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Tourism & Cruises

Spirit Airlines makes MIA debut with first flights planned for October

Spirit Airlines is finally coming to Miami International Airport.

The low-cost carrier with headquarters in Miramar plans to launch flights to 30 cities from MIA starting in October, while maintaining its service at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the company announced Tuesday.

Spirit’s Miami expansion plan is a sign of the company’s comeback after a bumpy year filled with COVID-19 pandemic-related travel restrictions. The company expects to finish 2021 with the same number of passengers as in 2019. It continues to expand its fleet, expected to reach 173 planes by the end of the year and 194 planes by the end of 2022.

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“We are turning the corner in July, and we’ll be bigger than we ever have been in our history,” said John Kirby, Spirit’s vice president of network planning. “Florida is our home. ... We know this market better than anyone. It allows us to offer service to this area that we weren’t touching before.”

Spirit is the fourth low-cost carrier to announce its launch or expansion from MIA recently, following JetBlue, Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Previously, the company considered MIA’s per-use fees for gates to be too expensive. But during the pandemic, the airport opened up more gates for what’s called preferred-use, offering a fixed fee for airlines that maintain a certain number of flights from the airport per day, And that enticed Spirit, Kirby said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she is proud to welcome Spirit to the airport, which is run by the county, and called it “more amazing news for our residents, our tourism industry and our economy,” in a statement.

The company’s MIA expansion plans still need authorization from the airport, and the routes, frequency and starting dates may change. As of now, it plans to start flights to:

Oct. 6: Atlantic City and Newark, N.J.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Bogota and Medellin, Colombia; Guatemala City, Guatemala; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Oct. 7: San Salvador, El Salvador.

Nov. 17: Barranquilla and Cali, Colombia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; San Jose, Costa Rica; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Boston.; Chicago O’Hare; Cleveland; Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston Intercontinental; Denver; Detroit; Hartford-Bradley, Conn.; Las Vegas; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; New York LaGuardia; Orlando; Philadelphia; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

Nov. 18: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Spirit Airlines moved from the Detroit area to Miramar in 1999, just before it began the shift to a low-cost carrier. Now Spirit is the largest airline at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, with plans to reach 100 daily departures there by July. It employs about 6,500 employees in South Florida, including pilots, flight attendants, ground teams and counter agents.

The company said its plan to build a new headquarters in Dania Beach is still on track.

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