Spirit Airlines adds 3 routes to new destination in Mexico, continues growing at LAX


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Spirit Airlines is expanding south of the border.

On Wednesday, the Miramar, Florida-based carrier announced that its yellow Airbuses will be touching down in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (PVR), on July 1.

Spirit will serve this popular Mexico beach destination from three cities: Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Houston (IAH). Service from LAX will be daily, while the Texas routes will be operated three-times-weekly, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

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“Offering our guests convenient flights to beautiful destinations and spectacular beaches is what Spirit Airlines is all about, which makes Puerto Vallarta the perfect new market to connect to major cities in our network,” John Kirby, vice president of network planning, in a statement.

In addition to adding PVR as a new route-map pin, the carrier will boost existing service to Mexico, where it currently serves both Cancun (CUN) and Los Cabos (SJD). Spirit will add a daily flight from LAX to SJD beginning on May 5, joining existing service from DFW and IAH.

The two new Los Angeles flights mark a major milestone for the carrier — they’ll become the first international routes from this rapidly growing Spirit Airlines station.

Domestically, Spirit is also adding a new daily LAX flight, to Columbus (CMH) in Ohio, beginning on June 9. This joins the recently announced service to Louisville (SDF), St. Louis (STL), New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Milwaukee (MKE).

Altogether, with the latest additions, LAX will become the carrier’s fourth-largest operating base, after Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Orlando (MCO) and Las Vegas (LAS). Two years ago, the gateway to Southern California was the tenth-largest in the network; now it’s averaging roughly 40 flights a day.

“We’ve long wished to grow in Los Angeles, but it’s a very constrained airport. This pandemic has given us the opportunity to grow our footprint there, and we’re taking advantage of it,” Kirby said in a recorded interview.

The growth spurt in Los Angeles comes as the competition for the city heats up. No single U.S. airline dominates the LAX market. All three major network carriers have a hub there, while Southwest and JetBlue both consider it to be a focus city.

For the O&D (origin and destination) traffic at LAX, Spirit’s growth spells good news. The carrier’s bare fares will likely cause the incumbents to compete more closely on price. Angelenos will enjoy more robust flight options as well.

Related: Spirit Airlines adds 2 new cities in 12-route expansion

As for Mexico, Spirit’s route choices pit it squarely against two of the nation’s largest carriers: American Airlines and United. Each operates a mega-hub in Dallas and Houston, respectively, and Spirit’s new PVR flights will likely compete fiercely with these Big 3 competitors. In fact, the IAH-PVR route will break United’s 18-year (and counting) monopoly on the nonstop route, according to Cirium schedule data.

“The important thing is serving Puerto Vallarta from the right gateways. We’ve historically been more of an eastern half of the country carrier, but Puerto Vallarta is a western half destination,” Kirby said.

Spirit’s rapid growth — nine new cities since the outset of the pandemic — comes as travelers are quickly returning to the skies. Leisure-focused routes are performing the best, with every major airline doubling down on outdoor-friendly destinations like beaches and national parks.

With more than a million average daily travelers passing through TSA checkpoints nationwide, Spirit’s seemingly hopeful that it can capture its share while using the pandemic-related downturn to bolster its position as the nation’s top budget carrier.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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