Spirit to scale back network growth in 2013

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Published: August 1, 2012

Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines expects to slow network expansion in 2013 following the launch of dozens of new routes this year.

The airline’s chief marketing officer Barry Biffle says that the carrier has some ability in the first half of 2013 to add “a couple more routes” but adds that the airline has announced the majority of its new flights, in an earnings call today.

“There will be capacity in the back half of 2013… but the majority of what we will do has been announced,” says Biffle.

Spirit has steadily announced new routes through this year, including a substantial push at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where it started operations at in May 2011. Since then, the carrier has gradually added new destinations and will operate to 26 cities from the airport by next year.

The airline has also concentrated its expansion on airports like Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver and Las Vegas instead of its main base at Fort Lauderdale.

With the new bases, the carrier will be able to start “connecting the dots” in its network, says Biffle. “If you take the top 25 metros in the US, we now service over 80% of those populations,” he adds.

Currently, less than 10% of Spirit’s itineraries connect, says the airline’s chief executive Ben Baldanza.

Baldanza estimates capacity to increase 22% year-on-year in the third quarter and 30.2% in the fourth quarter. The carrier’s full-year capacity growth is estimated to grow at about 21.6%, slightly down from previous estimates due to schedule tweaking, says Baldanza.

Asked if Spirit’s expansion at Dallas-Fort Worth is related to American Airlines parent AMR’s bankruptcy, Baldanza says the two are not linked.

“We’ve been with AMR a long time in South Florida… we know what they are about, they know what we are about,” he adds, saying that the two airlines target different customers.

There are high fares in Dallas-Fort Worth, says Baldanza of the reason behind Spirit’s push at the airport. “We fly once or twice a day, and that’s creating a bigger market there… it’s not related to AMR’s bankruptcy,” he says.

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