Spirit Airlines can lift the spirits of people seeking sunshine. The ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC) makes connections between major US cities and popular vacation spots in South Florida, the Caribbean, and Latin America, serving nearly 50 destinations. It operates an all Airbus fleet of nearly 40 single-aisle aircraft, including A319s, A320s, and A321s. Spirit capitalizes on an ancillary service model, charging separately for baggage, advance seat selection, and other travel-related upgrades. In addition to scheduled service, the company partners with third-party vendors to offer a slate of vacation packages via its website. In 2011 Spirit Airlines sought public investors, planning to land up to $300 million.
The company's stock opened lower than its initial offering price, selling fewer shares than expected. All told, the offering raised $187 million. Spirit earmarked half of the proceeds for general corporate purposes (working capital, sales and marketing expenses, and capital expenditures, including an order of new A320s to expand its fleet by 2015). Some of the money will be used to terminate a services agreement with aviation industry investment firm Indigo Partners and to pay down debt owed to Indigo and Spirit's other significant shareholder, Oaktree Capital Management.
Sales and Marketing
Spirit Airlines sells through its website, an outsourced call center, and third-party travel agents. Its spirit.com site accounts for about two-thirds of sales.
Despite the shaky economy and volatile fuel prices that have rocked airline industry giants, Spirit has sustained a largely positive trajectory. It attributes its momentum to its ULCC business model coupled with concentrating its resources on the growing Caribbean and Latin American markets. Spirit's top issue is controlling costs in order sustain a profit from its low fares.
To this end, the company has moved to an aggressive unbundling strategy to stimulate passenger demand and revenues. Unbundling allows passengers to pay separately for products and services that they want to use. Charging for such extras as onboard beverages and snacks enables Spirit to offset its low ticket prices as well as maintain its competitive market presence.
Spirit, continuing its ULCC mantra, aims to expand its network. It has targeted domestic vacation spots outside Florida (Atlantic City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix).
Spirit surpassed $1 billion in revenue in 2011, up more than 35% from 2010. It saw strong increases in both ticket and non-ticket sales as the company increased its fleet size. With the exception of 2009 when sales fell 11%, Spirit has seen consistent growth over the past decade.
Net income rose 5% to $76 million as sales growth was enough to overcome a more than 55% jump in fuel costs and a more than 15% rise in labor expenses associated with the fleet expansion.
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Investment funds affiliated with Oaktree Capital Management and Indigo Partners own 18% and 17% of the company, respectively.