Discounter Spirit Airways said Monday it will add service to Dallas from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport next year and has plans for other new destinations.
Analysts said the announcement of planned new flights -- less than two months after Spirit arrived in Minnesota -- indicate the airline is having success in the Twin Cities and that there is an appetite for lower airfares among cost-conscious consumers.
"This is good news for Minneapolis-St. Paul because it adds another city in which there will be some competition," said Terry Trippler, owner of airline rules website ThePlaneRules.com. "Spirit doesn't seem to be afraid of anybody."
Spirit will name more new cities out of MSP on Tuesday morning, spokeswoman Misty Pinson said in an e-mail. The airline said it will add four nonstop flights a week out of the Twin Cities to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport starting April 26, 2013. Those will later become daily flights in mid-June and compete with Delta Air Lines, Sun Country Airlines and American Airlines.
It's unusual for an airline to announce new routes so quickly, said Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission. It usually takes a while for an airline to gauge the success of its initial routes, he said.
"It's a good sign they have confidence that people in the Twin Cities are buying and will continue to buy tickets on Spirit," Hogan said.
Spirit is known for discount fares as low as $28.79 after taxes and fees. The Miramar, Fla.-based airline's business model is focused on hawking cheap plane tickets by offering less leg room and in some cases, removing bathrooms on planes to cram in more seats.
The airline makes a large portion of its sales -- 31 percent -- through à la carte fees, charging fliers for items that are often free on legacy airlines, such as stuffing carry-on bags in the overhead bins and ordering soda.
"There is a crowd out there that wants inexpensive tickets and they'll pay for everything else that they want. The need is there and [Spirit has] identified that need," Trippler said. "While many others want to snicker at them ... the planes are still being filled."
Spirit is on an aggressive growth plan. At the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, the airline is adding six new cities, bringing the number of non-stop routes out of DFW to 26 destinations.
Trippler said Spirit's expansion could reduce airfares on competing flights that leave around the same time.
Currently, Spirit has non-stop flights to Las Vegas and Chicago out of MSP. Some analysts have speculated that Fort Lauderdale -- a route where Delta is the only non-stop option -- could be next.
If Spirit entered the market, it could link Twin Cities travelers to Caribbean destinations, Trippler said.
A spokesperson for Delta, the Twin Cities' dominant carrier, said it already competes "vigorously" with other carriers at MSP.
The spokesperson said customers choose Delta for its global network and amenities such as in-flight Wi-Fi, first class seating and sky clubs.
Wendy Lee 612-673-1712