How JetBlue’s Acquisition of Spirit Could Change the Future of Air Travel

A few days ago, it was finally announced that JetBlue Airways would buy Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion, just hours after the latter ended its merger agreement with rival Frontier Airlines, a proposal that did not apparently did not garner enough support from shareholders.

This seems to mark the end of a long and drawn-out battle between the two budget carriers who were looking to acquire the ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit, but the deal is yet to be set in stone. It has yet to gain government regulatory approval, which some in the industry simply speculate won’t happen.

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Indeed, the Justice Department has already filed an antitrust lawsuit against the current JetBlue-American Airlines Northeast Alliance, claiming it creates an anti-competitive monopoly on Northeast routes and could lead to higher airfares. .

But, assuming JetBlue’s takeover of Spirit materializes, it could mean major changes for American air travelers.

JetBlue’s plans for Spirit

When merged, the airlines would form the fifth-largest carrier in the United States, just behind the “big four” – American, Delta, United and Southwest. The two carriers will, however, continue to operate separately until the acquisition is finalized.

According to CNBC, JetBlue’s primary ambition is to expand, and Spirit can provide the additional planes and pilots to help it do just that.

JetBlue plans to overhaul the existing Spirit fleet, removing cramped seating and rearranging cabins to match its own style. But, until the renovations are complete, passengers can find that their JetBlue flights are conducted aboard Spirit’s bright yellow aircraft.

Along with growth, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said improving reliability will be a priority for the company, an area in which Spirit recently outperformed its buyer.

Spirit Airlines Airbus A319
Spirit Airlines Airbus A319. (photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

What about cheap fares?

President Biden’s administration has vowed to stamp out any takeover deal that could harm healthy competition, so the JetBlue-Spirit merger could yet be undone.

Hayes believes combining the two carriers would put the resulting airline in a better position to compete with the Big Four, which currently control more than three-quarters of the US market. He argues that expanding JetBlue would mean more reasonable fares to more destinations.

JetBlue does not offer the lowest price types that Spirit does, which also translates to simple service. Although still considered a low-cost airline, it offers more comfort than Spirit, including better legroom, media screens in the backs of the seats, live TV, free Wi-Fi and free snacks; in addition to offering a business class option with elongated seats.

Meanwhile, Frontier Airlines, having been rejected in its offer to acquire Spirit, is looking on the bright side. The carrier said it would happily take most of the ultra-low-cost market left over from Spirit.

If JetBlue is ultimately successful in merging with Spirit, Frontier will indeed become the country’s largest discount carrier, ahead of others like Allegiant, Avelo and Breeze.

“It just gives us huge leeway for growth,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said. “That’s why it’s such a boon for our employees and our shareholders.”

Frontier has already forecast the company to grow 30% next year and launched a fare sale, offering a total of one million seats for just $19 apiece.


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