Spirit Airlines Could Be On The Verge Of A Huge Airbus Order

Spirit Airlines may be ready to commit to a provisional order of up to 100 single-aisle jets from Airbus. In a deal which could be worth up to $12 billion, the US low-cost airline would further its commitment to operating a 100% Airbus fleet.

A Spirit Airlines Airbus A321
Reports suggest that Spirit Airlines is on the verge of making a big aircraft order. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

Reports from Reuters today suggest that Spirit Airlines is ready to commit to an order of up to 100 new Airbus jets.

Spirit Airlines confirmed in August that it was considering the Airbus A321neo as one of its options for a significant fleet expansion.

Currently Spirit Airlines operates 140 aircraft in total, all of which are Airbus types. The Airbus A319s, A320s and A321s which currently make up Spirit Airlines’ fleet are all short-to-medium-range, narrow-body jets.

If the rumours of a new Airbus order are to be believed, the deal could be worth up to $12 billion for the European manufacturer. Considering Spirit Airlines’ history with Airbus aircraft, it seems an order of 100 Airbus A321neos is definitely not beyond the realms of possibility.

Why is Spirit Airlines so keen on Airbus?

Most airlines operate a variety of different aircraft models from different manufacturers.

Spirit Airlines, on the other hand is Airbus through and through. It hasn’t always been that way – Spirit used to operate a variety of McDonnell Douglas jets.

A Spirit Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-9
Spirit Airlines used to operate McDonnell Douglas jets. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Since 2006, however, Spirit has stuck with Airbus, particularly the A320 family of jets.

There’s a reason for this brand loyalty, especially for a low-cost airline like Spirit, which survives on tight profit margins.

Operating a fleet of aircraft from the same manufacturer, and even more so the same aircraft family, can save significant amounts of money on maintenance and training costs.

This is a typical practice among low-cost carriers. Ryanair, for example, only operates Boeing aircraft, while easyJet, once a Boeing loyal, is now a strictly-Airbus carrier.

Would Spirit Airlines consider Boeing?

Despite Spirit Airlines’ clear preference for Airbus, there have been suggestions that the airline is considering Boeing for some of its new aircraft.

Back in August, comments by Spirit Airlines’ CEO, Ted Christie, raised speculation over a possible switch to Boeing.

“The A321neo is certainly something we’re looking at, but we’re also in conversations with Boeing about their larger airplane too, so it’s all on the table,” Christie said at an aviation conference over the summer.

Tariffs on Boeing’s side

The Trump administration has recently imposed a 10% tariff upon Airbus’s products being sold in the US, excluding aircraft assembled at the Airbus plant in Mobile, Alabama.

The protectionist move by the US, which President Trump called a “big win”, does give Boeing a competitive advantage on home soil.

A Spirit Airlines Airbus A319
Spirit Airlines now operates Airbus aircraft only. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

But if, as expected, the EU retaliates in kind, Boeing stands to lose out when it comes to sales to European airlines.

Meanwhile, the US tariffs against Airbus clearly haven’t have big enough an impact to deter Spirit Airlines from considering a multi-billion-dollar order for the European manufacturer’s aircraft.

While specific details of the order remain unclear, it looks like Spirit is on the verge of making a big commitment.