Spirit Airlines opens local crew base at McCarran

This time, Spirit Airlines is sinking roots into Las Vegas.

As an outgrowth of a schedule expansion started last spring, the discount carrier on Tuesday formally opened a local crew base. Spirit Chief Operating Officer Tony Lefebvre said about 160 pilots and flight attendants now call McCarran International Airport their professional home, a number projected to climb to about 200 in three months.

"We expect that to keep growing," Lefebvre said.

However, this is not the airline's first expansion spurt. In 2007 Spirit ramped up its local schedule from 14 flights a week in January to 63 in September. But the recession forced a reduction to seven a week by January 2009.

"We had a different operation then, when Las Vegas was more a spoke for us," he said, mainly going to Detroit and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Now, we have destinations to various places from here."

Although the airline shuns the term hub, bulking up the schedule to 130 flights in January allows the carrier to use McCarran as a connecting point between, for example, San Diego and Chicago. Because Las Vegas is Spirit's second-busiest city after Fort Lauderdale, Lefebvre said it's a logical spot for a crew base.

Although a crew base does not require the employees to live here, he said about 100 new hires came from the valley, mainly flight attendants. About 60 percent of the people based here will be flight attendants; the rest pilots. Besides the flight crews, the Spirit has put 14 mechanics at McCarran .

Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.