Spirit’s Miami decision another ominous sign for Fort Lauderdale & Broward County

UPDATE: On Thursday morning, Southwest Airlines loaded five resumptions of international destinations from Fort Lauderdale beginning roughly around the same time as Spirit’s foray into Miami this Fall. The assumption in this article and among that of many aviation analysts was that Southwest which has built up Miami recently at Fort Lauderdale’s expense may get international service at Lauderdale’s expense. At least thus far, that is not the case.

If you missed the news, Spirit Airlines whose primary hub is in Fort Lauderdale is beginning Miami service this fall – not with a handful of nonstop destinations but 30, yes THIRTY. Spirit is based in Broward County and flew the fifth most passengers among US airlines in 2020.

Spirit is one of three airlines that prior to COVID-19 had a large connecting hub/focus city operation in Fort Lauderdale and did not serve rival Miami International. Now, Spirit is one of three airlines that had a large connecting hub and had a large connecting hub/focus city operation in Fort Lauderdale that has opened service to Miami International with double-digit daily nonstop flights.

In addition, Emirates Airline, one of the world’s largest international carriers has shifted its South Florida gateway from Fort Lauderdale to Miami.

By Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK (Airbus A320-232(w) ‘N641NK’ Spirit) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It should be noted Spirit claims they are pulling no service from Fort Lauderdale (unlike Southwest who made no such promise and have aggressively ramped up Miami since November 2020), but do we really believe them? This fall Spirit will fly about 100 daily flights from Fort Lauderdale and 30 from Miami…but still that’s 30 more than they fly now.

Spirit’s decision clarifies something I had long feared as someone who has historically preferred flying out of Fort Lauderdale (FLL) instead of Miami (MIA) – the large concentration of domestic service out of FLL instead of MIA the last 15-20 years was due largely to operating costs being substantially lower at FLL. Now that the cost of operating at Fort Lauderdale has risen with recent terminal renovations, Miami is more attractive – why?

Miami’s costs per passenger are still higher than Fort Lauderdale’s but airline’s can charge a higher fare premium out of MIA than FLL- business travelers don’t like Fort Lauderdale with its inferior lounge facilities and lack of public transportation (ie. train) options directly from the airport. Besides it is further from the major business districts in the region, though it should be pointed out both Office Depot and AutoNation have their corporate HQ’s much closer to FLL than MIA.

Tourists preferred FLL because of cost, but many if not most aren’t visiting Broward or Palm Beach County at all but are headed to Miami or the Keys – so now Spirit, Southwest and jetBlue can all take them closer to their destinations.

All of this adds up to bad news for Broward County. Without cruise ships running, and little business travel to the airport their really is little point to flying in/out of Fort Lauderdale except strictly for convenience – and since the MIA and FLL catchments areas overlap the number of potential passengers that would be unwilling to drive to MIA is probably small – much like Palm Beach International’s (PBI) long-term struggle to stop local passengers from flying out of Fort Lauderdale which has lower fares and much more service.

The key for FLL is getting the cruise business back up and running – until then I’d expect to see more or more service pulled from Fort Lauderdale and moved to Miami. In fact if cruise ships aren’t back to 2019 levels by 2023, Fort Lauderdale and more broadly Broward County are in BIG trouble economically.

24 comments

  1. Anonymous · ·

    You make statements that are not only wildly assumptive, they are illogical. Don’t quit your day job.

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    1. Anonymous · ·

      I don’t think it’s all gloom and doom for Lauderdale like the author but it’s not good.

      Miami has gotten costs more in line to attract LCC’s and as the author correctly says, nails it really, once Lauderdale’s costs aren’t significantly different than Miami’s , virtually no premium traffic is going to use Lauderdale and tourist traffic will skew more heavily toward Miami. Those assumptions are correct. I cannot speak to the rest of the authors assumptions about cruises but on the airline economics she/he/they are correct.

      Like

  2. Florida Frontier Fan · ·

    Good analysis first time I have stumbled upon you. Some good airline stuff here. I am from Orlando.

    One big mistake regarding you ignoring Frontier.

