In February, Spirit Airlines will launch a brand new route to Ponce, Puerto Rico. The carrier’s third destination on the island, Spirit, will fly to Ponce from Orlando, Florida. While the route will have some origin and destination demand, Spirit is also marketing this as a route with one-stop connections, making this route all the more interesting.
Spirit Airlines is flying to Ponce
Starting on February 16th, Spirit Airlines will launch daily flights from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Ponce’s Mercedita International Airport (PSE). The route will operate onboard an Airbus A319. The A319s seat 145 passengers and is Spirit’s smallest aircraft type.
John Kirby, Spirit’s Vice President of Network Planning, stated the following on the new route:
“Adding Ponce as our third market in Puerto Rico is a fantastic way to celebrate 20 years of Spirit serving the island. Our new nonstop flights to Orlando provide connectivity to many high-value travel options for flying in or out of Ponce, along with serving the vibrant and growing Puerto Rican community in Central Florida.”
Spirit Airlines first inaugurated flights to Puerto Rico in 2001. Back then, its initial flights were to San Juan, the largest city on the island. In 2007, Spirit expanded to Aguadilla.
Spirit will face competition from JetBlue, which flies from Ponce to Orlando nonstop. Around the winter peak and into summer 2022, JetBlue will also connect Ponce to New York-JFK. However, Spirit is no stranger to competition.
Offering one-stop connections
What is interesting about this route is Spirit is pitching the one-stop options from PSE. Passengers can connect in Orlando to go to several destinations across the US, including:
- Atlanta (ATL)
- Baltimore (BWI)
- Cleveland (CLE)
- Columbus (CMH)
- Detroit (DTW)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
- Hartford (BDL)
- Houston (IAH)
- Minneapolis (MSP)
- Nashville (BNA)
- New Orleans (MSY)
- Pensacola (PNS)
- Philadelphia (PHL)
- Pittsburgh (PIT)
Spirit is an ultra-low-cost carrier. Typically, the airline orients its network toward point-to-point travel. However, this network has yielded some interesting results, namely, large bases in leisure-oriented cities like Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
As Spirit has grown larger, its network of opportunities has only been expanded by the connections it can offer. While some low-cost carriers do not offer connecting itineraries – like Allegiant, others do. Spirit generally has been more willing to sell connections.
For example, two of its largest hubs, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, are already primed to handle connections from destinations in the eastern United States down to cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Spirit has been adding secondary cities in countries like Colombia that offer connections to and from various points across the US US.
Expanding its growth horizon
As Spirit Airlines looks to almost double in size over the next few years, it will need to orient its network in a way that can support growth. The US market is highly competitive, and by orienting parts of its network to support connections, it can put more destinations, like Ponce, on its route map.
Spirit already does have flights to some smaller cities in the United States, which have worked on connections to major leisure destinations. But, smaller cities in Latin America and the Caribbean are more challenging to serve without connections. While there is a large market of visiting friends and relatives (VFR) traffic from Florida to parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, these routes are highly competitive. Any move the carrier can do to shore up its loads is a good one.