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Spirit inks deal to bring wi-fi onboard

Spirit Airlines is moving ahead with plans to install wi-fi on its fleet, as part of a strategy to improve its appeal to passengers.

The Miramar, Florida-based airline will begin equipping its fleet with wi-fi connectivity around late fall, and aims to complete installations on its entire fleet by mid- to late-summer next year. Spirit operates 119 Airbus A320 family aircraft, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

Spirit president and chief financial officer Ted Christie tells FlightGlobal that the airline had looked into offering wi-fi for some years, but could not find a solution that would fit with its low-cost structure.

"There were certain terms that needed to be met for an onboard wi-fi product to work for us, and that was that it wouldn't move our core costs or spread the expenses across the passengers and raise fares. We did not want to do that," says Christie in an interview ahead of the airline's formal announcement today.

Christie declines to specify the amount that Spirit is investing in the wi-fi offering, but stresses that it will not alter the airline's cost structure.

Spirit will be the first ultra low-cost carrier in the Americas to offer wi-fi, which will be provided via Thales' Ka-band high-throughput satellite system. Spirit says the wi-fi will be available for an average price of $6.50, depending on the route and demand. The connectivity onboard will also allow passengers to stream entertainment.

The wi-fi offer will be yet another ancillary revenue stream for Spirit, which is focused on growing non-fare revenue in the coming years. While there will be minimal benefit on revenue this year, Christie expects a "notable improvement" for ancillary revenue when the wi-fi is rolled out across Spirit's entire fleet.

"It will be a revenue upside for the business," says Christie. "Passengers travelling with us today want it and will pay for it. The challenge was always, how do we get it to them?"

Spirit is unveiling the wi-fi offering along with a customer-focused initiative that it calls Invest in the Guest - the latest in a series of steps that Spirit has taken in recent years to improve its reputation among passengers.

Christie, who has been promoted to replace Bob Fornaro as chief executive in 2019, says Spirit wants to retain elements core to the airline, such as its low-cost structure. However, he also sees room for the carrier to get the word out about its ongoing commitment to delivering on-time performance and customer service.

"We want to reach people who don't know us yet, promising we are all these things and more, and convince them to join the Spirit family," says Christie.

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