DALLAS- United States low-cost Spirit Airlines (NK) announced that it grounded 25 A320 family aircraft last week to perform inspections on the aircraft. According to the airline, this was done out of an abundance of caution.
On October 20, Spirit announced that these aircraft were removed from service to ensure compliance with a 2018 airworthiness directive by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requiring inspections of a specific fuselage portion. The FAA disclosed that the checks were related to brackets on the airframes of the jets, and the planes were undergoing a mandatory maintenance inspection.
That same day, NK abruptly canceled almost 100 flights due to the temporary removal of certain airplanes for inspections. The airline canceled 11% of its scheduled Friday, October 20 flights. As per the airline’s statement, removing the jets will impact its network for multiple days. Although NK canceled 11% of flights on October 20, on October 21, that fell to 9% and 8% on October 22. By October 23, Spirit fully recovered and had a cancellation rate below 1%.
According to an FAA document, these inspections are mandatory to identify any indications of cracking around parts used to secure pressure panels on the aircraft’s airframes. Cracks that go undetected may result in a rapid decompression of the airplane and diminished structural integrity. The inspections being done by the airline align with requirements by US regulators, which were most recently updated by the FAA in 2018.
The airline’s just-released third-quarter results revealed “disappointing” results during the peak summer travel seasons as other airlines, including fellow low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, achieved profitable growth. Spirit Airlines Chief Executive Officer Ted Christe stated that the $157.6 million net loss resulted from softer demand for its product and discounted fares in its markets.
In the third quarter of 2023, the company’s operating revenues reached US$1.2 billion, representing a 6.2% decrease compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Furthermore, in the third quarter of 2023, RASM (Revenue per Available Seat Mile) decreased by 13.5% year-over-year, which falls towards the lower end of the carrier’s previous guidance range. This decrease can be attributed to lower travel demand.
In response to the current operating environment, it has revised its plans for capacity growth in the near term by adjusting its aircraft delivery schedule with Airbus. NK is currently awaiting the delivery of 114 aircraft from Airbus, including 43 A320-200neos and 71 A321-200neos.
Featured image: Spirit Airlines N932NK Airbus A320-271N. Photo: Nick Sheeder/Airways