    The amount of traffic into FLL never made sense except for the costs.

    You rag on PBI but Frontier has actually stopped flying to FLL completely and still flies to PBI.

    You have a good list of FLL failures in the last few years but forgot that. Frontier shuttered FLL completely. Frontier also has a large focus city at MIA that has grown a lot. Spirit is walking into a minefield.

    I do think FLL is in trouble. Southwest has cut more service to FLL than any other airport since coronavirus hit. JetBlue hasn’t lost interest as you imply but is in trouble. Spirit would like everyone else rather be in Miami.

    I never thought about the cruise thing but that makes perfect sense. FLL was always the airport for cruises.

    Emirates switched to MIA? I missed that. Makes sense though.

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  3. Anonymous · ·

    Credit where credit is due –

    Miami-Dade realized they couldn’t be so dependent on an ailing AA mismanaged by Doug Parker.

    They courted LCC’s and here they’ve come.

    Is Fort Lauderdale done? No

    However it’s hard to see any airline that can grow in Miami focusing on Lauderdale.

    As you correctly say once the cost advantage is gone for Lauderdale it’s never going to win battles with Miami.

    The one caveat I would put though is Miami’s cost are likely to shoot up again soon as terminal renovations and refreshes are done. But if Miami continues to perform well, it’s been one of Southwest’s best ever city launches, then it won’t matter.

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  4. Anonymous · ·

    FLL will recover…eventually.

    Covid killed that place with no cruises.

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  5. Anonymous · ·

    I think the airlines r making a bad decision as an Uber driver Mia sucks wait to passengers fly into Mia and see what a crowded crazy place that is they will go back to fll

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  6. Ugh…. Miami?! You couldn’t pay me to fly into or even visit that scum bucket. (Then again you couldn’t pay me to fly spirit either). I guess it’s the greyhound of the skies to the dump of America.

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  7. Anonymous · ·

    FLL is and always will be the gateway to SFL. Look at the numbers. MIA is a dump.

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  8. Not a huge problem. Living in Ft Lauderdale, I will go the the extra mile to avoid MIA. While good for some Carribean connections, it is not nearly as friendly and easy as FLL. Spirit could easily lose a lot of business once people get the feel of MIA. FLL continues to be one of the best run airports in the country for walking distance to gate, ease if entry/exit, and personnel attitude. I flew through their today and can’t thank them enough for their great work.

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    1. AA Advantage Ruby · ·

      True that for a low cost carrier like Spirit FLL is fine.

      But for business travelers it’s a miserable experience.

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  9. Anonymous · ·

    I don’t think FLL will miss the fights and stabbings that Spirt Airlines has experienced at the ft Lauderdale terminal.
    Maybe the gun gangs can get to the flights easier.
    Take the whole company to Miami.

    Good reddens

    Like

  10. Miami can have spirit. Worst airline ever.

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  11. Anonymous · ·

    Tough to take you seriously with such poor writing. Check the difference between their and there in your article. Maybe some remedial training on run on sentences.

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  12. Luciana St Peter · ·

    Poorly written article, and a lot of assumptions. Fort Lauderdale will get their share of the LATAM market. MIA sucks!

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    1. AA Advantage Ruby · ·

      You clearly know nothing about the business or who chooses what airports for whatever reasons.

      Like

  13. AA Advantage Ruby · ·

    “ business travelers don’t like Fort Lauderdale with its inferior lounge facilities ”

    This is an understatement. You should have put this higher in the article. Fort Lauderdale remains an adolescent airport with shitty lounges and even shittier immigration and customs areas. Broward County has had years to fix it and has just gotten around to it recently.

    Also Spirit has been relying for years on VFR travelers to drive to FLL. Now that MIA costs are more in-line it is just a matter of time before service to several LATAM destinations shift.

    Like

  14. AA Advantage Ruby · ·

    Whatever you may think of this article and its sentence structure, some of you people are totally clueless as to the realities of the airline business.

