Daily Archives: July 20, 2009

As Another Startup Crumbles, Spirit Airlines Expands

With the apparent demise of JetAmerica before it ever made a single flight, we are left to wonder how the United States will get an ultra-no-frills, super-low-cost, utterly-comfort-free Ryanair clone.

First Skybus gave it a shot, and collapsed. Now JetAmerica can’t seem to get off  the ground. 

Meanwhile, though, Spirit Airlines is filling the void, expanding rapidly into the Caribbean and Latin America, pulling in cash from vacationers and immigrant families.  Ryanair built much of its business in Europe with a similar strategy, adding gimmicky sales pitches to low-cost, no-frills flights to mass-market tourist destinations.

Spirit may not be able to rely on vacationers quite as much — Americans don’t get nearly as much vacation time as Europeans do — but it is  following at least part of that model with  its $9 Fare Club, discount coupons, tacky ad campaigns and fees, fees, fees for everything from checked luggage to water.

Spirit recently added flights to Colombia and the Dominican Republic, and is reported to be a leading bidder for the faltering Air Jamaica. It also is expanding domestically, adding service between Florida and Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Chicago.