When Bob Fornaro took over as President and CEO of Spirit earlier this year, we knew there would be changes to the airline. What we didn’t know was to what extent Bob would be channeling his former employer, AirTran. The answer: a lot.
Up until recently, Spirit had really focused a great deal on building opportunities in big cities. It had its huge build-up at Dallas/Ft Worth. It was growing at Chicago/O’Hare, Houston/Intercontinental, Atlanta, you name it. It usually went in with at least daily flights (if not multiple daily) in a market, and it tried to skim passengers off of other more expensive airlines.
There’s no doubt it hasn’t given up on those types of markets, but if you look at the new flights announced this past month, it shows a very different pattern. Spirit has announced it will bulk up in three places: Baltimore, Orlando, and Akron/Canton.
Those sound like wildly unrelated markets, but let me refresh your memory a little bit. I couldn’t find anything more recent, but thanks to Chris Sloan from AirwaysMag.com, I was able to get my hands on this 2006 route map. (Here’s one built by Anna.aero as well.)
We all know that AirTran was huge in Atlanta, but once you got beyond, Orlando and Baltimore were both major focus cities. And Akron/Canton? It wasn’t large enough to be a true focus city, but it punched well above its weight with a lot of profitable service. Even though this is from 2006, the status of those cities didn’t change up until Southwest took over. And then what did Southwest do?
Well in Orlando, Southwest slashed and burned since AirTran had a lot of sub-daily flights from there to a variety of markets. Spirit isn’t going back into those exact same markets here, but it has launched five more this month with single daily flights in each.
- Orlando to Boston is a market that JetBlue flies a lot and Delta flies once a day. There are a lot of people connecting in that market, and Spirit sees opportunity.
- Orlando to Philly is served by American and Southwest frequently and even Frontier is in that market. That seems like a lot of airlines duking it out, but apparently there’s room for one more.
- Orlando to Kansas City is a Southwest market through and through with up to 4 a day. Spirit should have no trouble skimming with low fares.
- Orlando to Niagara Falls and Plattsburgh are Allegiant-style markets. In fact, Allegiant serves both from Orlando/Sanford. Niagara Falls = South Toronto and Plattsburgh = South Montreal.
In Baltimore, Spirit has quietly built up to have 14 nonstop destinations. Three were added earlier this year (Boston, Detroit, and Orlando), and now it’s time for some winter flying with both Ft Myers and Tampa coming on once daily.
Then there’s the mighty CAK (that’s Akron/Canton’s airport code). This was a rock star market for AirTran, but once Southwest moved in, it all but walked away. Now, Southwest has dropped CAK down to having year-round service only to Atlanta (itself a hub that Southwest dramatically shrunk). It also has seasonal Orlando service.
Seeing this, Spirit will be moving in. There will be one daily flight to both Ft Lauderdale and Orlando. Tampa (3x weekly) and Ft Myers (4x weekly) will get seasonal winter service. And in the summer, CAK gets a daily flight to Myrtle Beach.
All of this smells like one thing. Bob Fornaro sees opportunity from his previous life. It’s not a carbon copy of AirTran. It’s more like a dog that knows which part of the yard it likes to sniff in. It might find something different each time it goes there, but it knows there’s something good to be found.