Spirit Airlines Makes A Run At Philadelphia After American Leaves Its Hub Undefended

Mid-year Spirit Airlines announced a big expansion in Miami, an American Airlines hub, becoming the second largest airline there. Traditionally they had stuck with lower-cost Fort Lauderdale.

Now they’re making a run at American’s hub in Philadelphia. They’ve just announced 7 new routes:

Destination Frequency Start Date
New Orleans (MSY) Daily Feb 16
Aguadilla (BQN) 4x/week April 20
Nashville (BNA) Daily May 11
Houston (IAH) Daily May 11
Punta Cana (PUJ) 4x/week May 18
Montego Bay 3x/week May 18
Oakland (OAK) Daily May 18

They’re also increasing Philadelphia – Cancun service starting April 20, 2022. This is on top of existing service to Atlanta; Dallas – Fort Worth; Detroit; Fort Lauderdale; Fort Myers; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; Myrtle Beach; Orlando; San Juan; and Tampa. In all, Spirit will serve 20 destinations from Philadelphia.

Currently Spirit Airlines is the third largest carrier in Philadelphia, behind American Airlines and Frontier. This move further solidifies the role of ultra-low cost carriers at the airport.

Philadelphia has been American’s primary transatlantic gateway. With reduced transatlantic flying during the pandemic, Philadelphia hasn’t just seem a drop off of travel across the Pond. Many of the domestic flights American operated from Philadelphia served as connections to these no longer viable trips to Europe. And American was slow to bring back Europe service even as the continent re-opened this past summer, keeping widebodies flying domestically and to close-in Latin America instead.

  • In December 2019 American Airlines scheduled 10.376 flights to 197 destinations.

  • In December 2021 American Airlines has scheduled 7154 flights to 153 destinations, according to schedule data from Cirium Diio Mi.

That’s 31% fewer flights and 44 fewer destinations. With a terminal already matched to ultra-low cost carriers and the allure of its partnership with JetBlue over New York, the role of American’s more marginal hub in Philadelphia will be an interesting question mark to watch.

Currently they envision new Airbus A321XLRs coming into the fleet operating year-round to Europe.

Meanwhile Spirit Airlines had improved their operation before the pandemic, they’ve improved their frequent flyer program, they’re finally adding internet to planes and their Big Front Seat remains one of the best deals in travel. In other words, their summer meltdown notwithstanding, they’ve actually become quite flyable and this expansion is a win for Philadelphia.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Very happy about this as a philadelphia hub hostage. American has been a complete disaster in our city post pandemic. All my coworkers receive hot meals, more layflats and better timing for flights with their non AA hubs.
    At least this Spirit expansion can make my non work trips easier, even though that might mean I might be able to hit EP again next year.

  2. This is good for Philadelphia. American has become so incredibly unreliable and their employees (especially in Philadelphia) are some of the rudest in the network. I’ve always had good experiences on Spirit, especially from the flight crew members on board and have liked watching the company transition to a MUCH more desirable airline since Ben Baldanza’s long overdue exit. On a side note, PHL has closed their economy lot and don’t seem to care about the passenger experience nowadays. It makes one wonder if the “hub state” for AA will soon be a thing of the past??? You literally cannot find parking during peak times and there’s absolutely NO plan to remedy it so something is definitely going on behind the scenes…

  3. American has done a terrible job in philadelphia They have taken the market for granted. One can only hope spirit and frontier can succeed where southwest did not. Perhaps united and Delta will add more flights to compete for the full service customers. I am always amazed at how many very high level elites board the plane at United.

  4. AA in Miami has grown with Spirit coming to town, same in Dallas and the same will be said for Philly. AA uses Philly has a trans-Atlantic gate way, once the travel resumes so will the flights and even more so when business travelers return. AA and Spirit have different clientel so will will likely mean more business for PHL and no reductin in AA’s business.

    BTW, good luck with WIFI and Power on your Spirit flight.

  5. My last Spirit flight had wi-fi..it actually worked great and was $1. The airplane didn’t have power outlets, but many of the AA planes don’t either so I always charge up beforehand.

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