JetBlue Makes Bid to Take Over Spirit Airlines, in an End Run Around Frontier

April 5, 2022

JetBlue today confirmed it has submitted a proposal to the Board of Directors of Spirit to acquire Spirit for $33 per share in cash, implying a fully diluted equity value of $3.6 billion and providing full and certain value to Spirit shareholders.

The proposal represents a premium of 52% to Spirit’s undisturbed share price on February 4, 20221, and a premium of 50% to Spirit’s closing share price on April 4, 20222.

JetBlue firmly believes its proposal constitutes a “superior proposal” under Spirit’s merger agreement with Frontier and represents the most attractive opportunity for Spirit’s shareholders.

The combination of the two airlines would position JetBlue as the most compelling national low-fare challenger to the four large dominant U.S. carriers by accelerating JetBlue’s growth and expanding the reach of the “JetBlue Effect,” which occurs when legacy carriers react to JetBlue’s unique combination of low fares and award-winning customer service.

JetBlue triggers significantly greater fare decreases from legacy airlines when it enters a new market than when ultra-low-cost carriers enter a market.

“Customers shouldn’t have to choose between a low fare and a great experience, and JetBlue has shown it’s possible to have both,” said Robin Hayes, JetBlue CEO. “When we grow and introduce our unique value proposition onto new routes, legacy carriers lower their fares and customers win with more choice. The combination of JetBlue and Spirit – coupled with the incredible benefits of our Northeast Alliance with American Airlines – would be a game changer in our ability to deliver superior value on a national scale to customers, crewmembers, communities, and shareholders. The transaction would accelerate our strategic growth and create sustained, long-term value for the stakeholders in both companies.”

Challenges the Dominant Carriers with Low Fares and Award-Winning Customer Service
In the 22 years since JetBlue first brought low fares to New York, airline mergers have created a landscape where the four largest U.S. carriers control more than 80 percent of the domestic market, to the detriment of consumers. The combination of JetBlue and Spirit would create the fifth largest domestic airline, better positioning it on a national level as a customer-centric, low-fare alternative to the dominant “Big Four” airlines.

JetBlue is loved by customers for its award-winning onboard service, featuring the most legroom in coach (a); free and fast Fly-Fi broadband internet (b); complimentary and unlimited name-brand snacks and soft drinks; and free, live DIRECTV® programming at every seat.

The current merger proposal assumes the rebranding and retrofitting of Spirit’s fleet as JetBlue, introducing a superior onboard experience to Spirit customers.

“While JetBlue and Spirit are different in many ways, we also have much in common, including a focus on keeping our costs low so we can profitably expand and offer an attractive alternative to the dominant ‘Big Four’ airlines. We would conduct a full review of Spirit’s product offering, operational and customer technology, and talent pool to optimize the combined airline,” said Hayes.

Builds on Its Northeast Alliance with American Airlines While Further Deepening JetBlue’s Commitment to New York and Florida
JetBlue has established deep roots in New York, where it has long been New York’s Hometown Airline®. The combined company would maintain the JetBlue brand and continue to be based in New York City.

Through its successful Northeast Alliance (NEA) with American Airlines, JetBlue is currently experiencing significant growth in New York and Boston. In the New York area, JetBlue plans to grow from 200 to nearly 300 daily flights across JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports this year.

JetBlue’s expanded presence is already significantly benefitting the community, with plans to hire 5,000 new crewmembers in the New York-New Jersey region this year and offering travelers in and out of the New York and Boston areas more choices, low fares, and JetBlue’s award-winning experience. The combination with Spirit would complement the NEA’s positive impact in the Northeast by similarly expanding JetBlue’s presence nationwide.

JetBlue has a long history in Florida, starting with the airline’s first revenue flight in 2000 between New York and Fort Lauderdale. With Spirit’s existing headquarters in the Fort Lauderdale area and presence at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), JetBlue would have the opportunity to deepen its longstanding commitment to Florida.

Both Fort Lauderdale and Orlando are JetBlue focus cities, and its JetBlue Travel Products subsidiary – best known for its fast-growing JetBlue Vacations and Paisly product offerings – is also based in the Fort Lauderdale area. The combined airline would offer more than 170 daily flights at FLL, building JetBlue’s relevance as a stronger low-fare competitor in South Florida.

At Orlando International Airport (MCO), JetBlue would grow to more than 130 daily flights. JetBlue maintains its training campus and a customer support center in Orlando, and would plan for significant expansion in Florida to support the larger, combined airline.

“Our Northeast Alliance with American Airlines has supercharged our growth in New York and Boston, unlocking opportunities for us to grow where we could not have before. We view a combination with Spirit as perfectly complementing the NEA. These strategic moves aim to increase our relevance and bring the JetBlue competitive effect to more places while deepening our roots in the communities we call home. Throughout the pandemic, Florida has been a bright spot for JetBlue, and this would offer us the opportunity to hire even more crewmembers in the state, increase service in FLL and MCO for our customers, and further expand our training and support center footprint,” Hayes said.

Source: JetBlue

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