* Spirit Airlines announced plans for 11 new non-stop routes that will launch this spring.
The new service comes as Spirit looks to fill out its network, connecting more of the cities it already serves with new non-stop options. Many of the new routes will compete with major rivals at some of their busiest hubs.
Seattle is the biggest winner in the latest Spirit announcement, landing seasonal service to four new destinations. Detroit (seasonal), Las Vegas and Tampa were among Spirit destinations getting two new non-stop options. (Scroll down for the full schedule details on all 11 new routes)
Baltimore/Washington (BWI) also landed two new destinations, including new international service to Jamaica. That would become Spirit’s second international route from BWI, an addition to the carrier's existing service to Cancun, Mexico.
"We are excited to celebrate our growth in these key markets and offer even more ultra-low fares to some of our guests' favorite destinations," Mark Kopczak, Spirit’s VP of Network Planning, says in a statement. "Whether it's connecting Tampa to the west coast, bringing new routes to Seattle/Tacoma, or adding another international destination from Baltimore/Washington, we know these new, nonstop flights will bring more friends together and allow more families to go on vacation."
Spirit’s new routes are just the latest in an ongoing expansion effort by the fast-growing “ultra low-cost carrier” (ULCC). Earlier in November, Spirit announced two new cities – Columbus, Ohio, and Richmond, Va. – would be added to its route map, giving it a total of 62 destinations. And with dozens of new aircraft on order, Spirit’s growth is likely to continue into next decade.
That’s also the case at Frontier Airlines, perhaps Spirit’s main ULCC rival. Like Spirit, it also has been growing rapidly as ULCCs try to undercut their traditional rivals with rock-bottom fares that come with a bevy of add-on fees. Allegiant, another ULCC, also has enjoyed strong growth in recent years and has remained highly profitable as its network has grown.
What remains to be seen with Spirit's latest expansion push is if it provokes fare wars with legacy carriers like its previous expansions have. A number of Spirit's 11 new routes operate from the hubs of major rivals American, Delta, United and Alaska airlines.
Industry observers will watch to see if those airlines move to defend service at their biggest hubs on routes like Dallas/Fort Worth-Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul-Seattle or Portland, Oregon, and Detroit.
Already, the USA's three biggest airlines -- American, Delta and United -- have added "basic economy" fares to help them battle Spirit and Frontier on such routes.
The latest routes will put Spirit into even more overlapping service with those rivals. Among the competition Spirit will face on its 11 new routes, American has hubs at both Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare. Delta operates hubs at Minneapolis/St. Paul, Detroit and Seattle while United counts Chicago O'Hare and Denver among its hubs. Alaska Airlines operates busy hubs at both Seattle.. And all four of those airlines have a major presence at Los Angeles.
Of course, Spirit also will move into direct competition with both Frontier and Southwest on certain routes. From BWI, for example, Spirit's new routes to Denver and Montego Bay will compete directly with Southwest's service to the same destinations.