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The inaugural Spirit Airlines flight to Cancun pushes back in Austin. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Mateen Kontoravdis)

Spirit Airlines Celebrates Anniversary, Growth In Austin

Spirit Airlines inaugurated new flights to Cancun from five U.S. cities on Wednesday, Feb. 26, in time for spring break travel. The Miramar, Flo.-based carrier now serves Cancun from 11 U.S. destinations with Austin, Nashville, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh joining the list. For Austin, the departure of Spirit flight 1054 on Wednesday marked Spirit’s 11th nonstop route from the Texas capital and the carrier’s first international service from the city.

From Austin, Spirit will fly to Cancun four times per week using an Airbus A319. The airline will be the only carrier in Austin offering year-round service to the popular vacation destination. 

Field Sutton, Senior Specialist of Media Relations at Spirit Airlines, said: “We believe there’s a strong market for Cancun in Austin. A lot of times we can make things work that others can’t because of our low costs which are inherent to our operations. We have found that when we bring in our low fares, it generates demand that was not there previously and we are able to convince more people to fly our route than they otherwise would.”

Spirit Airlines celebrated the new route with some sweets and swag for passengers on the first international flight from Austin. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Mateen Kontoravdis)

The new service took off as Spirit celebrated its first anniversary in Austin. Spirit joined Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air as the third ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) in Austin with ten routes. 

Jamie Kazanoff, Assistant Director at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, said: ”We heavily recruited Spirit to fly Austin. Spirit is an extraordinarily successful ULCC carrier and in Austin we are always looking for more options for our customers. We had some routes with only one carrier flying to that particular destination and we like to have choices.”

Sutton told AirlineGeeks that the airline has been impressed by its performance in Austin so far. In its first year of operations, Spirit carried 772,373 passengers to and from Austin. The carrier was the sixth-largest airline at the airport, carrying just over 115,000 fewer passengers than Frontier and over 580,000 more passengers than Allegiant.

“Bookings have definitely been strong, we are really happy with what we have seen so far. The first ten routes we did from Austin all met or exceeded expectations and so far it’s shaping up that we are going to see the same thing from these new routes as well and we are really excited about that,” said Sutton.

Passengers celebrate the new route connecting Austin and Cancun onboard Spirit Airlines. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Mateen Kontoravdis)

In addition to Cancun, Spirit will begin daily flights to Nashville and Newark on March 26. Aside from Cancun, all other Spirit routes from Austin operate daily, with Orlando seeing 11 weekly flights.  

When asked if the airline is considering expanding even more in the city, Sutton said: “This year, in general, is focused very much on adding frequencies in all kinds of markets. Certainly given Austin’s strength for us, it would not be out of the question to have us look at that.”

Sutton told AirlineGeeks that Cancun’s success may determine further international expansion from Austin. American Airlines will also begin flying to Mexico from Austin, offering summer seasonal flights to San Jose del Cabo.

Spirit employees in Austin pose for a photo after working the carrier’s first international flight from the station. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Mateen Kontoravdis)

When Austin-Bergstrom reached out to Spirit Airlines, the carrier received over $1.7 million in its first few months of operations, more than any airline has ever received to serve Austin. As part of Austin’s incentive program, new carriers receive no facility fees and no landing fees during its first year of operation.

Kazanoff said: “Spirit came in with ten flights a day, almost 70 flights a week, so that is why the amount is higher for them because their waived rent came in with a huge launch.”

Bryce Dubee, Senior Public Information Specialist at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, said: “Despite the incentives, Spirit is still generating revenues for us and for the airline. Lots of revenue is being generated from travelers coming through the airport, parking, concessions and other related things.”

Spirit Airlines primarily uses gate 11 and gate 5 in the new east-wing of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Mateen Kontoravdis)

Austin-Bergstrom offers a privately-operated South terminal alternative for low-cost carriers. This terminal is separate from the Barbara Jordan Terminal and is cheaper to operate from. Allegiant and Frontier, the other ULCCs in Austin, both use it while Spirit operated for the main terminal. 

At a fast-growing airport like Austin, gate space is hard and expensive to come by. Spirit jumped on the opportunity to have access to the main terminal when the new east 9-gate expansion opened in early 2019. The airline has access to two gates at the airport and currently operates 68 weekly departures.

Mateen Kontoravdis
Mateen Kontoravdis
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