Spirit Airlines unveils big Philadelphia expansion with 7 new routes
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.
Spirit Airlines is growing its Philadelphia network in a big way beginning early next year.
The Miramar, Florida-based carrier is adding seven new routes from Philadelphia, as well as increasing existing service to Cancun (CUN). The expansion begins on Feb. 16 and continues throughout the first few months of 2022.
You’ll find the full list of new routes at the bottom of the post, but highlights include tapping into two unserved markets from Philly through a big growth spurt in terms of airport real estate.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
2 unserved markets from Philly
While the expansion is noteworthy for Spirit, it’s also a big deal for the airport as a whole: two of the seven routes are to previously unserved destinations from PHL.
This includes Aguadilla, Puerto Rico (BQN); and Oakland, California (OAK). “How often do you get a chance to go into brand-new markets from a fortress hub,” John Kirby, Spirit’s vice president of network planning, told TPG in an exclusive interview about the expansion. American Airlines is the largest carrier in Philly, with over 350 daily departures. The second-largest carrier in Philly (either Delta or Frontier, depending on the month) has just over 50 daily departures.
As for adding connecting Philly with Aguadilla, Kirby explained that there’s “a very large Puerto Rican population in the area.”
Even so, the airline will seemingly need to stimulate lots of demand to make its new route work. In 2019, there were under ten daily passengers flying between Philly and Aguadilla, according to Department of Transportation data analyzed by Cirium. (Spirit’s smallest aircraft, the Airbus A319, seats 145 passengers.)
Kirby isn’t worried, though. “We serve Aguadilla today [from Fort Lauderdale and Orlando], and it is a very strong market for us. A lot of people going to Puerto Rico… their family and their friends are from the western coast [closer to Aguadilla]. If they have to, they’ll fly into San Juan. But this is offering them an alternative to maybe go closer to where they want to go.”
There were over 530 daily passengers flying between Philly and San Juan in 2019 on average. If a chunk of that market could be convinced to fly to Aguadilla instead, then Spirit’s new flight might be successful.
A similar story is true in Oakland. Department of Transportation data analyzed by Cirium shows that only 39 passengers on average flew between Philly and Oakland per day in 2019.
But again, Kirby believes he has good reasoning for flying to Oakland. “People have to use San Francisco today because there is no Oakland service [from Philly] or they have to go on a connection,” he said. “We think the market is much bigger than it appears to be in the Cirium data,” he added.
He may be correct. Southwest last flew between Philly and Oakland in October 2007. At the time, there were over 100 passengers per day on Southwest’s nonstop according to Department of Transportation data — which bodes well for Spirit’s Oakland ambitions.
Doubling Spirit’s footprint at PHL
Spirit’s Philly expansion has “been in the works for a while,” according to Kirby.
As for why the airline waited until now, it largely boils down to getting space at the airport. Kirby cited what he described as the tireless effort of his long-time friend Jim Tyrrell, PHL’s chief revenue officer, and Chellie Cameron, PHL’s CEO, for working to facilitate Spirit’s expansion.
To support the new flights, Spirit will be taking over two additional gates in the airport’s Concourse E, bringing the total number of gates that Spirit uses to four.
The airport didn’t build new gates for Spirit. Rather, “the airport took back two Southwest gates because they had seven gates, and they only had eight operations. The airport is willing to make moves if they feel like there’s an opportunity and resources being underutilized,” according to Kirby.
In addition to doubling the number of gates, “we’re also going to be expanding our ticket counter space in the beginning of the year. We’re going to double the size with double the number of kiosks there,” Kirby said.
This is about growth, not competition
Perhaps the biggest network-focused story this year from Spirit Airlines is the launch of service from Miami — historically a fortress hub for American Airlines. With 31 routes, Spirit is poised to become the second-largest airline in Miami after American.
Though the Philly expansion shares a similar strategy — growth in an incumbent carrier’s fortress hub — Spirit views this one differently. In Kirby’s mind, this is less about competing with American (and to an extent Frontier), and more about the natural growth trajectory for Spirit’s Philly station.
“A lot of it is how we do in the markets that we’re going to,” Kirby answered when asked about his perspective on the expansion.
“We do really well in Cancun and Punta Cana and Montego Bay. So those are natural destinations, and they fit our model. And we think that there’s an opportunity to drive fares even lower and fill our airplanes… It’s as much about growing in Philly as it is growing in some of these destination markets that we do very well in,” he continued.
Other than the new flights to Aguadilla and Oakland, Spirit will be going head-to-head against American and Frontier on its five other new flights. Plus, Southwest also flies between Philly and Nashville, and United flies between Philly and Houston.
It’ll be interesting to follow the performance of Spirit’s Philadelphia expansion, but one thing is for certain: there’s going to be more competition than ever for the City of Brotherly Love.
Full list of Spirit’s new and expanded Philadelphia service
|Philadelphia (PHL)||New Orleans (MSY)||Feb. 16|
|PHL||Aguadilla, Puerto Rico (BQN)||April 20|
|PHL||Nashville (BNA)||May 11|
|PHL||Houston (IAH)||May 11|
|PHL||Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)||May 18|
|PHL||Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)||May 18|
|PHL||Oakland (OAK)||May 18|
|PHL||Cancun (CUN)||Increasing service April 20|
|PHL||Atlanta (ATL)||Existing service|
|PHL||Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)||Existing service|
|PHL||Detroit (DTW)||Existing service|
|PHL||Fort Lauderdale (FLL)||Existing service|
|PHL||Fort Myers (RSW)||Existing service|
|PHL||Las Vegas (LAS)||Existing service|
|PHL||Los Angeles (LAX)||Existing service|
|PHL||Miami (MIA)||Existing service|
|PHL||Myrtle Beach (MYR)||Existing service|
|PHL||Orlando (MCO)||Existing service|
|PHL||San Juan (SJU)||Existing service|
|PHL||Tampa (TPA)||Existing service|
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