Spirit Airlines planes on the tarmac at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on February 7, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Joe Riddell | Getty Images
Spirit said its board of directors was evaluating the JetBlue proposal and would “pursue the course of action it sets out to be in the best interest of Spirit and its shareholders.”
The competition for Spirit is showing a renewed appetite for integration into the airline industry as airlines grapple their way out of two tough years from the pandemic. Airlines are now scrambling to hire enough pilots, flight attendants and other staff to face a rebound in travel.
JetBlue Show, first reported New York times It was later confirmed by Spirit, and comes less than two months after Spirit and Frontier agreed to merge into a discounted aviation giant.
Trading in Spirit shares was halted before the market closed on Tuesday after the stock rose more than 22% to $26.92. Spirit and JetBlue said JetBlue offered $33 a share in its entire unsolicited cash offer.
JetBlue shares closed down about 7%.
Both Spirit and Frontier fly only Airbus A320 family aircraft. These make up the majority of the JetBlue fleet as well, which reduces costs and logistical headaches in combining carriers.
JetBlue also has a large operation in Florida, where Spirit is headquartered. It said the joint airline would have 32,000 people and would keep its headquarters in New York.
“As we grow and deliver our unique value proposition on new routes, legacy carriers lower their fares and customers win more choices,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in a press release. “The transaction will accelerate our strategic growth and create sustainable, long-term value for stakeholders in both companies.”
A wave of consolidation into the airline industry that began over a decade ago has left four major airlines controlling more than 70% of the US market.
JetBlue has a partnership with American Airlines Carriers are allowed to coordinate service in the northeastern United States. The two airlines said the agreement would give them a better chance of competing against United and Delta Airlines At busy airports in New York and Boston.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block that partnership last year. The US Department of Justice declined to comment on JetBlue’s offer to Spirit, although JetBlue said on Tuesday that a merger with Spirit would complete its alliance with American.
Frontier defended its agreement to merge with Spirit and said an alternative association with JetBlue would make travel more expensive. The airline has also questioned JetBlue’s bid amid the Justice Department’s lawsuit.
“In particular, a significant East Coast overlap between JetBlue and Spirit would reduce competition and limit choices for consumers,” Frontier said. “It is surprising that JetBlue is considering such a merger at this time given that the Department of Justice is currently suing to block its suspended alliance with American Airlines.”
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