Analysis: How Spirited Airlines’ Business Model and External Factors Led to a Stock Plunge

Spirit Airlines’ stock plummeted 60% due to a series of challenges, including engine issues, plane delivery delays, and the collapse of two major merger attempts with Frontier Airlines and JetBlue. Despite pioneering a profitable ultra-low-cost business model, the airline faced increased competition from other carriers introducing basic economy seats. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated Spirit’s difficulties, shifting the travel market’s focus away from its core leisure customer base. Spirit’s attempts to adapt by improving customer service and selling planes to manage debt were disrupted by a federal judge blocking JetBlue’s acquisition due to anti-trust concerns, causing further financial strain.

  • Spirit Airlines was once the most profitable airline in the U.S. and its stock soared due to its low-cost model.
  • The airline faced numerous complaints and competition as other airlines introduced basic economy seats.
  • In 2016, Spirit pivoted towards improving customer service under new CEO Robert Fornaro.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic hit the travel industry hard, with Spirit losing its primary leisure travel customer base.
  • Spirit’s merger attempts with Frontier and JetBlue fell through, with the latter being blocked due to anti-trust issues.
  • Plane delivery delays and an Airbus engine recall further impacted Spirit’s operations.
  • To manage debt, Spirit sold and leased back over two dozen planes, reducing their $465 million debt.
  • After the blockage of the JetBlue merger, Spirit’s shares fell by 47%, leaving the company with $1.1 billion in debt due in September 2025.

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