Listen up, budget travelers — there’s a giant new low-cost airline coming.
Spirit and Frontier Airlines, the top two ultra-low-cost carriers in the US, announced plans to merge into what would be the fifth largest carrier overall behind American, Delta, United, and Southwest. The deal still needs to be approved by federal regulators at the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation, but we can start thinking about what the merge might mean for travelers who go for cheap, no-frills flights.
Not much has been revealed about the $6.6 billion deal, including whether the airlines will continue to operate as separate airlines or under one brand, or transform into an entirely new airline with a new name. The headquarters of the two companies — Spirit is based in Miramar in South Florida, Frontier is based in Denver — will also have to duke it out, as the home base of the merged company has yet to be identified either.
What we do know is that the merger will create more stability as the two airlines combine resources (pilots, planes) and routes. Will we see cheaper fares? It’s not clear, but you’ll likely have more options for where you can fly for cheap. Combined, the airline will serve around 145 destinations with more than 600 nonstop routes across the USA, Latin America and the Caribbean. The new company will also be able to expand into new, smaller cities. Their combined resources and schedules in various cities will allow the airline to offer more ultra-low-cost fares, though base fares for the combined airline will likely be a little higher (about $54 for a one-way ticket compared to Spirit's average base fare of $46 and Frontier's at $39), but you’ll see more of those low fares to more destinations.
What about service disruptions? We’ve all heard horror stories about delays and cancellations with these airlines. The combined fleet should help the airline recover from disruptions more quickly, and become more reliable than on their own. Here’s hoping this marriage gets the thumbs-up and results in more cheap flights, less hassle.
PLUS, did you know booze is back on Southwest flights starting February 16?