Money-Losing Spirit Stops Hiring Flight Crew


According to company memos obtained by CNBC, Spirit Airlines will suspend pilot and flight attendant hiring next month following a disappointing third-quarter performance.

Despite a busy travel season, the low-cost carrier reported its third-quarter earnings on Oct. 26 showing a loss of nearly $158 million, which the company attributes to soft demand, slower growth and ongoing engine issues with its Airbus aircraft.

In a memo to its pilots, VP of Flight Operations Greg Christopher said the hiring pause comes after the company recently slowed hiring and captain upgrades at the company. “With these recent developments, however, we will also be suspending all new-hire training efforts starting in November, until further notice,” wrote Christopher. It was also reported that all new hire flight attendant training would pause beginning Nov. 7 for the foreseeable future.

In another memo seen by CNBC, Tina Milton, vice president of inflight experience, stated the company was planning to offer voluntary time off for cabin crew members.

Meanwhile, Spirit has been dealing with the grounding of aircraft for inspections of geared turbofan engines made by Pratt & Whitney. The airline said it expects to ground 13 aircraft in January increasing to 41 by December of next year—contributing to slowed growth. It has 202 aircraft, all of them in the A320 family. The affected airplanes are its newest and most fuel-efficient models.

Following Spirit’s underwhelming third-quarter results, President and CEO Ted Chrystie said, “Softer demand for our product and discounted fares in our markets led to a disappointing outcome for the third quarter 2023. We continue to see discounted fares for travel booked through the pre-Thanksgiving period. And, unfortunately, we have not seen the anticipated return to a normal demand and pricing environment for the peak holiday periods.”

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.

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  1. Spirit has a VP of Inflight Experience? What’s her job, to see that every passenger has a miserable flight? Cut-rate air carriers always skate on the thin edge of profitability. IF they can’t make a profit during the holiday season, you can probably stick a fork in them next spring.

    • My Dad was a Korean War vet, and never complained about anything I knew of, until he thought he’d save a few bucks flying aboard Spirit

      ‘Never again!’

      No offense meant to the many decent people who work there.

  2. Maybe passengers are finally figuring out that getting nickeled and dimed to extreme to ride with your knees in your chin and riding on concrete bench hard seats are not such a great thing after all! These days of full airplanes, there is no excuse for losing money.

  3. Can you say “death spiral”? Saw this at Ransome after Pan Am went under and we were sold to TWA. It started back in it’s early days with PAA. Ransome had some very profitable routes like PHL and TTN to DCA. The folks that I flew with from those days said those flights were chock full every leg and real money makers. But, they didn’t “directly” feed the PAA system so they had to go. TWA cut even more after they took over and didn’t seem capable of grasping a clue of what to do with our fleet to make a profit. Of course, they couldn’t do so with their own fleet either so I guess it was about par of the course with the Ichan crowd. PAA was barely eking put survival prior to Lockerbie but the handwriting was on the wall with them as well. They were bleeding money out the door with no hope of recovery so the kept to the same old foolishness hoping for a different financial result every quarter.

  4. First off, CNBC? It must have been a boring day for the writer to come across a story on the channel few watch.

    As for Spirit? The real story is their decision to jump on the Airbus wagon putting all of the seats in one basket so to speak. Taking that many aircraft out of any system would lead to a hiring freeze. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before in every airline.

    Maybe it’s a harbinger of things to come in the industry. This business has always had its ups and downs and with the economy headed in the wrong direction, another is surely on the horizon. Anybody who’s spent a decent amount of time employed by an airline knows this very well. History has shown that every retired airline pilot has experienced on average three furloughs. Today’s pilots had best enjoy their new contracts while they can. The “soft demand” at Spirit may very well be just the start. After all, most passengers buy tickets to get someplace, not enjoy a couple of amenities offered by those ever-increasing fares the majors are now faced with. Hope I’m wrong but history says I’m not.

  5. So it seems clear that price isn’t the only factor here? How can Delta and United be crushing it while Spirit says the market is soft? Maybe their city-pairs are not ideal or how many flights they offer per day to those city-pairs are not enough? I swore them off a couple of years ago bc the rebooking on my cancelled flight was three days away. Original booking date was 12/23 so traveling to get to destination was after Christmas.

  6. Although I (and many others) view Spirit as a last choice option – I have used them multiple times over the years when traveling with a family of 5 and have saved thousands (once saving over $1,000 in airfare for one family vacation alone). In fact, this past weekend we flew our college daughter roundtrip (non-stop) from IND to Ft Myers for $140 total (no baggage fees – just her free backpack). With such low fares I often wondered how they survived – Now it seems we know the answer.

  7. I used them a few times but I got tired of the advertised low fare being like a ‘bait and switch’ tactic.
    By the time you add in the extra cost for EVERYTHING but the cramped seat, anything more than a 2 hour flight was torture. The idea was great, the reality not so much.