Spirit Airlines

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Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines logo.svg
Founded1980 (as Charter One)
Operating bases
Focus cities
Fleet size57[1]
Company sloganLess Money, More Go
Parent companyPublicly Traded using ticker symbol SAVE
HeadquartersMiramar, Florida, USA
Key people
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"Spirit Air" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Air spirit or Spirit of Manila Airlines.
Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines logo.svg
Founded1980 (as Charter One)
Operating bases
Focus cities
Fleet size57[1]
Company sloganLess Money, More Go
Parent companyPublicly Traded using ticker symbol SAVE
HeadquartersMiramar, Florida, USA
Key people

Spirit Airlines, Inc. is an American ultra low cost carrier headquartered in Miramar, Florida. Spirit operates scheduled flights throughout the U.S. as well as the Caribbean, Mexico, and Latin America. Major focus cities include; Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Las Vegas, Chicago-O'Hare, Atlantic City, and Myrtle Beach. Its three major hubs are Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Las Vegas. As of January 2013, Spirit is the only 2-star airline based in the United States, according to Skytrax.[2]


Early years (1964-2006)[edit]

The company initially started as Clipper Trucking Company in 1964.[3] The airline service was founded in 1980 in Macomb County, Michigan, as Charter One,[4] a Detroit-based charter tour operator providing travel packages to entertainment destinations such as Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and the Bahamas. In 1990, Charter One began scheduled service from Boston and Providence, R.I., to Atlantic City. On May 29, 1992, Charter One brought jet equipment into the fleet, changed its name to Spirit Airlines and inaugurated service from Detroit to Atlantic City.

In April 1993, Spirit Airlines began scheduled service to destinations in Florida. During the next five years, Spirit expanded rapidly, increasing service from Detroit and adding service in new markets such as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Los Angeles, and New York.

Spirit initially had their headquarters in Eastpointe, Michigan (formerly East Detroit) in Greater Detroit.[5] It relocated its headquarters in November 1999, moving to Miramar, Florida in the Miami Metropolitan Area.[6] Prior to the decision to move the headquarters to Miramar, Spirit considered Atlantic City, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan.[7]

In November 2001, Spirit inaugurated service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and implemented a fully integrated Spanish-language customer service plan including a website and dedicated reservation line.

In the Fall of 2003, Spirit resumed flights to Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport, which were suspended after the September 11 attacks.

Spirit also began service to Grand Cayman, San Francisco, and Boston in 2006, and in 2007 filed DOT applications to offer service to Costa Rica, Haiti, the Netherlands Antilles and Venezuela.

In 2006, Spirit announced they would exercise options to order 30 Airbus A320-200 aircraft for further expansion. Delivery began in March 2010.

Transition to ultra low cost carrier (2007-2010)[edit]

Spirit DC-9-40 number N130NK, in old livery, lands at Logan Airport, Boston, Massachusetts.

On March 6, 2007, Spirit announced their transition to an ultra low-cost carrier. Their initial plan was to begin charging US$10 per checked bag for the first two bags, $5 if bags are reserved before 24 hours prior to the flight, in addition to charging $1 for drinks which were previously complimentary.

On October 1, 2007, Spirit began to charge $3 for all drinks.[8] [9]

On September 26, 2007, Spirit announced a new branding image for the airline that updates the look of their aircraft.

On June 3, 2008, Spirit Airlines made a WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice) application to potentially relocate or lay off hundreds of pilots and flight attendants, and the closure of their San Juan and LaGuardia crew bases.[10][11]

In September 2008, Spirit began advertising on the side of aircraft, overhead bins, tray tables, seatback inserts and bulkheads.[12]

In May 2009, Spirit pilots overwhelmingly voted in favor of strike action (98% of votes) due to stalled contract negotiations with management. Areas of dispute included compensation, work rules and benefits. At that time, Spirit pilots were among the lowest paid Airbus pilots in the United States.

On Thursday September 17, 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration fined Spirit Airlines $375,000 for violating the agency's consumer protection regulations, including not compensating bumped passengers, violating various rules regarding delayed baggage compensation, and not including fees in advertised fares.[13]

On April 6, 2010, USA Today reported that Spirit would charge for carry-on bags on flights starting August 1, 2010, purchased after April 6, 2010. Bags that fit under the seat and measure 16"x14"12" are still free but passengers wanting to bring larger bags to put in overhead bins are charged.[14]

On June 20, 2010, Spirit Plus was rebranded as "Big Front Seat" and business class service was discontinued. For an additional fee, a person could choose "Big Front Seat", or upgrade at the airport.