    You can say they are assumptions but they’re held by many people and everything in this article checks out if you speak to unbiased people who don’t work for Broward County. FLL is not an attractive airport for business travelers and with cruise traffic halted its not a great airport for destination passengers either. It remains a wonderful convenient airport for local originating traffic but it’s hardly in Miami’s league without cruises operating. That is reality whether you accept it or not. The author’s leaps of faith are based on largely held chatter and assumptions.

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  15. Brickell · ·

    This article is good but missing one huge detail.

    Frontier has shuttered FLL completely

    The same airline which for years didn’t fly to MIA at all but focused locally on FLL now is operating nonstop flights to over 30 cities from miami.

    The author focuses on the sexy headlines of shifts but missed one really big one that makes the point even stronger.

    Without cruise traffic FLL would be nothing but a small local airport maybe slightly larger than PBI.

    Like

  16. From a resort perspective, I can tell you Fort Lauderdale is very much alive. We are very busy and rates are up. A ship is floating at sea across from us now waiting to set sail in less than two weeks. Other cruises resume July. Business is about to pickup even more. On a side note, another discount airline, Allegiant just added direct flights from my hometown to FLL which begins in October. I am excited because my 15 year old son and I will get more visits together. Not only will the flight bring more tourists, but business travelers in the CPG world as Walmart and Sam’s Club corporate offices are located there and many of them have connections in both Miami and broward region. I am optimistic recovery will continue on for our market and hope for the best with the expressed airport concerns. You can certainly see they are making a lot of improvements over the last year.

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  17. Great article. And the lounge issue is really critical. The new terminals at FLL are great. But it’s not the same as being able to get the airport early and camp out at The Admirals Club. In the 95 Express Lanes, I can make it to MIA and the direct exit on 112 in about 25 minutes (which isn’t terrible). I love the convenience of FLL. But no lounges and limited flights make it a chore. Would be great if a legacy carrier that is NOT AA chose FLL to plant a flag (e.g. DIRECT Delta flights – not all routed through ATL, United, etc.) And would agree with a previous post that SWA has dramatically curtailed their FLL presence.

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  18. I fly to Central America every month. This is welcome news for me! Miami is arguably the best place to connect in the country. Rincon Criollo and tram to the transit center alone set it above almost any other airport. Then you also have a an airport hotel, as well as about 10 other hotels within easy reach of the airport. You also have nightlife that is so close you could even walk if you wanted to. You can also get some cheap food at Miami if you just need a quick fill. Then there’s the dreadful fort lauderdale!. Home of the $14 worst chicken sandwich you’ll ever have in your life at the “sports Bar” that has the ambience of a doctor’s office. Then the other food options don’t open until lunch is half over and close long before dinner time is over. Worse what do you do if you need a hotel? .. I guess if you are super wealthy you’re good but otherwise you’re totally screwed. There’s nothing even remotely affordable and safe near the airport. How do you even get out of the airport? I don’t think you can unless you pay big bucks for a $5 a minute Uber or rent a car. Plus Miami offers many opportunities to make multi airline itineraries to save a lot of money or create multi destination trips.

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  19. Beatriz Pineda · ·

    I’ve been to FLL recently and the immigration area is like that of a third world airport, even worst, it’s congested, no separation, slow, it takes between 1 1/2 and 2 hours to get through, MIA is way better and has way more connections with American and United. Good idea Spirit.

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  20. Pleaae learn Engliah before you publish articles. Or have an editor make corrections before publishing. You may pay me to proofeead if no one in your organuzation is capable. You are making my eyes bleed here. So sick of peiole not knowing the difference between plural and possessive. Well, they probably taught you relevant stuff, like the 13 genders.

    Like

  21. Celeste Reyes · ·

    Who wrote this? “Without cruise ships running, and little business travel to the airport their really is little point to flying in/out of Fort Lauderdale except strictly for convenience – and since the MIA and FLL catchments areas overlap the number of potential passengers that would be unwilling to drive to MIA is probably small – much like Palm Beach International’s (PBI) long-term struggle to stop local passengers from flying out of Fort Lauderdale which has lower fares and much more service..” Did you proofread? Download Grammarly.com to avoid grammatical errors.

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