MIAMI — Spirit Airlines announced today that Robert L. Fornaro has been appointed as the new President and Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Fornaro comes to succeed Ben Baldanza, who joined Spirit in 2005 as Chief Operating Officer and served as President and CEO since 2006.

Robert Fornaro, new Spirit Airlines President & CEO. (Credits: IAC)
Robert Fornaro, new Spirit Airlines President & CEO. (Credits: IAC)

In a press statement, Baldanza thanked Spirit’s management team members “for their support and efforts in making Spirit the success what it is today.  I am focused on supporting a seamless transition and wish the company and Bob continued success in the future.” Baldanza also praised Fornaro’s leadership, which he considers as “the right choice to lead the company through its next phase of growth.”

Fornaro has been a Spirit board member since May 2014, and previously served as the CEO of AirTran Holdings Inc, and as a consultant for various airlines. “Bob’s deep knowledge of Spirit and his background, skills and operational expertise give the Board full confidence that he is the right leader to deliver on the next phase of Spirit Airlines’ growth story” said H. McIntyre Gardner, Spirit’s non-executive chairman.

During Baldanza’s tenure, the airline experienced a transition into a highly successful ultra low-cost business model pioneered by Ryanair in Europe, by bringing the model to the South Florida – Latin America market. In five years, the airline had a swift international expansion to key regional markets such as Colombia, Panama and Peru, and standardized its fleet around the Airbus A320 family aircraft.

Ben Baldanza, former Spirit Airlines President & CEO. (Credits: Spirit Airlines)

“Ben was instrumental in transitioning Spirit into a highly successful ultra low-cost carrier, a significant achievement in the airline industry, which benefited our employees and customers,” added Gardner.

“I am honored by the Board’s selection and am excited to have the opportunity to lead Spirit,” said Fornaro, who will also continue to serve as a member of Spirit’s Board. “Spirit’s focus will remain delivering a customer-friendly product and providing the lowest total price to the places we fly. I look forward to working with the rest of Spirit’s management team and team members to grow the Company’s proven ultra low-cost model and drive value for all of Spirit’s stockholders.”