Spirit eyes return to full network capacity, begins hiring spree

written by Hannah Dowling | February 15, 2021
An A320 Neo in Spirit livery (Spirit)

Ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines has said it intends to service its entire pre-pandemic network by mid-year, and is among the first airlines to begin hiring new pilots and flight attendants.

Spirit CEO Ted Christie has said the airline is well-positioned to cash in on the return of leisure travel over the US summer travel season, while optimistically suggesting the airline will return to its pre-pandemic route capacity before then.

“Growth in the airline industry is going to be at the leisure end, and we’re the primary server of that guest,” Christie said.

“Vaccine deployment, lowering total COVID case numbers should lead to more confidence from the travelling public and a loosening of restrictions.”

The CEO also suggested Spirit would be a “big hirer again”, noting that the carrier has already begun advertising for an undisclosed number of new positions.

While the current advertised positions are for pilots and flight attendants Christie stated that other positions will become available in the company over the coming months.

The airline, like most, has had a recruitment freeze in place since early last year.

Notably, Spirit was able to completely avoid making any involuntary redundancies, and has already begun to call back its stood-down workers.

Christie noted that all workers, either new or returning, will be required to undergo mandated training before attending to their post.

“Our training footprint can only handle so much, so it has to be phased,” Christie added.

The comments come after Spirit posted a US$428.7 million loss in 2020, the airline’s first annual loss since at least 2007.

Together, US airlines lost in excess of US$34 billion in 2020 due to the global pandemic.

It comes as a US House committee approved a proposal to give airlines another US$14 billion in payroll assistance through to September 2021.

The funds will form as part of a US$1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package being offered by the Biden administration, and is the third round of government support welcomed by the embattled aviation industry.

The package will see around 30,000 jobs saved across the industry.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she expects lawmakers to complete legislation based on the bill by the end of February.

When asked whether he supports additional aid, despite the fact that the airline is hiring and expanding its network, Christie said, “Our industry needs to be fair in all cases, so there can’t be selective aid.

“To the extent that the government does decide to either extend the existing program or modify it, then I think it is to be expected that all airlines would be a beneficiary there.”

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