Could Spirit Order Boeing Aircraft?

US-based low cost carrier Spirit Airlines is reportedly considering adding Boeing aircraft to its fleet. CEO Ted Christie has indicated that, as well as considering which A320 family aircraft they might add in the future, the airline is also contemplating ‘larger’ Boeing products too.

Spirit Airlines
Could Spirit Airlines be contemplating Boeing widebodies? Photo: Tomas Del Coro via Flickr

According to Reuters, Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie said at an aviation conference yesterday that,

“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.”

Going for Boeing would be a big change for the all-Airbus airline and something that could prove costly in terms of scaling up spares, crew training and maintenance.

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Would Spirit really consider Boeing?

Although, in the past, Spirit operated a whole range of McDonnel Douglas aircraft, by 2006 it had phased out every single one. All were replaced by A320 family aircraft, of which it currently flies a fleet of 136.

Spirit has on order 43 A320neos and just one A320ceo version. By the end of the year, it hopes to have a fleet of 144 aircraft, and by the end of 2021, this will have reached 177 planes, all made up of A320 family aircraft.

Spirit Airlines A320neo_1
Spirit was the first operator of the A320neo in the US. Photo: Airbus

Clearly, a move to Boeing would be a massive change for the low cost carrier, and one which would come with different requirements for everything from tooling to pilot training and more. It seems absurd that they would consider Boeing planes, but perhaps there’s a reason for this.

Right now, Boeing needs all the support it can get for its 737 MAX family of aircraft. The likelihood is that they are willing to offer an amazing deal to Spirit, which could offset the associated costs to the carrier of introducing a new fleet type.

A decision soon?

Back in September last year, the at-the-time CEO of Spirit Airlines Robert Fornaro told Flight Global that he wasn’t averse to adding a new aircraft type to its all-Airbus fleet. At the time, he said that they would not rule out adding the A220, Embraer products or aircraft made by Boeing.

Although a single fleet type is a key element of a solid low cost strategy, Fornaro was confident that it wouldn’t erode the airline’s competitive advantage. He mentioned also that the A321LR and, at the time unannounced, XLR would be on the table too, alongside long-range Boeing narrowbodies.

Spirit Airlines
A move to Boeing would be a massive change for the airline. Photo: Spirit

At the time, the airline had mentioned making future fleet decisions in the early part of the new year. However, by February, this goalpost had shifted to a midyear order decision. Although Fornaro retired at the end of 2018, incoming CEO Ted Christie seems to hold the same opinion about fleet diversification.

Speaking to AIN Online, he said,

“While it would be natural from a historical perspective to think that a single aircraft fleet type is the most efficient use of aircraft, there are examples in our history where that’s not true … it is in our best interests to drive the best deal, so we want to make sure we’re ticking all the boxes. We’re a happy Airbus customer, but we’ve got to evaluate all the options open to us.”

Whether Spirit opts for Boeing or Airbus remains to be seen. However, as we are now past the midpoint suggested for firming up an order, perhaps we’re going to find out soon.

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Robert

Been waiting a long time for the announcement of new aircraft. My belief is Spirit will most likely benefit from a price point of view and diversify with both Airbus and Boeing aircraft. I find it hard to believe they will expand ” across the pond or Hawaii ” in the next decade solely because they are making such healthy profits with the domestic routes and the current international routes . The current model is safe for profits. I also find it harder to believe the wide body will come into play as well. As it goes, ” if not… Read more »

G. E. Williams

This could be a ploy to get a better deal from Airbus. Spirit is an important customer in the US market. I don’t see how fuel savings could overcome the extra expense related to maintenance, at least not for an LCC. Also, a widebody would run against the trend toward narrow bodies on long haul flights.

Vince

Agree. This is likely a ploy to publicly pressure airbus for a better offer.

Frank

Leverage against Airbus for a better price. They all do it – except for IAG who made that Paris air show LOI without soliciting a competing offer from Airbus…hmmmm

Matt

Yup. Even the IAG LOI doesn’t mean anything. It’s the same thing as a car salesman having you sign a price on a napkin or scrap paper.

Frank

Kissing your sister (unless you live in the southern US)