Spirit-Frontier Merger: Which Airline Emerges ‘Dominant’ Key to South Florida Impact

Feb. 8, 2022

The $6.6 billion-merger between South Florida-based carrier Spirit Airlines and Denver-based Frontier Airlines announced on Monday raises questions about the company’s future operations in Broward County.

The companies are portraying the merger as a victory for budget-conscious travelers — and stockholders. Shares in Spirit were up as much as 16% in Monday trading, while Frontier stock was up 4%.

Spirit, located in Miramar since 1999 and with a planned new headquarters in Dania Beach, is declining to comment directly on how its employees will be affected by the transaction. Instead, a company spokesman pointed to projections showing that both airlines expect to add a total of 10,000 jobs.

“We’re hiring fast,” said Spirit communications director Erik Hofmeyer, adding that the airline plans to accept 24 new planes this year. He said decisions on the new company’s future headquarters location, as well as its CEO and brand, are yet to be determined. William A. Franke, chairman of the Frontier board will serve as chairman of the board of the combined company.

For Jeffrey Miller, a travel industry lawyer and professor of hospitality management at Florida Atlantic University, the brand that emerges as the dominant carrier will be key to understanding how the merger will affect the local economy.

“If Frontier turns out to be the surviving carrier, it’s not good news for South Florida, as the base of an airline,” he said. “If Frontier emerges dominant, you can draw your own conclusions about where the executives will want their headquarters to be,” Miller said, adding that the company will remain a nationwide carrier and the merger shouldn’t affect flight traffic in the South Florida region.

“South Florida stands to lose all the corporate jobs and airline mergers are very messy for flights attendants and pilots and lead to a lot of labor strife,” he said.

Last September, Spirit announced it was downsizing its planned Dania Beach headquarters from 500,000 square feet by about two-thirds, with the company saying it hoped to focus on the flexibility of the 8.5-acre site. Initially, the company said it expected to eventually move 1,000 employees to the new site.

The company also announced in 2020 plans to move its operations center to Nashville, citing hurricane and tropical storm risk.

Spirit currently has 81 job openings at its Miramar offices, with another 16 openings at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and four openings at Miami International Airport.

As of Dec. 31, 2020, Spirit had 8,756 employees, including 4,028 flight attendants, 2,497 pilots, 771 maintenance personnel, 694 employees in administrative roles, 281 passenger service agents, 261 ramp service agents, 162 airport agents, and 62 dispatchers. That compared with 8,938 employees a year earlier.

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