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JetBlue Announces Spirit Acquisition and Low-Fare Challenger to the ‘Big Four’

A day after Spirit Airlines’ board rejected a merger deal with Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines announced that their boards of directors have approved a definitive merger agreement under which JetBlue will acquire Spirit for Roughly $3.8 billion dollars.

“We are excited to deliver this compelling combination that turbocharges our strategic growth, enabling JetBlue to bring our unique blend of low fares and exceptional service to more customers, on more routes,” said Robin Hayes, chief executive officer, JetBlue.“We look forward to welcoming Spirit’s outstanding Team Members to JetBlue and together creating a customer-centric, fifth-largest carrier in the United States. Spirit and JetBlue will continue to advance our shared goal of disrupting the industry to bring down fares from the Big Four airlines. This combination is an exciting opportunity to diversify and expand our network, add jobs and new possibilities for Crewmembers, and expand our platform for profitable growth.”

Ted Christie, president and chief executive officer, Spirit, said, “We are thrilled to unite with JetBlue through our improved agreement to create the most compelling national low-fare challenger to the dominant U.S. carriers, and we look forward to working with JetBlue to complete the transaction. Bringing our two airlines together will be a game changer, and we are confident that JetBlue will deliver opportunities for our Guests and Team Members with JetBlue’s unique blend of low fares and award-winning service. We especially appreciate the commitment of our Spirit Family throughout this process. Today’s exciting announcement reflects JetBlue’s admiration for Spirit and a shared belief in what the combined airline can bring for our Guests.”

The airline says the acquisition will offer its combined 77 million customers more options and choices. JetBlue plans to bring the JetBlue Experience to all aircraft, offering JetBlue’s unique combination of low fares and award-winning service to more customers. No more “pre-reclined” seats! The acquisition will accelerate JetBlue’s organic growth plan with 1,700+ daily flights to more than 125 destinations in 30 countries based on December 2022 schedules.

The acquisition will increase relevance for JetBlue in certain key focus cities (Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, San Juan, and Los Angeles) as well as Big Four airline hubs (Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and Miami). The combined airline will have a fleet of 458 aircraft on a pro forma basis and an order book of over 300 Airbus aircraft with fuel-efficient, lower-carbon new engine option, or neo, engines, providing increased flexibility and efficiency while mitigating the risk of limited availability of aircraft.

The combined airline is said to provide more career growth options, broader travel benefits, more opportunities to make a difference in the communities JetBlue and Spirit serve, and a deeper bench of intellectual capital to support the future growth of the airline.  JetBlue will expand its no furlough commitment to Spirit’s Team Members as they are welcomed into JetBlue after closing. JetBlue will ensure a smooth transition for Spirit’s corporate Team Members by retaining a Fort Lauderdale support center, in addition to JetBlue’s other support centers. JetBlue is committed to working with labor leaders at both airlines and JetBlue values committee representatives to ensure the combination supports the needs of those that operate the airline.

Although this all sounds good, the deal faces tough scrutiny ahead. It’s possible that the JetBlue deal for Spirit will face strong antitrust scrutiny from the US Department of Justice, particularly if the Justice Department views the acquisition as harmful to consumers. Industry experts have said the deal could lead to higher fares across the industry. A Frontier-Spirit deal, by contrast, would have brought together two airlines that have very low base fares. Neither airline has first-class or business-class seats. Let’s also remember, the Justice Department sued to block an alliance between American and JetBlue that allows each airline to book passengers onto the other’s flights. Spirit pointed to that legal action when arguing a JetBlue deal wouldn’t get the necessary approval.

Bobby Laurie
Bobby Laurie
His background in the travel industry dates back to November 2005 when he was initially hired as a flight attendant. After initially flying for six months for US Airways (now American Airlines) Laurie had started his move up the corporate ladder and held various positions within the industry before ultimately landing as an Analyst specializing in InFlight Policies & Procedures. Read More

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