Two of the most hated airlines in the United States are set to merge together to create one giant ball of jet fuel-fed frustration. Spirit Airlines, the “budget” airline that’s become the butt of a seemingly endless stream of hellish travel jokes, is reportedly being acquired by JetBlue for $3.8 billion. If regulators allow the deal to go through, it will result in the creation of the country’s fifth largest airline.
JetBlue revealed the acquisition news in a press release Thursday, saying the company’s board of directors agreed to a definitive merger agreement where JetBlue will acquire Spirit for $33.50 per share. Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s CEO, said the deal would provide JetBlue more flexibility as it ts survives to add more routes. If the deal goes, though, this beefed-up version of JetBlue will look to compete with United, Delta, Southwest, and American Airlines.
“Spirit and JetBlue will continue to advance our shared goal of disrupting the industry to bring down fares from the Big Four airlines,” Hayes said. “This combination is an exciting opportunity to diversify and expand our network, add jobs and new possibilities for Crewmembers, and expand our platform for profitable growth.”
When combined, the two airlines claim they’ll boast 77 million customers and a fleet of 458 aircraft. JetBlue hopes the combined power of Spirit will help it achieve its goal of booking over 1,700 daily flights to more than 125 destinations in 2022. Peter Boneparth, the chair of JetBlue’s board, said the deal would help the company deliver on its, “mission to inspire humanity.” (Boneparth clearly is an extremely funny man).
The acquisition news comes just hours after Spirit shareholders voted against merging with another potential suitor: Frontier. That deal, valued at around $2.8 billion according to The New York Times, came to a screeching halt yesterday after a month-long negotiation. Frontier announced its intentions to merge with Spirit back in February to create a large, national budge airline only to have JetBlue sweep in with a meatier offer.
If you’re wondering why major airlines would engage in a bidding war for a company that feels universally hated, the short answer is Spirit, for all its rage-inducing bullshit and unexpected fees, still manages to regularly turn a profit. That, combined with its pervasiveness throughout the country’s airports, makes it an attractive item for growing airlines looking to up their size.
Still, it’s hard to see how this deal will work out to be anything less than a soul-splitting headache for consumers. Spirit and JetBlue both ranked dead last in The Wall Street Journal’s annual ranking of U.S. airlines last year. According to that report, around 14.3% of JetBlue’s 262,800 completed flights were delayed 45 minutes or longer. Not to be outdone, Spirit reportedly fielded the highest number of complaints of any airline.