Topic of the Week: Is JetBlue Overreacting to Spirit?

JetBlue, Spirit

On Wednesday, Spirit announced it would fly from Boston to Vegas and seasonally to both Cleveland and Detroit. About 10 seconds later, JetBlue said it would fly from Ft Lauderdale to both Cleveland and Detroit, both Spirit markets. That’s a swift response, but is it worth it? Should JetBlue be sitting on top of Spirit or is this an overreaction?

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17 comments on “Topic of the Week: Is JetBlue Overreacting to Spirit?

  1. Perhaps it is meant as a message to NK to tell them to stay away from B6 markets. Have they announced prices?

  2. It is an overreaction. But it’s not just about Spirit. JetBlue has been overreacting to new capacity for a while now. Remember the LAS-SFO addition when Virgin went into NY-Florida? And I believe they also added a second AUS-SFO when Virgin went there as well. Personally I think the worst possible personality type that can exist in Network Planning at a carrier is someone who believes they understand strategy but really have no clue, and I think that’s what we have here. Sure, throw on some flights. But what’s the end game? How do you win? For Spirit in particular, they are after a much different passenger than JetBlue is, so adding flights will do nothing except lose more money for JetBlue. Spirit can make money all day at those fares, but JetBlue just has more seats flying at a loss. When Robin was first announced as CEO it looked like some of their spiteful service got cleaned up, which makes it more surprising that this kind of thing is still happening.

    1. I whole-heartedly agree! Hopefully, when Robin officially takes the reins next month the house cleaning will begin, starting with marketing and route planning!!

      1. Robin has been over marketing and planning for the last 5 years as CCO. Why would he have to wait to be the CEO to fire people?

  3. I’m perfectly fine with JetBlue wanting to protect its turf, but I agree with Ted. It has worked well for them in BOS against NK and WN. But the silly part to me is that they claim “everything must earn its way into the network” and say that transcons from IAD have to be cut because of not enough free aircraft (dont think they ever publicly stated if were losing money), yet they are willing to get into this battle with Spirit over a seasonal 1x daily route.

    Competing with Spirit in Cleveland serves no real strategic purpose. JB is fighting for low-yield traffic that is only stimulated by price in a city that likely will not be long term strategic. JetBlue needs to go after the low-tier elites in BOS, NYC, MIA, DC areas and become relevant. The experience is better on JB than as a DL Silver. So it is surprising to see an “investment” here vs an ATL, STL, ORD expansion, LAX or SFO expansion, etc. There is certainly lower hanging fruit out there.

  4. B6 is moving in on the market left by the CO/UAL reductions in CLE. CO used that as a Hub for decades, successfully. So far B6 has done well in it competitive markets except for ATL/LGB. The Spirit cattle cars are great if you want to get somewhere for $19.00 and have no bags. But i tell you when I am not on B6 or a carrier with in flight entertainment, it is a long boring trip. certainly worth the higher prices.

  5. Only thing I can say is perhaps its more of a long term strategy, in that, yes they will lose money, but they are also sending the message to all airlines that if you plan to come into our markets, you can be confident we will retaliate. And maybe this holds a competitor back from entering one of their markets down the road.

  6. Spirit BOS-LAS maybe needless, but I’m sure a lot of people from CLE and DTW go to south Florida so the need is there for anyone to be in the market.

  7. did it ever occur to anyone that JetBlue is building up FLL as a connect point to Caribbean/Central America? so CLE and DTW make sense so it may be retaliatory, but it also probably just accelerated a pre-planned addition to their system. The more they can dismantle Spirit’s FLL operations in the process, the better

    1. sure it does. B6 has even publicly stated that once the FLL runway was complete, they would ramp up flights there pretty quickly. So it is not surprising. I’m sure they studied the profitability of every other “blue city” connecting to FLL so that they could do things like this. It is possible that this was just “moving up the timeline” and launching early, but the question remains if that is still a worthwhile strategy given that B6 has less fleet slack / available assets than its competitors.

      1. The problem right now is that JetBlue is having to share Concourse F with Spirit as Terminal 4 is under expansion. They are currently adding Concourse G and Customs to Terminal 4 with a connector behind security to Terminal 3. This is supposed to be completed mid-2016.

  8. Kudos to Spirit and JetBlue for doing things to get people like you, me, and us to take notice and talk about.

    I take the postion that most new, matching, or whatever routes are done for little reason other than to reek havoc on (or, let’s be honest) to kill off some actual or peceived competitor. Actually to generate new business, or to fatten the bottom line, oh please!

    So, the new route carrier then decides on fares. More “to reek havoc or kill off” someone! Fares that make no sense whatsoever, but yes, they are matching..

