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Photograph: Courtesy Spirit Airlines

How the JetBlue and Spirit Airlines merger could get you $19 flight tickets this fall

Erika Mailman
Written by
Erika Mailman

Big news for the airline industry: JetBlue announced it will purchase Spirit Airlines last week for $3.8 billion after a merger with Spirit and Frontier Airlines fell through, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. This combination of two powerhouse budget airlines will create the fifth largest US carrier.

For months, JetBlue and Frontier have been bidding against each other for the airline with distinctive bright yellow planes. Frontier had already been set to buy Spirit when JetBlue came in with an all-cash offer of $3.6 billion. JetBlue may have been particularly motivated to break up this sale after it lost out to Alaska Air in 2016 when trying to acquire Virgin America.

If all goes through with Spirit (regulatory approval will be key), JetBlue will expand holdings in Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas and overseas in the Caribbean and Latin America. As reported by the Journal, JetBlue expects ‘net synergies of as much as $700 million a year’ in three years’ time.

So, what does that mean for travelers? Spirit’s planes will have more legroom, as JetBlue plans to rip out some seats (but... does that then mean we pay more? Experts think that trying to stay competitive with spurned lover Frontier will keep prices low.) There will be more planes in the combined entity: Spirit’s approximately 180 planes will join JetBlue’s approximately 280, along with 300 more on order. JetBlue will be grateful to take on Spirit’s pilots at a time of pilot shortages.

Spirit has some pretty bare-bones practices that may vanish after the merger, like charging for any bag that doesn’t fit under the seat in front of you (buy a backpack that zips sideways like a suitcase) and like not giving you anything at all refreshment-wise. Suddenly that tiny bag of peanuts seems glamorously upscale...

For everyone worried that Spirit’s super-cheap seats will vanish when the deal is completed, take heart in Frontier’s revenge sale (some seats as cheap as $19!). As seems only fair, Spirit will have to pay Frontier $25 million for its wasted time and expenses. Airline dating is hard!

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