JetBlue To Divest Spirit’s LaGuardia Operations To Frontier

Spirit LaGuardia

Spirit has six gates at New York LaGuardia's Marine Air Terminal and 22 takeoff and landing slots.

Credit: Mark Hertzberg/ZUMA Press Wire/Alamy

JetBlue Airways has agreed to divest Spirit Airlines’ operations at New York LaGuardia (LGA) airport to Frontier Airlines if it succeeds in acquiring Spirit.

JetBlue is working to close its planned $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit, which it hopes to win regulatory approvals for and seal during the first half of 2024. The sale of Spirit’s LGA assets would require the green light from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

JetBlue would transfer all of Spirit’s holdings at LaGuardia, consisting of six gates at the Marine Air Terminal and 22 takeoff and landing slots.

“We are committed to ensuring our combination with Spirit preserves ultra-low-cost carrier access in New York,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said late June 1. “We are pleased that this agreement with Frontier will maintain the same level of ultra-low-cost carrier service at LaGuardia Airport.”

Frontier president and CEO Barry Biffle added that the deal would enable the Denver-based ULCC to “significantly expand” its LaGuardia operations.

OAG Schedules Data shows Frontier serves Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Orlando from LGA at present, offering 5,300 weekly departure seats. The ULCC is the ninth largest operator from the airport by capacity, while Spirit is the sixth largest with 20,900 weekly departure seats.

JetBlue agreed to buy Fort Lauderdale-based Spirit last July, edging out Frontier in the process. However, the move is being challenged by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ), which in March filed a suit to block the deal. The antitrust lawsuit claims the transaction will increase fares and reduce choice on routes across the U.S.

“If the acquisition is approved, JetBlue plans to abandon Spirit’s business model, remove seats from Spirit’s planes, and charge Spirit’s customers higher prices,” the March 7 filing states. “JetBlue’s plan would eliminate the unique competition that Spirit provides.”

According to DOJ, the acquisition would have anticompetitive effects on more than 150 routes, with harm “most directly felt” on more than 40 nonstop routes “where the acquisition is presumptively illegal.”

The move by JetBlue to divest some Spirit assets comes two weeks after a federal judge ordered JetBlue and American Airlines to cease their Northeast Alliance—or NEA—in a ruling that found the more than two-year-old alliance to be anticompetitive. Earlier this week, American said it plans to appeal the decision.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.