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Spirit Airlines exec: P.R. market ‘doing quite well’

Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines confirmed that Puerto Rico is “doing quite well” from an earnings perspective, although the positive results are not attributed to post-earthquake traffic.

During an earnings call with analysts to discuss fourth quarter results, Matthew Klein, chief commercial officer of Spirit Airlines said while “we have seen some impact in Puerto Rico, it’s really hard to say exactly what is related to earthquake versus just increased capacity in general.”

“We’ve added a lot of capacity to Puerto Rico. And it’s doing quite well for us, actually, from an earnings perspective. Our estimates on what the earthquake may be causing and the after-effects of that are really too early to put a good number on that,” he said.

“As of right now, we like what we’re doing in Puerto Rico. Our cost model allows us to serve all kinds of routes profitably out of Puerto Rico and we expect to leverage that strength moving forward,” he said.

During the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2019, Spirit’s total operating revenue was $969.8 million, an increase of 12.4% compared to the fourth quarter 2018, driven by an 18.6% increase in flight volume. Fourth quarter 2019 revenue included approximately $7.2 million in out-of-period revenue related to the reclamation of over-remitted Federal Excise Tax, the carrier reported.

In mid-December 2019, Spirit announced the expansion of service to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, with new flights to Boston, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington, as this media outlet reported.

During the call, Klein said in general, Spirit’s portfolio of Latin America and Caribbean routes continues to do very well.

“However, we are seeing some softness in the Dominican Republic and have made several capacity cuts to that area,” he said.

Spirit’s expanded service sharply contrasts a decision by JetBlue airlines to scale back in the wake of the seismic activity that has affected Puerto Rico since late December.

In a statement, JetBlue’s corporate communications team said “As the largest airline in Puerto Rico, JetBlue is very committed to the market. Due to recent events, we have seen demand for travel impacted and are making small, tactical capacity adjustments to better match demand.”

“On select days between now and early April, we will operate one less flight on routes between San Juan and certain cities in the Northeast and Florida. We will also revise service levels on some days between Ponce and New York-JFK,” it added.

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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