Spirit Airlines, which sells bargain fares to top U.S. vacation destinations, including Florida and Las Vegas, was one of the first airlines to see an uptick in travel demand.
The no-frills airline said in early May that bookings were starting to pick up and said it planned to add more flights back in June.
The carrier ended up adding even more than planned — building from 50 flights a day to more than 300 this week — and will add even more in July as coronavirus restrictions ease across the country and some travelers are eager to get out after months at home.
“There is clearly a segment of the traveling public who is ready to go,” Spirit CEO Ted Christie said in an interview with USA TODAY Thursday.
A Spirit Airlines Airbus jet at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
Spirit will offer an average of 550 daily flights in July, down from 700 last summer but a drastic improvement from the depths of the crisis in April. It will serve 63 of the 75 destinations it served before the pandemic decimated travel in March, more if international travel restrictions are lifted. All of its 154 planes will be back in service.
Christie said the rebound, which has also been fueled by cheap fares, has been a positive surprise compared with initial expectations.
“The good news is we’re seeing strength throughout the network,” he said. “It’s not just localized in any one particular geography.”
The big question, of course, is whether the trends will continue given a spike in coronavirus cases in certain areas of the country, including Arizona, Texas and Florida. Spirit is based in Florida, has a hub at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and about half of its flights touch the state.
The spike has some states pausing their reopening plans and others putting restrictions on travelers from the new coronavirus hot spots. On Wednesday, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey said they will require visitors from states with increasing coronavirus cases to quarantine for 14 days.
“It’s not great news,” Christie said of the new tri-state travel restrictions.
But, he said, it’s “too early to tell” whether the quarantine requirements and general spike in cases will keep more travelers home and stunt the nascent rebound.
The CEO of plane manufacturer Airbus Americas also raised concerns about the new restrictions in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Thursday.
“This is not helpful,” Jeff Knittel said. “When there are restrictions by state, it creates obstacles,”
One plus that Spirit sees, at least among its passengers: a lot of people flying right now are headed to see people they know.
“The resilient consumers are usually people who want to see their friends and family,” Christie said. “When you’re going somewhere, and you know where you’re going to stay, you feel a little bit more comfortable.”
If demand falls off on any routes, Spirit will do what it and other airlines have done since the pandemic began: cut flights.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Spirit Airlines sees strong bookings for summer travel, adds flights