Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines expanded aggressively over the last decade offering travelers no-frills service in exchange for ultralow airfares.
Their executives vow to keep it that way, even if the carriers complete their $6.6 billion merger, which would turn them into a discount behemoth and the country’s fifth-largest airline. Frontier will have a controlling stake.
“Our business model is built on low fares — that stimulates travel,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said in an interview. “We’re going to give people even more low fares.”
The combined airlines’ ability to keep fares low will be key to regulators’ approval of the deal. President Joe Biden last year made boosting competition a priority. His Justice Department has already sued American Airlines and JetBlue Airways over their partnership in the Northeast, alleging it reduces competition and could drive up prices.
One thing that could drive up fares for customers, and not just for these airlines, is rising costs. Higher fuel and labor costs have jumped as airlines increase their schedules. A lack of available employees, such as pilots, has forced airlines to scale back their growth plans.
“It’s not like you’re going to see Spirit and Frontier go from offering $49 fares to $149 fares,” said Henry Harteveldt, a former airline executive and founder of travel consulting firm Atmosphere Research Group. “The challenge is how do they continue to offer these low fares” as costs continue to climb, he said.
Those costs eventually get passed along to travelers. The deal also shows the changing way we fly. Major carriers including Delta, American and United over the past decade introduced their own no-frills tickets called basic economy. Those often strip out perks that used to come free, such as seat selection, for the lowest fare.
Here is the point. Flying commercial already isn’t great unless you are upgraded. So the question begs, who are they trying to accommodate here? We, and most of you, would be caught dead before I fly spirit. Right? Or…would it be lowkey kinda fun?