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In a much-anticipated move that played out over the past several months, JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines have announced that JetBlue will acquire Spirit.
JetBlue’s press release on the merger heralds the move, saying the two airlines will join “to create a national low-fare challenger to the dominant big four airlines.”
The merger will create the fifth largest airline in the United States.
“We are excited to deliver this compelling combination that turbocharges our strategic growth, enabling JetBlue to bring our unique blend of low fares and exceptional service to more customers, on more routes,” said Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, in the release.
“We look forward to welcoming Spirit’s outstanding team members to JetBlue and together creating a customer-centric, fifth-largest carrier in the United States. Spirit and JetBlue will continue to advance our shared goal of disrupting the industry to bring down fares from the big four airlines. This combination is an exciting opportunity to diversify and expand our network, add jobs and new possibilities for Crewmembers and expand our platform for profitable growth.”
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Ted Christie, president and CEO of Spirit, said in the release that the merge would be a “gamechanger” and heralded the rise of a new low-cost carrier.
JetBlue says the merger will “accelerate” its growth plan with over 1,700 daily flights to 125 destinations in 30 countries based on December 2022 schedules. It also says the merger will “increase relevance for JetBlue in certain key focus cities (Los Angeles; Orlando; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and San Juan, Puerto Rico) as well as big four’s airline hubs (Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and Miami).”
The airlines will continue to operate independently until closing on the merger is complete.
Not all experts are projecting benefits and boons for travelers. William J. McGee, senior fellow for aviation and travel for American Economic Liberties Project (AELP), told Smart Meetings, “AELP is opposed to further consolidation in the airline industry, because the existing consolidation has caused so many harms.
“In this specific case, absorbing Spirit will remove an ultra-low cost carrier and the effects on routes currently served by Spirit will be that fares will increase. And as with all airline mergers, this merger will bring less competition, higher costs, higher fares, less service in certain cities and employee lay-offs.”
Bottom line for meeting planners: Some experts believe the merger is bad for consumers and say it will drive up fares. Others believe the merger will take down the level of service status that the current JetBlue enjoys among consumers, making it a lower-service airline with less perks and reduced comforts.
Until JetBlue and Spirit prove these theories wrong, it’s best for travel planners to hope for the best, but expect higher fares (the current trend even before the merger) and a potentially lowered inflight experience on the new merged airline.