Spirit Airlines may not be the most popular airline in the US but it is the most punctual. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), 89 percent of the company’s flights arrived on time in October, beating out former favorites Hawaiian Air and Delta. Spirit also came in second in terms of the fewest canceled flights. The report is surprising given that the company was dead last in terms of punctuality for 11 straight months in 2016.
Spirit, however, is no fan favorite when it comes to some of its policies, such as charging for checked and carry-on bags. The company also offers no in-flight entertainment or refreshments. The company is also notorious for its strikes. In 2010, pilots went on strike over earnings for five days, and last year, the carrier sued its pilots´ union for not agreeing to fly additional routes, resulting in 200 flight cancelations and 20,000 grounded passengers. In North Carolina, the courts eventually ruled in favor of Spirit and forced the pilots to accept the additional routes. Still, the conflict resulted in losses of $45 million.
Despite its negative reputation, the airline's service is reportedly improving according to the Associated Press. The company’s pilots endorsed a five-year contract this year that will increases wages by roughly 43 percent. Former TravelPulse.com CEO Bob Fornaro has also sought to improve punctuality and afford bonuses to top executives.
“A disproportionate share of Spirit’s departures are in Florida and the South, which helps with weather issues,” says ICF Aviation executive Samuel Engel. “And a relatively small share of Spirit’s departures are in the congested Northeast airports.”
Spirit, which is based in Miramar, Florida, is considered an ultra-low-cost carrier. It runs flights in the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico, Latin America, and South America. Its main bases are in Atlantic City, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Las Vegas. As of this year, it is the only two-star airline in the US according to Skytrax Airline Quality Research.
Engel also credits the company’s baggage policies for increasing efficiency. “Carry-ons are the most common bottleneck for aircraft boarding.” Spirit is not the only airline that is streamlining its procedures and adding additional charges. It can take pride though in being on time.