Spirit Airlines CEO Calls the Airline Industry a ‘Rigged Game’

Spirit Airlines CEO Calls the Airline Industry a ‘Rigged Game’

Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie is definitely not bitter about how things went down with the JetBlue Airways merger that was halted by the Justice Department before eventually being abandoned.

He told listeners on the company’s earnings call, which discussed numbers so dour they sent Spirit shares down nearly 10% in Monday trading, that he was speaking to them from the carrier’s new digs in Dania Beach, Florida.

“Until recently, we thought the branding of the new facility might be blue, but now we are proud to boldly display our signature Spirit yellow,” he said. Then, without missing a beat: “Looking back a couple of months, we still feel strongly it was a serious misreading of both the evidence and the law for the federal court to enjoin our merger with JetBlue.”

The federal government had sued to block the $US3.8 billion deal on antitrust grounds, and a judge agreed. On his first earnings call since calling off the tie-up, Christie suggested that the true threats to airline competition were the likes of American Air Lines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, a few rungs up the marketshare ladder from Spirit and JetBlue.

“Today, nearly all the profits of the entire US airline industry are concentrated in just two companies, while the smaller non-legacy carriers scrambled to restore profitability and what seems ever more like a rigged game,” he said. “The Big Four are the beneficiaries in this new normal. American consumers are the long-term losers.”

Though JetBlue and Spirit had initially signaled that they would fight the ruling on appeal, they eventually backed all the way off. Originally, Spirit had been targeted by fellow low-cost airline Frontier, but shareholders went with JetBlue’s takeover offer instead. Christie had something to say about that, too.

“In the beginning of our consolidation process in 2022, we advocated strongly for a merger between the two largest [ultra-low-cost carrier companies] and tried to outline the challenges with the proposed JetBlue transaction,” he said. “But our shareholders did not listen.”

But Christie is definitely ready to let the past be the past and figure out how his company will survive on its own.

“That was the deal that was voted on by our shareholders, and that’s what we agreed to do,” he said. “But now that that’s over, this is a chance for us to really move things along quickly.”

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