Spirit Airlines’ Never-Ending Operational Meltdown

Jack Leo
2 min readJan 22, 2022

Spirit Airlines canceled 1900 flights in the first week of August 2021 that increased to nearly 3000 flights in the first 11 days of the month, leading to an unprecedented ‘Operational meltdown.’ Thousands of passengers were left stranded at the airport, feeling clueless about what to do next. The huge cancellation of flights led to the loss of a tune of $50 million of Spirit. Spirit Airlines management attributed three reasons for flight cancellation — weather, system outages, and staff shortages that led to disruption in crew scheduling and widespread operational irregularities.
In the third quarter (July-September 2021), when all US airlines felt a significant negative impact of the Delta variant, Spirit’s staffing challenges and August meltdown led the airline to reevaluate its recovery plan. The huge loss and staffing shortage led Spirit to reconsider its recovery plan and reduce the flight schedules in September 2021.

How Spirit Plans To Overcome These Problems/ Challenges

Spirit airlines’ operational meltdown came as a setback that provided many lessons to be learned for the entire management and an impetus for soul-searching and making changes. Spirit slowed down its capacity growth plan and lowered the target to just 11% compared to the figures in 2019. Acute staffing shortage at Fort Lauderdale has led the airline to reduce half of its capacity. The optimal utilization of its resources has been delayed by six months or more until late 2022 or early 2023, thereby redefining 2022 as another recovery year for the airline. Spirit reported a loss of $75 million in the third quarter, with the declining losses continuing in the fourth quarter.

Some of the measures taken by Spirit Airlines after the operational meltdown are:

  1. Reassessed its recovery plan with a top to bottom review
    2. Reduced the capacity growth target level
    3. Added eight new destinations to its route map in 2021, including 30 New Miami Routes
    4. Plans to spend $300 million in alleviating its staff shortage issue
    5. Buoyed up with the Federal Government’s help and increase in searches on its site by leisure travelers and those looking forward to visiting homes of their friends and relatives, Spirit looks forward to recovering from the setback and operational meltdown.

    Takeaway
    Spirit operational meltdown has led to a loss in credibility and reputation, with many flyers getting frustrated with a huge number of flight disruptions and cancellations. With some cases of assault reported from San Juan, Spirit has to undertake major changes in its operational level and learn lessons from this meltdown. We hope Spirit Airlines will improve things and set an efficient Operational system that would lead to minimum cancellation and flight disruption.

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Jack Leo
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