The Charlotte airport is about to welcome another low-cost airline

The Charlotte airport is about to welcome another low-cost airline
(Source: Spirit Airlines)

Spirit Airlines is making its debut in Charlotte in June, the latest North Carolina location for the low-cost carrier.

The airline announced Tuesday it would expand its service to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, its fourth North Carolina destination in less than a year. The carrier announced its entrance into the Raleigh-Durham market last month. It started service in Asheville and Greensboro in 2018.

The airline will offer daily direct service to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Orlando, Newark, N.J., and Baltimore/Washington starting June 20. Ticket sales start on Tuesday.

John Kirby, Spirit Airlines’ Vice President of Network Planning, said the airline has been considering the Charlotte market for a long time.

“There’s been more urgency as of late as the airport has become more constrained in terms of gates,” he said.

Charlotte Douglas, American Airlines’ second busiest hub, has 106 gates, but the airport is expanding as part of a $2.5 billion capital improvement program. And in November, low-cost Mexican Volaris added flights from Charlotte to Guadalajara.

Spirit will share a gate with its budget competitor Frontier, along with Air Canada, the airline said. American Airlines still operates about 90 percent of the flights at Charlotte-Douglas, but Kirby said Spirit focuses on a different customer than American.

“It’s not really about competing with American,” he said. “It really is focused on leisure customers, not on business customers.”

The airport’s ticket prices are higher on average than most. The average domestic fare out of Charlotte Douglas in the second quarter of last year was $427, or $78 higher than the national average, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Florida-based Spirit Airlines operates over 600 flights a day, and Charlotte will be its 73rd destination.

It has often ranked poorly in customer satisfaction surveys, but last year it made headlines when it had the highest percentage of on-time flights of any carrier in October, according to a report from the Department of Transportation.

While the airline hasn’t yet disclosed prices for the Charlotte flights, he said they’ll be comparable Raleigh-Durham fares. A round-trip ticket from RDU to Orlando runs around $120, according to the carrier’s website. But like many budget carriers, the airline charges extra fees for a carry-on bag, which can range from $28 while booking online to $65 at the gate.

“We come in with daily frequencies, multiple destinations,” Kirby said. “We really do that to gain some relevance in the marketplace sooner.”

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