MIAMI — Spirit Airlines is launching service to Cleveland, Ohio, with new nonstop flights to eight destinations across the United States. Between January 15, 2015 and April 16, 2015, Spirit will add 49 weekly flights to eight new destinations, making Cleveland Spirit’s 57th destination overall. Service to Orlando (daily), Tampa (3x weekly), and Fort Myers (4x weekly) will begin January 15, 2015, while daily service to Fort Lauderdale, Dallas Fort Worth, and Las Vegas will commence February 5, 2015. Los Angeles and Myrtle Beach will come online April 16, 2015 and Tampa and Fort Myers are winter seasonal flights while Myrtle Beach is a summer seasonal one.
Spirit’s Cleveland expansion puts it into direct competition with rival ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC) Frontier Airlines, who took advantage of the vacuum created by the de-hubbing of Cleveland by legacy carrier United Airlines. Frontier will have nonstop service from Cleveland to 15 destinations across the United States by this winter, including direct competition with Spirit on several routes. While Spirit will have a monopoly on nonstop service to Myrtle Beach, and compete with only United to Los Angeles, it will face competition from both Frontier and United to Fort Lauderdale, Dallas Fort Worth, and Tampa, as well as competition from those two carriers and Southwest to Las Vegas, Orlando, and Fort Myers.
In most markets that it enters, Spirit can reliably count on being the lowest cost option by a substantial margin, and it could do so competing against United and Southwest. But with Frontier in these markets, Spirit’s advantages are less obvious – it will have less room to stimulate the origin and destination (O&D) markets in Cleveland. And so Cleveland represents two very important trends for the US air travel market. It clearly demonstrates the massive opportunities available to ULCCS due to the perpetual rise in airfares amongst legacy and network airlines. But simultaneously, Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit are going to brush up against each other more often as they chase down these opportunities. And the winner, in the short term, will be passengers in these markets.