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Spirit Airlines Suspends New Pilot Training

Soft Demand and Maintenance Woes Occasion Hardship

Spirit Airlines, the Miramar, Florida-headquartered U.S. ultra-low cost airline, will suspend new pilot and flight attendant training in November 2023 “until further notice;” so stated a memo disseminated throughout the company.

The move evinces slower growth and softer demand than the company’s management anticipated and has occasioned the grounding of dozens of Airbus  A320neo family aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM Geared Turbofan (GTF) engines.

Spirit formerly slowed hiring and captain upgrades.

Spirit Airlines vice-president of flight operations Greg Christopher advised the air-carrier’s pilots: “With these recent developments, however, we will also be suspending all new-hire training efforts starting in November, until further notice.”

The airline similarly informed its flight attendant cadre that training of new flight attendants would be suspended starting 07 November for the foreseeable future. Moreover, Spirit is reportedly planning to offer cabin crew-members voluntary time off. The latter measure was chronicled in a memo penned by Spirit Airlines vice-president of inflight experience Tina Milton.

A Spirit spokesman confirmed the preceding, stating: “This is not a decision we’ve taken lightly, but it’s necessary to ensure our crew staffing levels match our operational need given the number of aircraft we can fly.”

Spirit expects it will be forced to ground upwards of 26 Airbus A320neo aircraft for inspections of their PW1100G-JM Geared Turbofan (GTF) engines following Pratt & Whitney’s August 2023 disclosure of subject powerplants being afflicted with contaminated metal powders. Spirit anticipates the grounding of 13 A320neos in January, with the number rising to 41 in December 2024. As of September 2023, Spirit’s fleet comprised 202 Airbus jets.

Spirit disclosed: “This expectation drives a dramatic decrease in the company’s [Spirit’s] near-term growth projections.” In comparison to 2023, the air-carrier expects 2024 capacity to remain flat up to mid-single digits. The airline is currently in talks with Pratt & Whitney parent company RTX vis-à-vis compensation for the defective engines.

In September 2023, RTX set forth it expected repairs of the affected engines to span between 250 and three-hundred days. The company further estimated that globally, some 350 aircraft powered by the PW1100G-JM Geared Turbofan (GTF) engines would be grounded between 2024 and 2026.

On 26 October 2023, Spirit Airlines posted a third-quarter 2023 net loss of $157.6-million—more than four-times the amount lost by the company during the same time-period in 2022.  Spirit’s fourth-quarter 2023 forecast is similarly gloomy.

Spirit CEO Ted Christie rued in the company’s third-quarter earnings statement: “We continue to see discounted fares for travel booked through the pre-Thanksgiving period. And, unfortunately, we have not seen the anticipated return to a normal demand and pricing environment for the peak holiday periods.”

JetBlue Airways ongoing attempts to acquire Spirit Airlines remains mired in antitrust Purgatory by a Justice Department bent on blocking the deal. The long-awaited court battle is slated to get underway in Boston in November 2023.

FMI: www.spirit.com


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