Fort Lauderdale’s Spirit in the sky*

Image: MILF campaign
Spirit’s recent risky M.I.L.F. campaign and a “M.I.L.F.” ( has many young readers so you’ll have to look it up on a popular search engine). Spirit grew 40% in 2007 with its special emphasis on Caribbean islands and Latin American services.

Describing itself as an ultra-low-cost-carrier (ULCC), Florida-based Spirit Airlines operates an all-Airbus fleet of 33 144-seat A319s and two 198-seat A321s across a network of over 40 destinations, with special emphasis on Latin America and the Caribbean.

Last year the airline’s passenger numbers grew 40% from just under five million in 2006 to just under seven million, while maintaining load factors of around 80%. The airline’s biggest base of operation is Fort Lauderdale from where it currently operates to 39 destinations.

Airport Weekly departures Weekly seats Routes
Fort Lauderdale (FLL) 397 58,680 39
Detroit (DTW) 90 13,716 9
New York La Guardia (LGA) 76 11,700 3
Orlando (MCO) 80 11,520 4
Atlantic City (ACY) 66 9,504 5
Myrtle Beach (MYR) 61 8,784 5
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 11 August 2008
Map: Spirit Airline Routes
click here to enlarge

Detroit, the airline’s original home is the second biggest base, but with just nine routes compared to Fort Lauderdale’s 39. Of those 39 routes just 14 are to domestic destinations (but they account for 56% of seat capacity), while 25 are international routes to 18 different territories.

Top domestic routes Weekly departures Top international Routes Weekly departures
New York LGA 41 San Juan, Puerto Rico 26
Orlando 35 Nassau, Bahamas 14
Atlantic City 21 Santo Domingo, DR 14
Atlanta 21 Cancun, Mexico 14
Detroit 21 Lima, Peru 14
Tampa 21 San Jose, Costa Rica 12
Washington DCA 20 Kingston, Jamaica 10
Chicago O’Hare 14
Boston 10
Source: OAG Max Online for August 2008

Image: Spirit branding on airline tailThe most recent route to start was a daily service to Bogota which began carrying passengers on 24 July. The airline has recently sought US permission to serve Manaus in Brazil and is actively seeking further rights to add frequencies on its Colombian routes.

The carrier also recently announced plans to return five of its A319s and has ended double-daily services to Long Island Macarthur airport near New York which it only began serving on 1 May. However, it was competing head-to-head with Southwest. Weekly flights from Fort Lauderdale to Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos islands have also been axed.

Image: Spirt Ribbon cutting
Logo: Spirit AirlinesSpirit Airlines launched Fort Lauderdale – Long Island MacArthur services on 1 May. However, it subsequently suspended the double-daily services on 1 August. According to the airline, it “will return to MacArthur when market conditions change”.

Bigger than Southwest and JetBlue at Fort Lauderdale

Based on current schedule data, Spirit is the largest airline at Fort Lauderdale airport.

Airline Frequency share Capacity share Number of routes
Spirit Airlines 20.3% 23.8% 39
Southwest 15.1% 16.5% 17
JetBlue 10.2% 11.0% 14
Delta 9.2% 10.4% 9
US Airways 6.7% 8.0% 6
Continental 14.1% 7.7% 15
American 5.6% 7.0% 8
AirTran 5.1% 5.0% 5
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 4 August 2008

Spirit operates twice as many routes at the airport as any other airline. Competition is fierce as other airlines compete head-to-head with Spirit on most of its busiest routes. On New York LaGuardia there is competition from Delta and JetBlue, Southwest competes on Orlando services, while AirTran and Delta compete on Atlanta flights. Northwest provides competition to Detroit, Continental and Southwest are rivals to Tampa, while US Airways competes on Washington Reagan. American competes on the San Juan route meaning that Spirit is competing against nearly all of the main US carriers at the airport.

Given the airline’s modest track record at reporting profits the current climate would appear to be a threat to the airline, but according to the airline’s CEO if fuel prices stay below $120 then the airline will make money in 2008 even if passenger numbers remain virtually unchanged from 2007.

* “Spirit in the sky” was a global hit for Norman Greenbaum in 1970. It topped the UK charts and reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100.


  1. Marc Watkins says:

    Doctor and the Medics also had a hit with Spirit in the Sky – reaching No.1 in the UK in 1896! replies: I think you mean 1986. In fact the song also reached #1 in the UK in 2003 as the official Comic Relief single and was credited to “Gareth Gates featuring The Kumars”. Not many songs have been #1 in the UK for three different acts. What makes this particularly unusual is that these are the only versions of the song that have ever charted!

  2. Marc Watkins says:

    I may release it again – its guaranteed to get to No.1…my 15 minutes of fame beckons!!

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