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Spirit Airlines says it expects to operate on reduced schedules through the end of September after waves of flight cancellations in early August disrupted the travels of thousands of customers.
The Miramar-based airline made the statement in an “update” to investors that was filed late Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
It blamed continued staffing problems for its decision to reduce flights.
An airline spokesman declined to comment on the filing Tuesday.
But neither the filing nor any of Spirit’s published schedules show the airline withdrawing from any of the U.S. and foreign cities it now serves.
In July, Spirit operated 750 flights day, which was a peak for the year as travelers who once felt constrained by the pandemic resumed flying in large numbers this summer. The airline is now operating around 700 daily flights.
On Monday, Spirit had a mild day of cancellations compared with its nightmarish surge earlier this month, with 26, or 3%, of its flights canceled, according to a tracking system operated by Flightaware. Southwest, American and Allegiant had more.
Spirit said it has also seen a rise in customers cancelling reservations due to COVID-19. Others apparently canceled out of an apparent reluctance to fly the airline while it sorts through its troubles.
“The company is also experiencing increased close-in guest cancellations and softer-than-expected booking trends for the quarter, which are believed to be related to rising case counts of COVID-19,” the SEC filing said, “and some amount of short-term brand impact from the irregular operations.”
Recently, Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines made similar statements about customers cancelling due to the spread of COVID-19.
Spirit’s filing was essentially a damage assessment for Wall Street investors who hold positions in the air carrier’s stock, which fell 2.6% to $23.64 in after-hours trading late Monday.
Significant financial setback
“The company estimates the negative revenue impact from these disruptions is approximately $50 million,” the airline said.
Expenses also soared as the airline laid out cash to book customers on other airlines and put them up in hotels. Other costs included overtime for workers, the filing said.
In the statement, Ted Christie, the company president and CEO, repeated an apology he made earlier to customers.
“On behalf of our entire leadership team, we offer an apology to everyone impacted throughout the course of this event,” he said.
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Nonetheless, the federal government is monitoring how Spirit treats its customers, the U.S. Department of Transportation said last week.
The agency said it “reminded Spirit of its legal obligations, including its obligation to provide prompt refunds when it cancels or significantly changes a flight and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered.”
It also expects the company to provide customers with a service plan that addresses hotel accommodations, ground transportation, meal vouchers, air transportation on other carriers, and sleeping facilities inside the airport.
In its SEC filing, Spirit sought to convey that the widespread disruptions were a stumble for an airline that has good intentions,
“We believe the interruption was a singular event driven by an unprecedented confluence of factors and does not reflect systemic issues.” Christie said. “Over the past few years, we have made investments to be one of the most efficient and reliable airlines in the U.S. industry, and we are committed to taking the steps necessary to make sure we maintain that standard.”