Labor Shortage: Spirit Cuts 9% Of January Flights

This week, Spirit has cut 9% of its January flights. The reason: the continuing staffing problems. Because of this, the ultra-low-cost carrier has a more conservative outlook in the near term, probably lasting until the end of the first half of 2022, as it gets back on track.

Spirit Airlines Airbus A320-271N N915NK.jpg (2)
Spirit has added more January flights at Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Newark, while Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Tampa, Orlando, and Baltimore have the most significant cuts. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

What’s happening in January?

Following swift growth, Spirit expects 21,066 flights in January, based on its schedule filing this week. That’s down from 23,182 last week, a drop of 9% and a loss of 2,116 movements. February is down too, with 5% of flights slashed this week.

In 2019, the last normal year, January and February had the fewest Spirit flights for sale, based on examining schedules information via Cirium. February, the nadir of the year, had one-quarter fewer services (24%) than August, the peak month.

Following this pulldown and Spirit’s big problems over the summer, Spirit’s CEO, Ted Christi, sees 2022 as the “recovery year.” Speaking at the carrier’s recent call to discuss the $14.8 million net profit in the third quarter, Christi said:

“[We’re] taking our foot off the gas here for a little bit of time. Let’s see the hiring come in … and we’ll layer the capacity in as necessary. It has been a tough labor market. We’re adapting to that … The labor market will become more normal and we’re going to be ready for that.”

Spirit route cuts in January 2022
Although a big mess of a map, this shows all routes in January that have seen flights reduce. Image: GCMap.

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Widespread cuts in January

The reductions are widespread, with 114 routes in January to see fewer flights. Over one-third of the total cuts (36%) involve Fort Lauderdale, Spirit’s busiest airport. This collaborates Christi’s assertion that Spirit has had a particularly trying time recruiting ground crew and airport staff at the airport.

Nine routes have been removed for January, as shown below. However, when writing, all but one will resume at some point in February. The sole exception is Fort Lauderdale to Hartford, which is bookable from March 9th.

  1. Fort Lauderdale to Raleigh Durham
  2. Fort Lauderdale to Managua
  3. Fort Lauderdale to Pensacola
  4. Fort Lauderdale to Minneapolis (but see below!)
  5. Detroit to Minneapolis
  6. Fort Lauderdale to Hartford
  7. Orlando to Port-au-Prince
  8. Miami to St. Thomas
  9. Miami to San Salvador
All of these will have more flights in January 2022
All of these will have more flights in January than previously expected, including new Miami-Minneapolis. Some 510 flights have been added across these routes in the past week. Detroit (DTW) to Fort Myers (RSW) is the greatest recipient, with January departures more than doubling from 39 to 82. Image: GCMap.

It’s not all bad news

Despite not operating Fort Lauderdale to Minneapolis in January, Spirit will introduce Miami to Minneapolis from January 5th. Initially running five-weekly, it’ll slowly climb to seven-weekly.

And with Fort Lauderdale to Minneapolis returning on February 17th, Spirit will serve Minnesota from both South Florida airports – just like Alaska Airlines and Seattle.

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