In December 2010, Spirit Airlines introduced the Free Spirit World MasterCard.[15]

Pilot strike (2010)[edit]

On June 12, 2010, Spirit grounded its flights when its unionized pilots walked out on strike, stranding thousands of passengers.[16] The ultimately successful pilot strike came after more than four years of inconclusive negotiations between the airline and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents Spirit's pilots. On June 15, negotiations between the airline and ALPA resumed, and a tentative agreement was reached late in the evening on June 16. The tentative agreement, which Spirit pilots later ratified by a 74% margin, brought the Spirit pilots' compensation and benefits in line with comparable U.S. Airbus operators. Spirit announced that flights would resume on June 18.[17] Of particular note, is that this was the first legal industrial action (strike) by U.S. ALPA represented pilots since 2005 (Polar Air Cargo), and the first passenger airline strike by U.S. ALPA represented pilots since 2001 (Comair).


On June 21, 2011, Spirit announced that they would start to charge a $5 fee to passengers who have their boarding passes printed by the check-in agent.[18]

In October 2011, Spirit reduced the weight limit for checked luggage from 50 pounds per bag to 40 pounds per bag, charging $25 for the first 9 extra pounds, and up to $100 for bags approaching 59 pounds over the 40 pound limit.[9]

In April 2012, citing the airline's strict refund policy, Spirit Airlines representative Misty Pinson announced that the airline would not issue a refund to dying veteran Jerry Meekins who chose to purchase a non-refundable ticket though other options were available.[19] The 76-year-old Vietnam veteran and former Marine tried to get his $197 back after learning his esophageal cancer is terminal and being told by his doctor not to fly from Florida to Atlantic City.[20] The decision caused outrage among veterans' groups and the general public, some of whom threatened to boycott Spirit unless a refund and apology were issued. On May 4, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza apologized for how the situation was handled and announced that he would personally refund Meekins' ticket and that the airline would make a $5000 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project in Meekins' name.[21]

On November 16, 2011, Spirit Airlines announced that it would establish a crew and maintenance base at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada in February 2012.[22] The airline announced that it will open a flight attendant and pilot crew base on December 1, 2012.[23]

On Monday, July 1, 2013, a Spirit Airlines jetliner came within two miles of a skydiving aircraft but was found by the FAA to be in full regulatory compliance.[24]

In August 2013, Spirit reached agreement on a new five-year deal with the Teamsters, representing the airline's flight dispatchers.


Spirit currently flies to 52 destinations throughout Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and the United States. It maintains a base in Fort Lauderdale with focus cities in Atlantic City, Chicago-O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit and Las Vegas.

Spirit's top ten airports listed by number of departures (April 1, 2014)[25]
1Fort Lauderdale, Florida46
2Las Vegas, Nevada23
3Dallas, Texas22
4Chicago, Illinois19
5Detroit, Michigan18
6Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota11
6Atlantic City, New Jersey11
6New York City, New York11
6Orlando, Florida11
10Myrtle Beach, South Carolina9



Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 leaving Fort Lauderdale

The Spirit Airlines all-Airbus fleet consists of the following aircraft (as of May 2014):

Spirit Airlines fleet[1]
AircraftIn ServiceOrdersSeatsNotes
Airbus A319-10029-10135145
Airbus A320-20026324174178Seats do not recline
Airbus A320neo050
Airbus A321-2002304214218

As of March 2013, Spirit’s average fleet age was 4.8 years old.[27] Spirit has the third youngest Airbus fleet in the Americas[28] after Virgin America and the Mexican airline Volaris.[29]

In October 2013, Spirit signed an agreement with International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) to lease five additional A320 NEOs and three used A319s.[citation needed]


The following planes no longer operate in the Spirit Airlines fleet:

Spirit Airlines retired fleet
AircraftTotalYear retiredReplacement
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-2032006Airbus A320 Family
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30132006Airbus A320 Family
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-4022006Airbus A320 Family
McDonnell Douglas MD-8172006Airbus A320 Family
McDonnell Douglas MD-82142006Airbus A320 Family
McDonnell Douglas MD-83152006Airbus A320 Family
McDonnell Douglas MD-8722006Airbus A320 Family

Controversial advertising campaigns[edit]

Over the years, Spirit has worked to get publicity, good and bad, by advertising using current controversial events.