    I admit to enjoying all this. For me, a day without fare-checking is, to paraphrase what’s her name, like a day without sunshine. To see stuff happen with fares from otherwise somewhat sane carriers when Spirit is involved (as was Southwest a ways back) is such joy.

    The DC area to LAS is my favorite little sandbox. Spirit’s daily nonstop from BWI; Southwest’s 3 dailly nonstops from BWI; USAir’s nonstop from DCA; UA’s 2 daily nonstops from IAD; and Frontier, thank you, 2 nonstops too, from IAD. And one-way fares, heaven!

    Well, start with Spirit’s $35.09 or $53.09 (Fare Club or not Fare Club, respectively) base fare. [Does anyone have a more hilarious booking site than Spirt, what with the comments and everything else you are not sure what they are talking about or without much assurance you know what your final price will be!] Southwest goes off at $94, total, and UA pretty much matches what with $101, $102, and $98 return, total fares. DCA and IAD are typically UA and US about $272-279, but some days look out, the UA nonstop goes for $133. [For UA, the market to LAS from DCA and IAD is also one of those great “direct flight,” marketing shams. Lots of “direct” service even though they all require plane changes. “Change-of-guage” they call it. I call it shameless dishonesty in marketing even if UA and DOT haven’t found anything improper with it.]

    Thanks for your post, Cranky, and I do love to rant!

  9. I don’t think this is an overreaction at all. When jetBlue announced BOS-DTW Delta reacted by adding Nassau, Turks and Caicos, Richmond, Las Vegas, Jacksonville. When Delta announced SFO-SEA service United reacted by adding flights to Minneapolis and Atlanta. When Delta added several cities in SEA Alaska reacted by adding several cities from SLC. You can even see it in PHL when US Airways added more LHR service once Delta announced it. I think this is how the industry reacts and is structured. Competition is good for the consumer and gives them a choice.

    Its funny how we react to new routes which might might have some competition. We don’t complain when one of the wireless companies announce a new or cheaper feature and the others follow. It just makes us more happy.

    I also believe the new FLL routes on jetBlue were probably already on its radar. Similar cities like PIT, PVD, BDL already have service to FLL on jetBlue. Maybe those cities became a higher priority once Spirit announced what they did.

  10. Lately, it seems like B6’s domestic growth strategy at FLL has been nothing more than responses to competitors adding or dropping routes. VX starts SFO-FLL, so B6 does too. WN drops FLL-JAX and makes FLL-PIT seasonal, so B6 adds both routes. Now in response to NK they add service to CLE and DTW from FLL, with the flights set to begin right when Florida starts to get unbearably hot for the Midwesterners. Still no FLL-BWI/DFW/HOU/MCO/ORD/PHL/TPA, though. Any of those flights would provide much better feed for the international flights than something like CLE or JAX, plus services like those would greatly increase B6’s appeal to FFers in South Florida as well as abroad.

    That said, I think both of these routes will do fine. More examples of missed opportunities for WN, IMO. Some people are willing to pay more for the better product – for examples, families can see value in the free snacks and TVs as oppose to the ULCCs. B6 will fill the UA void on CLE-FLL much better than no frills F9 or NK, of course. DTW-South Florida is either AA/DL or NK, B6 can provide a great alternative in this realm.

  11. NO. I don’t believe that on 10 minutes notice, that JetBlue would have suddenly decided to fly from Fort Lauderdale to both Cleveland and Detroit, and to announce it. Things just don’t work that fast. What I do believe is that they had already decided to fly those routes and that they quickly decided to take advantage of the current publicity cycle by announcing it on top of the Spirit announcement. They will probably now get more total publicity than if they had announced later on by themselves, especially if Spirit had already soaked up the local kudos in Cleveland and Detroit. Maybe also they are looking at the Fort Lauderdale origin/destination market, where they do dominate, and taking action to help keep it that way?


  12. If they were going to react to Delta sometime, I wish they would start Atlanta service again in 2015.

  13. anytime an airline starts a route that compete’s with another airline, the other airline is going to react….like Alaska with Delta in Seattle….Alaska needs to stop crying and move on….if you have a good product, people will continue to fly that airline no matter what….Alaska starting all these new flights out of SLC is a joke and waste of money…stick to what you know and act like an adult…JetBlue and Spirit are 2 totally different worlds…..JetBlue isn’t going to be loosing much traffic if at all….JetBlue has a huge following, respected product while Spirit is bare bone’s….BOS-LAS is to long of a flight to go with knee’s pressed to your chest and pay for everything when you are buying their tickets on-line….Spirit is going to attract people that wouldn’t ordinarily fly while JetBlue is a proven success….JetBlue just needs to sit tight and not over react and start wasting money trying to compete, like adding extra flights, low fare’s that aren’t going to make you money….i hope JetBlue doesn’t follow Alaska into the over reaction game….

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