Spirit Airlines to Launch Service at DFW

DALLAS (AP) -- Spirit Airlines will begin service in January at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which has been trying for a year to replace the hole left when Delta Air Lines eliminated its Dallas hub.

Spirit said it would offer one nonstop flight daily each way between DFW and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, from where it flies to spots in the Caribbean. Delta eliminated more than 200 daily flights at DFW late last year.

Spirit would be the sixth low-fare carrier at DFW. None of the other five low-fare carriers fly from DFW to Fort Lauderdale, but American Airlines does - seven round trips a day.

Ben Baldanza, Spirit's president and chief operating officer, said his airline would compete by offering low fares - $99 one-way in coach and $159 in business class. On its Web site, American's lowest one-way prices ranged from $250 for travel this week to $109 on 21-day advance purchases.

Baldanza said Spirit picked DFW because of the size of the local population, the relatively limited service to Florida and high fares.

Tim Wagner, a spokesman for American, said federal antitrust rules about airlines signaling pricing to each other prohibited him from saying whether American would match Spirit's fares, but that is frequently what legacy carriers such as American do to compete with low-fare rivals. Wagner said American would also stress its amenities, such as a frequent-flier program, airport lounges and two classes of service.

''We're used to competing with low-cost carriers,'' Wagner said. ''They're on well over 80 percent of our routes. From that perspective, this is nothing new.''

DFW is locked in a bitter dispute with Southwest Airlines Co. over flights at nearby Dallas Love Field. DFW offered Southwest more than $20 million in concessions to begin long-haul service there, but Southwest chose to lobby Congress to lift restrictions against long flights from Love Field.

DFW officials say Southwest's threat to expand at Love Field has prevented them from luring other low-cost carriers to fill the void left by Delta.

Joe Lopano, DFW's executive vice president of marketing, said the addition of low-fare service would double traffic between DFW and Fort Lauderdale. DFW gave Spirit more than $250,000 to refurbish part of Terminal E and offset some airport fees, Lopano said.

Spirit is based in Fort Lauderdale. It was founded in 1990 and claims to be the largest privately held airline in the nation. It operates 125 daily departures to 25 destinations in the United States and the Caribbean with a fleet of 33 aircraft.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

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