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JetBlue Suggests New Flights to Hawaii if Spirit Merger Goes Ahead

The proposed merger would allow the carriers to boost operations at LAX, allowing them to launch flights to Hawaii and provide more choices for consumers

by Fergus Cole

February 13, 2023

Photo: Hawaiian beach - Courtesy of Luke Mckeown / Unsplash

JetBlue has hinted that it may launch new services to Hawaii if its proposed merger with Spirit Airlines gets approved by regulators.

During a filing with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on February 9, JetBlue said that new flights to Hawaii and at least eight other routes would be made possible if the $3.8 billion merger with fellow low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines gets the green light. Neither JetBlue nor Spirit currently flies to Hawaii.

Illustration: Courtesy of JetBlue Airways

“With more flexibility, greater resources, and an expanded route network, the JetBlue/Spirit combination will be better positioned to take advantage of the now largely liberalized international operating environment and better utilize U.S. rights under applicable air transport agreements, thereby increasing service alternatives for consumers,” said JetBlue.

JetBlue and Spirit are currently awaiting approval for their proposed merger. If approved, the combined carriers would form the fifth-largest airline in the U.S. regarding market share, behind American Airlines, Delta, United, and Southwest. Last week, the CEO of Spirit, Ted Christie, said a decision on the merger is expected to be made in the “next 30 days or so.”

However, there are no guarantees that the merger will go through, as the Justice Department has previously taken a stand against the conglomeration of large companies. JetBlue has been taken to court due to its Northeast Alliance partnership with American Airlines, which the regulators claimed was bad for competition and harming consumers in the region.

Just a handful of carriers already dominate the airline industry in the U.S. The so-called ‘Big Four’ airlines—American, United, Delta, and Southwest—carried 79% of all domestic passengers in the U.S. during the year up until October 2022, according to statistics from the Bureau of Transportation. In contrast, JetBlue and Spirit carried just 8.3% of passengers.

JetBlue A320 / Photo: Courtesy JetBlue

During the filing with DOT, JetBlue said that combining its terminal space with Spirit’s at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) would allow the carriers to expand operations there, including launching flights to Hawaii, which would provide more choices to consumers.

“By combining JetBlue and Spirit’s gates in Terminal 5, a larger JetBlue will have more real estate to better optimize and expand the number of flights and destinations at LAX beyond what the two carriers do separately,” said JetBlue.

“A larger JetBlue will be able to maintain its robust transcontinental offering to key cities during certain time periods (mornings and evenings), but also operate a robust intra-West and international leisure schedule during the day when transcontinental flying is time-channel restricted. JetBlue currently struggles to do this efficiently because of its overall minimal presence on the West Coast.

Photo: Spirit Airlines, Airbus A320neo. Courtesy of Spirit Airlines.

“A larger JetBlue with access to additional Terminal 5 gates will be able to add even more routes from Los Angeles, including Hawaii flying and additional leisure service.”

JetBlue also said the merger with Spirit would allow it to expand its base at Ford Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), turning it into a major hub for flights to Latin America and the Caribbean and providing direct competition to American Airlines’ hub at Miami International Airport (MIA).