Florida-based ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines has decided to start flying triangular routes to comply with provisions in the CARES Act. With many aircraft flying with low passenger numbers due to the coronavirus, crisis, Spirit has decided to deploy many of its smaller aircraft on triangular multi-city routes.
Looking at the airline’s schedule, it appears as though the American budget airline will have flights stopping at two cities before aircraft return to their home airport. This new way of operating seems to be earmarked for the next couple of months.
Spirit wanted to stop flying to 26 airports
To comply with the conditions laid out in the Payroll Support Program grant originating from the CARES Act, airlines must continue operating to all markets they served before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many airlines in the United States have reasonably complied while hoping that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will turn a blind eye when they drop routes that have little or no passengers.
So far, the DOT has shown little or no leniency towards the idea of canceling routes, forcing airlines to rethink their strategies. Both JetBlue and Alaska Airlines are returning to old fashioned tag flights rather than non-stops, while Spirit Airlines goes in a different direction with its triangular plan.
Originally, Spirit asked if it could drop 26 airports from its flight network yet only received permission to stop flying to the resort town of Aguadilla in Puerto Rico. Of the ones not approved, more than half will be a part of the new triangular routes.
Spirit will get $330 million in aid
When looking at the examples on the map, the Latrobe-Pittsburgh route is a complete waste of time when you learn that Latrobe is just 46 miles from Pittsburgh, a distance Americans don’t ever consider a long drive.
The triangular routes are a small price to pay when Spirit expects to receive $330 million of the $50 billion in federal aid that the United States government has set aside to help airlines impacted by COVID-19.
The rules outlined in the CARES Act have been perceived to favor the big three American airlines leaving low-cost leisure-oriented airlines like Frontier and Spirit to fly routes they would be better off canceling.
Typically low-cost airlines fly less frequently to their destinations in the hope that they can fill up the planes with people. More prominent airlines like United can adjust the frequency of flights to specific airports without harming the community. This is much harder for Spirit to do, which is why the no-frills airline will start flying triangular routes that incorporate around an hour of layover time.
Spirit is poised to bounce back
After finishing 2019 with a surplus of $1.1 billion in cash, and now a $330 million loan to help meet payroll, Spirit is in a better position than many other airlines. Forecasters predict that the all-Airbus airline will not only survive the current crisis but come bouncing back once people start flying again.
What do you think about Spirit’s new triangular routes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.