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Two of the most hated US airlines are planning to merge

Frontier Airlines plane

Almost immediately upon word Monday morning of the $6.6 billion Frontier-Spirit airlines merger, people took to social media to dunk on both low-cost carriers. Though that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, since both airlines have the worst customer satisfaction ratings in the industry, per the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. “While you’re all making fun of the Frontier Spirit merger, I just booked a $17 flight to Cancun with a seat on the wing,” one Twitter user snarked.

And the pile-on continued. “I just booked a seat between the pilots,” joked another user. Meanwhile, the quips keep coming: “And another $200 in fees, each way, for your suitcase and carry-on?” And: “Weird they consider your kidneys carry ons.” The complaints both airlines face, meanwhile, include everything from customers feeling nickel-and-dimed by the carriers (since these are budget airlines, they have to make up the money they forgo from dirt-cheap tickets some other way) to the often poor overall flight experience. And as if all this wasn’t enough?

Frontier-Spirit merger

Also Monday morning, Frontier picked the worst time to have a temporary operational snafu. According to a spokeswoman, Frontier spent Monday working to quickly restore operations after a “technology issue” led to a wave of flight delays and cancellations.

Per the FAA? All Frontier flights at one point Monday were grounded across the US.

“We are thrilled to join forces with Frontier to further democratize air travel,” Spirit president and CEO Ted Christie said in a news release.

“This transaction is centered around creating an aggressive ultra-low fare competitor to serve our guests even better, expand career opportunities for our team members and increase competitive pressure, resulting in more consumer-friendly fares for the flying public.”

The combo will create the fifth-largest US airline, but many of the details are still unclear. Such as what corporate branding the airline will fly under. And who will lead it.

Cheap flights

spirit airlines planes
Spirit Airlines planes are shown at Orlando International Airport. Image source: ZUMAPRESS.com/MEGA

Among the benefits of the merger touted by both airlines:

  • $1 billion in annual consumer savings.
  • More than 1,000 daily flights to over 145 destinations in 19 countries.
  • An increase in access to cheap flights. Which will be done “by adding new routes to underserved communities across the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.”
  • And expanded frequent flyer and membership offerings, among other benefits.

“Together, Frontier and Spirit will be America’s Greenest Airline and deliver more ultra-low fares to more people in more places,” said Frontier President and CEO Barry Biffle.

Meanwhile, both airlines’ balance sheets provide a bit more context around the impetus for a merger. Spirit Airlines, for example, reported a full-year 2021 loss of $440.6 million on Monday. While Frontier’s loss over the same period totaled $299 million.

Cheap flights are central, of course, to both airlines’ business models. Meanwhile, the merger awaits regulatory approval, but there’s no guarantee that approval will be a sure thing.

Andy Meek profile photo

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.