DANIA BEACH, Fla. – After a months-long bidding war, JetBlue Airways has agreed to buy South Florida-based Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion and create the nation’s fifth-largest airline if the deal can win approval from antitrust regulators.
It comes one day after the airline officially broke off negotiations with fellow discount carrier Frontier Airlines.
Spirit is currently based in Miramar, but is constructing a new facility in Dania Beach, closer to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, a major base of operations for the airline.
JetBlue has said that it plans to keep the combined airline’s headquarters in its hometown of New York.
That’s leading to questions over what the merger, if approved, means for the Dania Beach project and the enlarged company’s overall presence in South Florida.
“I don’t think there’s a reason to suspect that JetBlue would just pull everything out of South Florida,” industry expert Brett Snyder, with Cranky Concierge, said.
Early Thursday afternoon, Local 10 News learned more about what that will look like.
Spirit spokesperson Erik Hofmeyer said the combined company will retain a support center in Fort Lauderdale in addition to JetBlue’s existing support centers.
“We’ll continue to have a large presence here locally and intend to use the Dania Beach campus,” Hofmeyer said.
A joint statement from the companies said “JetBlue will expand its no furlough commitment to Spirit’s Team Members as they are welcomed into JetBlue.”
“At this point, it’s too early to see if everyone will keep their jobs but hopefully,” industry analyst Jason Rabinowitz said.
JetBlue and Spirit will continue to operate independently until the agreement is approved by regulators and Spirit shareholders, with their separate loyalty programs and customer accounts.
What could the merger mean for travelers?
“Consumers can probably expect higher fares, potentially less service or service going to different places,” Snyder said. “We really just don’t know exactly how this will play out.”
The companies said they expect to conclude the regulatory process and close the transaction no later than the first half of 2024.
The combined airline will have a fleet of more than 450 planes. Rabinowitz says that increased scale is likely a good thing for passengers.
“The enhanced combined route network will overall be beneficial for everyone,” he said.
But Rabinowitz said the merger is far from a done deal.
“JetBlue is going to face a very uphill battle in the regulatory space,” he said.