In 2006, the airline released a “Hunt for Hoffa” advertising campaign with the tagline “Help us find Hoffa with our Hunt for Hoffa game and enjoy fares from just $39 each way.” The point of the game was to dig for Jimmy Hoffa’s body by clicking grids on the airline’s website, and “winners” were taken to another webpage, saying "You found Hoffa!" thanking them for assisting the National Spirit Sale Center find the union leader’s body.[30] Within hours after the promotion debuted, the airline received many complaints, and the promotion was taken down immediately and changed to another promotion, simply titled “Happy Sale.” This promotion was later listed as #8 on CNN Money’s 101 Dumbest Moments in Business.[31]


In December 2007, the airline released a sale with the acronym MILF, standing for “Many Islands, Low Fares.” Online and TV media picked up on this and noted that MILF was popularized in the movie American Pie. This controversy was covered on CBS and ABC News, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and The O'Reilly Factor.[32]


In April 2008, the airline sent an email to its marketing subscription list announcing “We’re having a threesome. Join us in the fun.” Offering "three sales in one," the email repeatedly proposes the "threesome."[33]


On January 8, 2009, the airline announced the return of the MILF Special, described as meaning "Many Islands, Low Fares".[34][35]

On December 2, 2009, shortly after a well publicized car accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Spirit launched lowered fares in a promotion called the "Eye of the Tiger Sale". Imagery for the campaign featured an SUV crashing into a fire hydrant, with a tiger leaning out the driver's side window.[36]


On February 2, 2010, the airline offered the "Many Unbelievably Fantastic Fares (MUFF) to Diving Destinations" promotion. Many of their prominent Caribbean or Floridian destinations were featured.

On June 22, 2010, the airline offered the "Check Out The Oil On Our Beaches" promotion. The ad was in reference to Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest in United States history.[37]

On August 12, the airline offered the "Don't Be Blue, Slide Down To Low Fares with Double Fisted Savings". The ad was in reference to a jetBlue flight where a flight attendant deployed an emergency slide and left the aircraft with two bottles of beer. Imagery for the ad featured an opened aircraft door and a flight attendant going down an emergency slide with two beer bottles.[38]


On January 12, the airline offered a promotion entitled "Free at Last! Free at Last! Air travel is Free at Last!", which applied for travel the following weekend, celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Spirit made a "Go south" Valentine's Day themed ad showing a woman in a bikini and placed a candy heart with the initial "VD" on her crotch, poking fun at venereal disease.

Shortly afterwards, Spirit made another Valentine's themed ad comparing a diamond ring to vacation packages (while saying "Why not slip her a big package") then showing a gift box directly in front of a man's crotch.

On June 7, amidst the Anthony Weiner Twitter photo scandal, Spirit offered "The Weiner Sale: With Fares Too HARD To Resist." The email promotion included the subject line "Want To See Our Weiner?"


Spirit capitalized on the Summit of the Americas prostitution scandal by featuring an advert with women in pink bikinis, around an agent implying secrecy, and the slogan "More Bang for your Buck" for flights to Cartagena, Colombia – the location of the scandal – as well as other destinations. Colombian officials complained, and Spirit removed the ad after its scheduled 36 hour run.[39]



The airline gives customers many options for customizing their base ticket price, each of which carries a charge. These includes having an agent print a boarding pass at check-in versus doing it online or at a kiosk,[40] for any large carry-on or checked bags, progressive fees for overweight bags, selected seat assignments, travel insurance, and more. There is no charge for a 16x14x12 or smaller personal item.[41]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

Operational and customer service issues[edit]

In 2000, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed to fine Spirit Airlines $67,000 for allegedly violating federal regulations on cabin and seat markings and placards. Discrepancies were found in the marking and placarding of emergency equipment, passenger seats, storage areas and doors on eight of Spirit's DC9 and MD80 aircraft.[44]

A Bureau of Transportation Statistics report concluded that in 2008 Spirit had the highest number of complaints per passenger among U.S. airlines that carry more than 5 million passengers.[45]

In January 2013, Skytrax Airline Quality Research downgraded Spirit to a ranking of 2 stars (on a scale in which 5 stars is the highest rating).[46] Only one airline, the North Korean Air Koryo, carries a 1 star ranking.

In May 2013, a Spirit Airlines crew removed a Russian-speaking group from a flight, citing that they were being disruptive.[47]


