Spirit Airlines announced today that they will take on United with daily nonstop service between Cleveland and Newark starting on July 1st.
Once upon a time passengers in Northeast Ohio could take one of 3 daily Airtran flights nonstop between Akron and LaGuardia for $50 or so. I took the flight all the time and got upgraded to business class for free every time as a lifetime Airtran elite member.
Alas, Southwest bought Airtran for no real reason other than they didn’t like Airtran’s snarky ads.
Shortly thereafter, Southwest ditched Airtran’s massive 717 fleet and abandoned Airtran’s small hub operation in Akron/Canton as they no longer had a plane that made sense for that market. That made flying between Northeast Ohio and NYC absurdly expensive.
The US DoT said that last Q1 some 1,140 daily passengers paid an average of $458 round-trip to fly the 400 miles between Cleveland and NYC, with United getting an average of $494 and American getting $394.
It’s a route that only makes sense to fly if you’re using miles. I typically use 6.5K Avianca Lifemiles to fly United or 7.5K BA Avios to fly American.
When I booked a flight to NYC in February, the cheapest option was $992:
But I was able to use 6.5K Avianca Lifemiles instead.
With Spirit’s announcement today, the bottom fell out of the CLE-NYC market as airlines rushed to compete with $49 one-way fares. As Google notes, prices are $106 less than than the least expensive flights that they would expect:
The goal of course is to keep prices low until Spirit is forced to abandon ship, at which point prices will skyrocket once again. And it will probably work unless people make a concerted effort to fly Spirit and keep prices low. But who would fly Spirit when you can fly United for less?
Well, at least there will still be miles to use when Spirit cancels the route. Hopefully…