That’s the spirit: Florida carrier wants to be asked

Limited offer! Act now! That’s the pitch from spirited little Spirit, the South Florida carrier that’s seeking southward growth. airline-spirit.jpg Moving to establish itself as the first truly low-fares airlines between the US and the Caribbean, Spirit is asking cities that want its service to ask for it. Literally. The airline, based in Miramar, has told cities that want its brand of unbundled ‘ultra low fares’ service to submit highly detailed proposals to it by the 10th of August; it will select up to 10 new routes from its Fort Lauderdale hub and as many as three new international US gateway cites for flights to start in the summer of 2008. “Spirit Airlines is particularly interested in cities that are underserved by their existing air service, whose fares are overpriced, and cities that have the ability to provide a low cost of doing business”, it says. The application should have details on the local market, on demand and above all on public-private partnerships – which include airport incentives. Its site for information and applications makes its point: adioshighfares. But the carrier stresses that it is not looking for deals from cities but for market opportunities.
Spirit’s informal request for proposals is similar in a sense to Frontier Airlines’ request for proposals from Rocky Mountain-region communities for its new Lynx turboprop service or an online poll that AirTran put up earlier this year asking viewers to ‘vote’ on the cities that they wanted served by the Orlando-based carrier, but this is perhaps a bolder approach to network development. Spirit, which bases its growth on ethnic travellers visiting home and family well as on the traditional and paler beachgoer, faces increasing competition from powerful neighbour Miami, where American Airlines has its major Caribbean hub. And American has begun adding Fort Lauderdale service that overlaps some of its Miami flights and competes directly with Spirit routes. AirTran and JetBlue also have growing Caribbean networks and in fact JetBlue and Spirit recently announced new flights between Fort Lauderdale and Ponce Puerto Rico within hours of each other.

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