85°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Spirit CEO says airline soaring past reputation of bad service

Despite getting a bad rap from customers for its service over the years, Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie said the carrier’s recent spike in passengers is proof it’s getting past that reputation.

Last year Spirit saw a 25 percent jump in passenger volume at McCarran International Airport, going from 3.41 million in 2017 to 4.26 million in 2018. The low-fare carrier has seen that surge spill over into 2019, seeing a 21 percent spike in passengers through March.

The strong growth suggests travelers are looking at the airline in a different light, said Christie, who took the helm of the airline Jan. 1.

“I think that perception was grounded in the execution of the product,” Christie said. “In the more distant past we’ve had some missteps from an on-time perspective. Luckily in the past three years we’ve invested considerable amount of time and energy focusing on improving the operational performance of the airline to the point where now we’re usually a top three, top four operator in the United States as far as on-time performance, mishandled bags and cancellation rate are concerned.”

Looking to build off its recent growth even further, Spirit will launch two new nonstop routes between Las Vegas and Sacramento and Burbank, California, next month.

The new service features three flights per day between Las Vegas and the two California cities and begins June 20. The two Golden State flights come on the heels of nonstop daily service to Indianapolis and Austin, Texas, that began in March.

Christie said the growth won’t stop there as other possible routes are on the docket.

“We’re now at about 50 departures per day (from McCarran). … It’s a great market for us, a great market for a Spirit-type airline, and we think we’re the perfect one to serve it,” he said. “I think there is an additional opportunity for us going forward to find suitable markets in and out of Vegas that can give our guests more opportunities to come directly to Vegas to do more and more things in the domestic lower 48, as well as connect on to Latin America and the Caribbean where we serve 27 destinations. So more to come for sure.”

As Las Vegas grows, the market has become not only a destination but also an origin of travel traffic, and Christie sees Spirit’s business model being a perfect fit for both ends of that spectrum.

With the success of the Golden Knights and the Raiders ready to kick off in 2020, Christie sees the emergence of professional sports in Las Vegas as another avenue to drive passengers in and out of the city.

“Pro sporting events obviously cater to and appeal to the local market, but for traveling franchises that creates inbound leisure opportunities as well,” he said. “We think the addition of the Raiders and the success of your NHL franchise here is going to create even more opportunity long term.”

Personal finance website Wallethub recently ranked Spirit as the fourth-best airline in the U.S., and Christie said the carrier will look to increase the customer experience further with improved technology.

Spirit is adding next-generation high-speed Wi-Fi on its flights. The service is available on select planes now during the testing phase, with the remaining planes in the fleet phasing the service in over the next year and a half, Christie said.

“Once you’re on the airplane, you now have the ability to stay connected or stream your favorite television show, or perhaps buy a ticket to a show if you’re headed into Vegas,” he said. “Those types of opportunities will come over time, and it’s an opportunity for us to enhance the experience for those coming to visit places like Las Vegas.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury sells Las Vegas home - VIDEO
Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has sold his custom home Southern Highlands home in Las Vegas for $2.3 million.
Las Vegas Strip resorts slow to welcome Alexa, Google Home Hub
Alexa, where are you? Smart home and hospitality technology was big at CES in early January. Amazon and Google promoted their voice-activated speakers Alexa and Google Home Hub. Hospitality executives have called the speakers the industry’s future. Yet for all the hype, the revolution is unfolding at a cautious pace on the Strip as well as in other major U.S. hospitality markets. Hotels are focusing their consumer-facing technology investments on adding streaming capabilities, like Netflix, and enhancing their mobile apps, a December report by Hospitality Technology showed. Voice-enabled technology is 10th on that priority list.
What is MGM 2020
MGM Resorts International announced its MGM 2020 plan in January, The plan would improve cash flow by $200 million annually by the end of 2020 and an additional $100 million by the end of 2021. 1,070 jobs were cut as part of the cost-cutting initiative. 881 of those were Las Vegas employees, mostly in management or mid-management positions. Jim Murren
What is MGM 2020
MGM Resorts International announced its MGM 2020 plan in January, The plan would improve cash flow by $200 million annually by the end of 2020 and an additional $100 million by the end of 2021. 1,070 jobs were cut as part of the cost-cutting initiative. 881 of those were Las Vegas employees, mostly in management or mid-management positions. Jim Murren
Find next-level experience
One minute, you’re just trimming hedges and shooting the breeze with your neighbor. But then he brings up Vegas and you’re thinking about the incredible meals, world-class hotels, pools inside of pools and unparalleled entertainment. You’re thinking about iconic artist residencies like Aerosmith. Priorities take shape. Vegas first, lawn and everything else, second. Just like that, Vegas Changes Everything. (Visti Las Vegas/Youtube)
Vegas Changes Everything
A weekend getaway is nice for anyone, but a weekend getaway in Vegas ... that’s a next-level experience with shows, clubs, spas and more. With a chance to see iconic artist residencies like Gwen Stefani, you might just find yourself going from pushing your child on a swing, to pushing back a birthday party. See how Vegas Changes Everything. (Visit Las Vegas/YouTube)
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
THE LATEST
North Las Vegas Airport receives $2M face-lift

The North Las Vegas Airport unveiled its $2 million makeover Tuesday, boasting new flooring, furniture and wall art, in addition to a new exterior paint job, signage and lighting .