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Spirit Quietly Adds New Routes

A Spirit A320 in New York (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Spirit Airlines has added four new routes to be launched in September. According to Cirium data, the carrier will connect Chicago with Charlotte, and Nashville with both Miami and Boston, all new routes, in addition to reconnecting Miami and New Orleans.

Only one of the routes will operate daily. Chicago and Charlotte will be connected seven days per week, though with slightly different times on Sundays and Thursdays. Nashville and Boston will be connected nearly daily, flying every day except Saturday, while flights between Nashville and Miami will operate on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Flights between Miami and New Orleans will operate on two schedules: it will fly on Sundays and Thursdays as well as on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with one flight out and one flight back each day with slightly different departure and arrival times on each set of days.

For the most part, these flights fit well into Spirit’s business model flying passengers to leisure and vacation destinations across the United States. The Nashville-Miami route will launch just in time to fly Tennessee residents to warm, sunny Florida for the winter. Boston is popular for its historical significance, and New Orleans attracts a wide variety of tourists for its own historical significance and party atmosphere all year round.

The route between Chicago and Charlotte stands out for a unique reason, though: neither place is a prime American leisure destination. In addition, both are hubs for legacy carrier American Airlines, with Chicago being one of the airline’s large midwest hub and Charlotte pandering to connecting transatlantic traffic to the U.S. and flying passengers from the northern to the southern tips of the East Coast.

Spirit has an operating base in Chicago, but its closest East Coast bases are either Atlanta or Atlantic City. At the time of writing, the route from Chicago to Atlanta has 13 frequencies daily, of which 9 are on American and the other four on United.

A Spirit A319 in Las Vegas (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Competing with the Majors

Spirit will then be competing directly with two major legacy airlines on a route currently only served by those legacy carriers. Though Spirit already has a significant presence in Charlotte, many of its routes are to the same leisure or travel destinations it’s familiar with: to Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Miami, and Orlando on the East Coast as well as Los Angeles. Many of those connections will also certainly have competition from the likes of American and United, but they serve a different market; those flights are more likely to be filled by passengers truly looking for a cheap flight for their vacation, while the Chicago-Charlotte flight will likely be more focused on business travelers.

Spirit does have other flights from Charlotte that connect major American Airlines hubs – Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, and New York – but Miami and New York pander to Spirit’s customer base and Dallas/Fort Worth is an operating base for Spirit. New York also sees millions of annual tourists who might look for cheaper flights on a discount carrier.

Still, Spirit believes there is a reason it can compete with American and United between Chicago and Charlotte. Having an ultra-low-cost carrier on the route will prove good for consumers, as American and United may be forced to lower its economy prices to be more competitive.

Adding an extra low-cost flight to Charlotte as a whole may have the same effect beyond the airport as well. Since Spirit has a base there where passengers can continue on to other cities, passengers flying from Charlotte on American or United itineraries connecting through O’Hare to another destination Spirit flies to further west may also see lower prices.

Spirit is building a notable presence in Charlotte, so perhaps it may become a base for the airline down the line. However, for the time being, the carrier is attempting to disrupt yet another market dominated by full-service legacy airlines.

This story was updated on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 to replace Nashville with Boston in the first paragraph. 

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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