spirit Airlines sues DOT for Southwest’s flights at Newark

Spirit has long pushed for greater access to capacity-constrained airports. These popular airports, like Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Newark Liberty (EWR), are limited by things ranging from slots to available gates. Spirit went so far as to sue the Federal Aviation Administration last December to gain additional access at Newark.

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The airline's new Orange County service also comes amid what is expected to be a challenging autumn for airlines. Fears of COVID-19 have curtailed most air travel with the expectation that those who are flying — mostly holidaygoers either going on vacation or to visit family — travel less after Labor Day.

"I see a lot of opportunity" in Orange County, Spirit vice president of network planning John Kirby told TPG. "It's not going to be a big market for us... [but] it's a nice complement to our existing LA Basin portfolio."

Related: Spirit Airlines calls June rebound an ‘outlier,’ could furlough nearly a third of staff

Spirit's new Orange County flights also come as the airline gears up for both schedule and staffing cuts this fall. The airline is flying just 55% of what it flew last year in September, less than what it flew in August. And Spirit has notified roughly 2,500 staff of possible furloughs though it expects the final number to be significantly less.

The carrier will offer twice-daily service between Orange County and Oakland, and once-daily service to Las Vegas. The latter flight will be timed to connect to flights to 15 other destinations across the U.S.

Spirit will compete with Southwest Airlines — the largest carrier at John Wayne in 2019 — on both routes to Las Vegas and Oakland from Orange County, Cirium schedules show. Frontier Airlines also flies between Las Vegas and Orange County.

Related: Spirit Airlines cuts August schedule, eyes possible furloughs as recovery stalls

Updated with Spirit's introductory Orange County fares.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Spirit)

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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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