Spirit Airline's business model
CloseOpen Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
A Spirit Airlines Inc. jet takes off at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia.
“We typically run below the industry average because our network is so broad and thin, ” Gabel said. “So we will make the conscious decision to take a delay versus a cancellation.”
Because Spirit has a limited number of departures each day from any airport, and in some instances only a few a week, it can’t just call off a flight in the case of bad weather or a sick pilot and rebook passengers on the next jet out.
So 32-year-old Spirit does well in one category, as the carrier with the third-fewest cancellations, according to Portland, Oregon-based FlightStats, after Allegiant Travel Co.’s Allegiant Air and Virgin America Inc.
FlightStats issues monthly reports on performance, based on data it collects from the Federal Aviation Administration, airline reservation systems, the carriers themselves and the 40 busiest airports in North America. Hawaiian Airlines Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc.’s Alaska Airlines rank first and second in punctuality, according to FlightStats.Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg
A ground crew member loads baggage onto a Spirit Airlines Inc. plane at the San Diego International Airport in San Diego.
A ground crew member loads baggage onto a Spirit Airlines Inc. plane at the San Diego...Open Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg
The U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of the Inspector General reported in December that government accounts of industry on-time performance are lacking, because federal agencies don’t track international flights or those operated by small carriers like Spirit that are responsible for less than 1 percent of total domestic passenger revenue.
According to the Transportation Department ranking, Frontier Airlines is the tardiest, with a 78.6 percent on-time record. Hawaiian Holdings Inc.’s Hawaiian is the most dependable, at 93.9 percent.
Even passengers who like Spirit’s discounts may bristle at the add-on costs.
“They have carved out a niche that is very different than everybody else, ” said Bob McAdoo, an Imperial Capital LLC analyst in Los Angeles, who, like Wolfe’s Keay, has an outperform rating on the stock. “It’s so new and so different that a lot of people who don’t understand it hate it.”