Spirit Airlines Thinks They Can Win In Memphis With Fares So Low People Will Come From All Over

Spirit Airlines just announced they’re adding service to Memphis with 3 daily destinations:

  • Las Vegas starting April 20, 2022
  • Orlando starting April 20, 2022
  • Los Angeles starting June 8, 2022

Spirit already serves Nashville, 200 miles away. Nashville is an incredible town and Delta no longer considers it a focus city so less competition. But Memphis?

Delta dropped the Memphis hub it inherited from Northwest for a reason (despite promises at the time that the hub would grow). The reason Spirit says they see potential here is what’s interesting to me. It’s not Memphis traffic per se but rather, according to Spirit’s Vice President of Network Planning,

We’re excited about serving Memphis because we think travelers in Western Tennessee and nearby states could use more high value flight options to popular leisure destinations. Also, Memphis is a vibrant community with so much to explore in music, food, culture nad more for visitors looking for a rich experience.

(Emphasis mine). They do the yadda yadda on Memphis being great as an ‘also.’ They’re suggesting this is a play to pick up leisure travel from the broader catchment.

Los Angeles is surprisingly lightly served from Memphis, with Delta offering non-daily service and Allegiant flying the route. There’s no United or American flights. Memphis – Las Vegas has limited service, from Allegiant and Frontier. And Memphis – Orlando has very limited service from Southwest and Frontier. All are routes where Spirit has a shot. And, for their strategy, if the fares are low enough people will come from all over.

Sam Waterston reminded us in The Newsroom that Memphis is really a stand-in, Tom Hall’s “That’s How I got to Memphis” isn’t actually a country song about Memphis but about any place – wherever you are – and how you wound up there.

Nonetheless Spirit has improved its frequent flyer program, the Big Front Seat remains strong value, and they’re finally putting wifi into planes.

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. I bet that Spirit got a very attractive deal from the Memphis Airport authorities to enter. With the Delta retreat, the terminal is dramatically underutilized and almost any additional revenue from Spirit would go right to the bottom line of the airport and its vendors.

  2. There’s a reason that FedEx’s SuperHub is in Memphis. It’s within 500 miles of the most states for any city in America (more or less). Memphis flights are relatively cheap already, definitely cheaper than Little Rock and Jackson. People from west Tennessee, east Arkansas, North Mississippi (and possibly western Kentucky and northwest Alabama) will drive to Memphis if the price is right.

    @Jerry – FedEx pays a ton of money to them because they have SO MANY flights. Additional revenue would be great, but I highly doubt that Memphis gave a ton of incentives to Spirit.

  3. I dont understand if your point of view is critical or deeply skeptical or what? Spirit’s press release says they’ll attract people from all over Western Tennessee – of which Memphis is a part – to fly their flights, and then attract tourists to come visit Memphis’s attractions. I think you’re reading their statement weirdly/ incorrectly.That’s normally the approach an airline takes when they start service – they want to generate both local traffic as well as inbound business/ tourism/ etc. What’s the point of this? And why mention Nashville? It’s a different city. And frankly, like the city where you live, VASTLY overrated. I was there in October for a wedding and despite spending time with cousins who live in the nice Bellmeade area, it was a nightmare of screaming bachelorette and bachelor parties driving around on open-air booze buses and people dressing up to go to mediocre restaurants.

  4. Memphis is far down the sophistication and discretionary spend list. There’s a reason flights to LA are limited. Memphis is a town of Martha Stewart wannabees and guys drinking Jack and coke and watching wrestling on TV. As long as fares are cheap Spirit will sell seats; otherwise, forget it.

  5. Good luck. Have had several nonstop flight booked on Spirit only to have them changed to flights with layovers that were so unworkable we canceled and went with another airline.

  6. The general announcement is not a surprise. As Spirit noted in a separate interview (on another travel site), “Memphis is one of the largest cities we’re still not serving. Geographically, it’s somewhat isolated.” Translation: the targeted customers already have to drive considerable distances to an airport, and this provides another option to Nashville or Little Rock or Jackson.

    Of more interest is that Spirit decided to compete on existing routes rather than the unserved Memphis-Seattle route. (One of Boeing’s largest customers is headquartered in Memphis, and that company’s travel policies would upgrade all employee travel to Big Front Seat on a Memphis-Seattle nonstop, based on the flight leg travel time.)

  7. Memphis is a very regional location. They can pull in customers from Southern Illinois, Eastern Arkansas, Western Tennessee, Northern Mississippi. I understand that some of these areas aren’t high income it actually plays well to Spirit’s core demographic of Middle and Lower class clients that are looking for a deal to Vegas, Disney World or even LA.

  8. I don’t understand the need to go to places already served (even if you deem it underserved). I love Breeze Airways’ decision to go in and open flights to NEW destinations, not a replica of what is already offered from a particular airport. I do agree that they can attract people from as far as Little Rock, Jackson, and Nashville, but I think it would be easier if they offered destinations not already served. I wish either Spirit or Southwest (preferably Southwest) would come into XNA.

  9. The Allegiant 3-4 times a week non-stop flights MEM-LAS-MEM are always packed flights. Prices are great and Allegiant planes on those routes are new snd not the really old planes they started with in Memphis. Getting to LAX for cruises or connecting to trans-Pacific travel is currently either very expensive on the Delta non-stop that has an early norning arrival in LAX that requires waiting over 8 hours for the typical late afternoon or evening flights for trabs-Pacific flights. Other flights to LAX sre expensive and long due to connections not being convenient. Memphians go by hoards to Disbey World in Orlando and Spirit should have no trouble filling their flights there. Most leisure flyers could care less about frequent flyer programs and those currently flying Frontier abd Allegiant are more than willing to pay for seat choices and any kind of bag bigger than one that fits under the seat to get inexpensive direct flights. Even SWA prices are crazy high in Memphis and most require one or more connections to get anywhere. If you haven’t been to Memphis in a while, you may be surprised with the airport renovations that open in January with all flights serviced from the fully renovated main concourse. There are also many things that bring folks on vacation to Memphis throughout the year. Now with 3 low cost airlines, tourism will just keep griwing abd maybe service from the big 4 aurlines will both improve and become more affordable.

  10. @Jason time of year in Nashville is important. November-March is fantastic. Also, avoiding places like Kid Rock’s bar and heading to Robert’s. The open air booze buses were recently banned after a tragic accident involving an older intox female.

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