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JetBlue, Frontier In High-Stakes Battle For Budget Airline Spirit

By Dave Simpson

JetBlue Airways <JBLU.O> and Frontier Group <ULCC.O> are in a tug of war for low cost carrier Spirit Airlines <SAVE.N>, as US airlines jostle for a larger share of the rebounding leisure travel market to better compete with legacy carriers.

JetBlue made an unsolicited offer of $33 per share in cash, surpassing a near $25 per share cash-and-stock bid from Frontier made in February, prompting Spirit to open talks with the New York-based airline.

Here is a brief look into the companies at the heart of the latest consolidation in the US airline industry:

Spirit Airlines Inc

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Spirit Airlines was founded in 1964 as Clippert Trucking Co. It operates in more than 85 destinations across 16 countries, including the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Headquarters Miramar, Florida
Fleet Operated 173 aircraft as of Dec. 31, 2021
Fleet type Airbus (A319, A320ceo, A320neo, A321)
Revenue $3.23 billion for year ended 2021
Market Cap $2.85 billion, according to Refinitiv data
Routes 360 markets served by 85 airports
Employees 9,823 active employees as of Dec 31, 2021

JetBlue Airways Corp

JetBlue Airways, incorporated in August 1998, primarily operates routes across the United States.

Headquarters Long Island City, New York
Fleet Operated 282 aircraft as of Dec. 31, 2021
Fleet type Airbus A220, Airbus A320, Airbus A321, Airbus A321neo, and Embraer E190
Revenue $6.04 billion for year ended 2021
Market Cap $3.82 billion, according to Refinitiv data
Routes Over 100 destinations across the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America, and between New York and London
Employees Employed an average of 15,452 full-time and 4,014 part-time crew members for the year ended Dec. 31, 2021

Frontier Group Holdings:

Frontier Group, operating as Frontier Airlines, was incorporated in September 2013 by ultra-low-cost airline pioneer Bill Franke. The carrier flies Airbus aircraft across the United States and some international destinations.

Headquarters Denver, Colorado
Fleet Operated 110 aircraft as of Dec 31, 2021
Fleet type Airbus single-aisle aircraft; A320ceos, A320neos , A321ceos
Revenue $2.06 billion for year ended 2021
Market Cap $2.33 billion, according to Refinitiv data
Routes U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Canada
Employees 5,502 total employees, as of Dec 31, 2021

JetBlue To Trim Summer Schedule Amid Hiring Push

The above news followed news that JetBlue Airways JBLU.O confirmed on Sunday 10 April that it plans to cut its summer schedule in a bid to avert flight disruptions as it works to ramp up hiring.

An airline spokesman confirmed an email to staff on Saturday, reported earlier by CNBC, that said JetBlue had "already reduced May capacity 8% to 10% and you can expect to see a similar size capacity pull for the remainder of the summer."

US airlines are working to aggressively ramp up hiring as they prepare for an expected spike in summer travel demand as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes. Since September, several major U.S. airlines have been forced at times to cancel hundreds or thousands of flights after severe weather disruptions.

The New York-based airline said on Sunday that "given we anticipate continued industry challenges and heavy demand into the summer, we are planning more conservatively and trying to be proactive where we can with cancellations due to disruptive weather and air traffic control events."

JetBlue canceled 148 flights, or 13% of its schedule on Sunday 10 April and delayed 39% of its flights, according to FlightAware, after canceling 18% of flights Saturday 9 April and delaying 48%.

The airline added that "to get our operation back on track this week and provide additional recovery options for the potential of additional April weather events, we are cancelling some flights this weekend and will be making a small schedule adjustment through the rest of the month."

JetBlue said despite hiring more than 3,000 new crew members in 2022, "we remain staffing constrained, and these disruptions exacerbate an already challenging staffing situation." It said it was adding "hundreds of new crewmembers each week as we prepare for summer travel."

JetBlue last week made an unsolicited offer of $33 per share in cash to buy Spirit Airlines SAVE.N, surpassing a near $25 per share cash-and-stock bid from Frontier Group Holdings ULCC.O made in February. Spirit said on Thursday 7 April that it would start talks with JetBlue on its $3.6 billion offer.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.

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Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
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