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Spirit Airlines improves on-time arrival rates in hopes of shaking off reputation as an unreliable carrier

Spirit Airlines improves on-time arrival rates in hopes of shaking off reputation as an unreliable carrier
Spirit Airlines has improved its on-time arrival rate and its percentage of canceled flights dramatically in the past year in hopes of reversing its image as an unreliable carrier. (Spirit Airlines)

Since Spirit Airlines launched in 2007 as an ultra low-cost carrier, the Florida-based airline has developed a reputation for dirt cheap, no-frill airfares, low on-time arrival rates and high flight cancellations.

But Spirit Airlines seems to be making some progress in fixing its tarnished image.

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Spirits’ on-time arrival rate for May was 80% — higher than the rate for JetBlue (71%), Southwest (76%), American (78%) and United (79%) but still below carriers Hawaiian (91%), Delta (85%) and Alaska (82%), according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The numbers for Spirit are a dramatic improvement from the same month last year when the carrier’s on-time rate was 69% and its rate of canceled flights was about 6%. (Spirit’s cancellation rate has dropped to 0.56% for May 2018, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.)

Greg Christopher, vice president of operations control center for Spirit, promised that the improvements are not a one-month fluke. He said the airline has been aware of its reputation for late arrivals and high cancellation rates and has taken action to fix it, including adjusting crew work schedules to ensure staff members are ready to fly on time and adding time between takeoffs and landings.

“We’ve done a lot more than just telling guys to focus on it,” he said.

Christopher acknowledged that some of the changes, such as adding more time between takeoffs and landings, can cut into the carrier's revenue. But he said if the improved on-time performance continues, the trade-off will be happier customers.

“We want customers to come back and like our service,” he said.

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