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Spirit Airlines snags more Orange County slots, adds another new route

Nov. 05, 2020
3 min read
Spirit Airlines snags more Orange County slots, adds another new route
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Spirit Airlines is making a bigger play for Southern California. The discount airline landed more slots at region's popular Orange County airport as the coronavirus pandemic opens some of the country's previously restricted airports to new competition.

Spirit will begin new daily service between John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County and Phoenix (PHX) on Jan. 6, the South Florida-based carrier said Thursday. It plans to add a second daily flight on the Orange County-Las Vegas route the same day.

The general opening of popular-but-restricted airports like Orange County has produced a glut of new flights. In addition to Spirit, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines have all added flights in places like Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX) and Newark (EWR).

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Orange County is a unique case. While not slot-restricted in the traditional sense — where an airline can own a slot that allows them one takeoff or landing — the number of passengers annually is capped at John Wayne. That means the number of flights there can vary by year depending on airlines' planned schedules.

Flights at the Southern California airport are reallocated on a regular basis depending on airlines' schedules; priority is given to incumbents. That last point had effectively blocked Spirit from adding Orange County to its map until now.

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In November, seats in Orange County are due to be down 45% compared to the same month in 2019, according to Cirium schedules. Canada's WestJet has suspended service altogether while United Airlines will be down nearly 63% and Alaska Airlines by 59%.

Related: Budget airlines muscle into big airports as coronavirus creates new opportunities

Spirit will begin John Wayne flights on Nov. 17. Initially, it will connect the airport to Oakland (OAK) twice daily and Las Vegas once daily. It flies Airbus A320 family jets.

“I see a lot of opportunity," Spirit vice president of network planning John Kirby said of the new Orange County flights in September. “It’s not going to be a big market for us… [but] it’s a nice complement to our existing L.A. Basin portfolio.”

The new flights are just part of a multi-pronged strategy by Spirit to attract more flyers. The airline rolled out a new frequent flyer program, Free Spirit, in October and began installing new cabins and seats on its Airbus jets at the end of last year.

Related: Spirit Airlines has an all-new frequent flyer program

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Spirit)

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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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  • 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