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Spirit Airlines Bucks Trends, Plans More Growth

DUBAI TheStreet) -- Spirit (SAVE - Get Report) CEO Ben Baldanza went to the Dubai Air Show to announce the airline intends to increase its Airbus fleet.

Baldanza said Spirit and Airbus have entered into a non-binding memorandum of understanding, which contemplates an order of 75 Airbus A320 aircraft, including 30 existing models planes and 45 new A320neo aircraft.

"Airbus likes to announce new orders at air shows," Baldanza said Tuesday, in an e-mail. "That's why we came here to finalize the order and announce it."

During a press conference in Dubai, Baldanza declared, "Spirit is a very-low-fare airline, and in tough economic times a larger percentage of people look for value, so we do pretty well," according to Bloomberg. "We feel good about Spirit's growth and having a cost advantage over our competition and being able to offer low fares keeps travel moving in tough economic times."

The 75 aircraft would be scheduled for delivery from 2016 through 2021. They have a list price of $6.7 billion. Airbus currently maintains that it will deliver its first A320neo in 2015.

For Airbus, the Spirit announcement, while neither an order nor a symbol of its Middle East presence, enables another positive talking point at the show. The biggest actual orders have come from Emirates Airline, which ordered 50 Boeing (BA - Get Report) 777s, and from Qatar Airways, which ordered 55 Airbus jets including 50 A-320s.

Fast-growing Spirit, an anomaly in a U.S. aircraft industry that is captivated by capacity management, said the order would supplement its existing orders for 33 aircraft. The planes would be used in its current markets -- the U.S., the Caribbean and Latin America.

Spirit competitor JetBlue (JBLU - Get Report), which also flies Airbus jets, announced Tuesday that it would boost its presence on the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - San Juan, Puerto Rico route also served by Spirit. JetBlue said it will offer six flights a day, up from its current four, starting in May 2012.

Spirit has the largest presence of any carrier at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, while JetBlue is second.

JetBlue is rapidly growing its San Juan service. It already serves seven markets, including Boston and New York, and it plans to add four more in the coming months. Daily non-stop flights to St. Maarten will begin Thursday; service to St. Croix and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands will begin Dec. 12, and service to Hartford will begin Jan. 5, 2012.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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