  1. ^ a b "Spirit Airlines Fleet Details and History". Planespotters.net. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  2. ^ http://www.airlinequality.com/StarRanking/2star.htm
  3. ^ Nicas, Jack (May 12, 2012). "A Stingy Spirit Lifts Airline's Profit". The Wall Street Journal. pp. A1, A12. 
  4. ^ "Spirit Airlines History". Spirit Airlines. August 2011. Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  5. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 25–31, 1998. "Spirit Airlines" p. 92. "18121 East 8 Mile Road, Eastpointe, 48021, Michigan, USA"
  6. ^ Spirit Airlines Honored as 'Good Corporate Citizen of the Year'; Miramar Business Appreciation 2003. Business Wire. February 13, 2003. Retrieved on December 17, 2009.
  7. ^ Hemlock, Doreen. "Spirit Airlines to Relocate from Detroit Area to South Florida." Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. March 17, 1999. Retrieved on December 17, 2009.
  8. ^ SpiritAir.com[dead link]
  9. ^ a b Spirit Airlines. Spirit.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ New York Business News – Business, Money, Financial & Corporate News Business News | NBC New York. Wnbc.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  12. ^ Hugo Martin (21 May 2010). "Are carry-on bag fees hurting Spirit Airlines?". Los Angeles Times (LAtimes.com). Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  13. ^ Frogameni, Bill. "Spirit Airlines hit with record fine." Atlanta Business Journal. Friday September 18, 2009. Retrieved on September 20, 2009.
  14. ^ Jones, Charisse (2010-04-07). "Spirit Airlines to charge a $20–$45 fee for carry-on bags". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-12-13. 
  15. ^ "Spirit Airlines World MasterCard® Credit Card". Bank of America. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  16. ^ Arnoult, Sandra (14 June 2010). "Shutdown continues after Spirit pilots reject 29% base pay increase". Flightglobal.com. Flight International. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  17. ^ Ranson, Lori. "Spirit pilots plan to return to work on 18 June". Flightglobal.com. Flight International. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  18. ^ Carey, Susan (22 June 2011). "Spirit Air's New First: Levying Fee for Passes". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 June 2011. 
  19. ^ "Spirit Airlines' final answer to dying Vietnam vet seeking ticket refund: No". Fox News. 30 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  20. ^ Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET (2010-04-07). "Spirit Airlines' boss calls industry-high complaint rate 'irrelevant,' says dying veteran should've bought insurance". Fox News. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  21. ^ Joshua Rhett Miller (2010-04-07). "Spirit bows to pressure: Airline CEO to refund dying veteran's fare". Fox News. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  22. ^ "Spirit Airlines to establish crew, maintenance base in Las Vegas - Business - ReviewJournal.com". Lvrj.com. 2011-11-15. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  23. ^ "Spirit opening flight attendant, pilot crew base at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  24. ^ "Detroit Spirit Jet, Skydiving Plane's Close Call In The Air Prompts FAA Probe". Huffingtonpost.com. 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  25. ^ "Flight Stats". anonymous. April 1, 2014. 
  26. ^ 20 June 2013. "Spirit Airlines to grow fleet with largest Airbus single-aisle model" | Airbus News & Events". Airbus.com. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  27. ^ Fleet age Spirit Airlines | Airfleets aviation. Airfleets.net. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  28. ^ Spirit Airlines – cheap tickets, cheap flights, discount airfare, cheap hotels, cheap car rentals, cheap travel. Spiritair.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  29. ^ Volaris. Volaris. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  30. ^ "Airline scraps online 'Hoffa' game". USA Today. 2006-07-19. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  31. ^ Horowitz, Adam; David Jacobson, Tom McNichol, and Owen Thomas. "8. Spirit Airlines". 101 Dumbest Moments in Business (CNNMoney.com). Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  32. ^ "Fort Lauderdale’s Spirit in the sky". anna.aero. 15 August 2008. 
  33. ^ Gorell, Robert (2007-04-01). "Spirit Airlines Proposes a Threesome With Me". Spirit Airlines Proposes a Threesome With Me. Future Now (grokdotcom.com). Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  34. ^ "Over the Line?". The O'Reilly Factor. 2007-12-11. Fox News Channel.
  35. ^ Spirit Airlines[dead link]
  36. ^ Spirit Airlines' Tiger Woods Ad (PHOTOS). Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  37. ^ "Spinning the spill, for fun and profit". Yahoo News. 2010-06-23. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  38. ^ Spirit Airlines – cheap tickets, cheap flights, discount airfare, cheap hotels, cheap car rentals, cheap travel. Marketing.spiritair.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  39. ^ "Spirit Airlines pulls 'More bang for your buck' ad that spoofed Secret Service". MSNBC. 21 April 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  40. ^ "Spirit to double fee for agent-printed boarding passes in April". Sun-Sentinel. 2013-03-13. 
  41. ^ "Our optional fees". Spirit Airlines. Retrieved 2013-05-12. 
  42. ^ "Spirit Airlines jet-engine failure serious, NTSB says". Seattle Times. 2013-10-16. 
  43. ^ "More trouble for Spirit Airlines". CNN. 2013-10-25. 
  44. ^ "Press Release – FAA Proposes $67,000 Civil Penalty Against Spirit Airlines, Inc.". Federal Aviation Administration. 2000-09-26. 
  45. ^ Segal, David. (2009-03-28) Don’t Come Crying to This Airline – NYTimes.com. Travel.nytimes.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-21.
  46. ^ "Spirit Airlines is downgraded to 2-Star Airline status following latest Skytrax Ranking review" Skytrax. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  47. ^ "Passengers' outrage as they are thrown off Spirit flight to Vegas 'for speaking RUSSIAN'" Mail Online. Retrieved 30 May 2013.

External links[edit]