Spirit Airlines is optimistic that it will be one of the first carriers to pull out of the coronavirus-driven industry crisis as leisure travellers begin to return and book vacations in greater numbers.

The Miramar, Florida-headquartered ultra low-cost carrier says on 21 April that even though it had widened its loss for the first quarter to $112.3 million, demand had picked up in the final weeks of the period.

Spirit A319 Max KJ FG

Source: Max Kingsley-Jones/FlightGlobal

Spirit hopes to achieve profitability this year

Last year, the company posted a $27.8 million loss in the first quarter, as the Covid-19 pandemic was just beginning to make itself felt in the industry.

For 2020, the airline reported a full-year loss of $507.8 million.

“We were very pleased to see how well both our domestic and international network performed as demand strengthened in the last few weeks of the quarter,” says Ted Christie, the airline’s chief executive. “This strength, along with improvement in forward bookings, drove positive cash from operations for the full first quarter 2021.”

Total revenues during the period between January and March fell to $461.3 million, down 40.2% from the $771.1 million it reported in the same quarter a year ago. Load factor for the first quarter 2021 was 72.1 percent, which was about 27% lower than during the same period a year ago, but slightly higher than during the fourth quarter of coronavirus-plagued 2020.

“While acknowledging that the recovery is still in progress and may not be linear, we continue to believe we will be among the first US carriers to reach sustained profitability,” he adds

The US government’s testing requirement for all inbound international passengers which was implemented on 26 January negatively affected 12% of its flights, the airline says. In addition to its extensive domestic network, Spirit also flies numerous routes to Latin America and the Caribbean, popular with holiday-makers headed for a beach vacation. 

Assuming the positive forward booking trends seen in the later weeks of the first quarter continue, the airline says it will likely achieve positive adjusted earnings for the full year 2021.

In February, the carrier had already told analysts that it plans to return to full pre-pandemic capacity levels by the busy summer travel season. It also is looking to take delivery of 16 aircraft by year-end and 17 more in 2022.

Spirit says that it gained two new A320neo aircraft during the first quarter 2021, which were financed through direct operating leases, and purchased two A319ceo aircraft off lease. The company ended the quarter with a total of 159 aircraft in its all-Airbus fleet