Spirit, Frontier and JetBlue: Pros and cons

JetBlue and Spirit scored poorly in Airline Quality Ratings

Spirit Airlines continues to rebuff takeover advances by JetBlue Airlines despite its ongoing hostile acquisition push. The super discount carrier is urging shareholders to vote for Frontier Airlines' separate offer. 

As the twists and turns for investors continue, FOX Business takes a look at what the outcome may mean for passengers. 

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines seating 

Understanding an airline merger

Dean Headley, co-author of the Airline Quality Rating from Wichita State University, told FOX Business when a merger happens, airlines will often say "it's not going to be that much different, we're going to take care of you." 

Headley said that's rarely the case. 

JETBLUE TO LAUNCH TENDER OFFER FOR SPIRIT, URGE SHAREHOLDERS TO VOTE AGAINST FRONTIER DEAL, SOURCES SAY

In order to understand how a merger will impact passengers it's important to look at both airlines and see where they fly, he added.

"If those two airlines have … ten flights a day from that location to other locations, and they merge, chances are they're not going to have five or six when they get done," Headley said. 

It's for efficiency, according to Headley. 

"Why would they go continue ten flights a day that are two-thirds full when they can get five flights a day that are packed," Headley added. 

Jet Blue Spirit

A JetBlue airliner lands past a Spirit Airlines jet on the taxi way at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport April 25, 2022. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images / Getty Images)

FOX Business compared the pros and cons of the three carriers. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
SAVE SPIRIT AIRLINES INC. 22.06 -0.72 -3.16%

Spirit Airlines Pros

Spirit Airlines has a free loyalty program called Free Spirit, offering passengers points for each dollar spent on fares, which can be redeemed "for any fare on any flight with redemptions as low as 2,500 points," according to its website. 

The difference, according to Spirit, is that the airline rewards members for each dollar spent rather than the distance they fly. 

Free Spirit Silver or Free Spirit Gold members are able to get "enhanced benefits, like free shortcut boarding, bags, seats and free same-day standby" with every dollar spent, according to the airline. 

The Spirit Saver Club offers "exclusive access to some of the lowest fares available, as well as discounted prices on bags, seats and other options such as shortcut security, shortcut boarding and flight flex," according to the airline. However, this membership will cost between $70 and $130, depending upon the membership option. 

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According to Spirit's lowest flight offerings, passengers can get fares for as little as $29 one way. 

Customers can bring one free personal item, like a small backpack. 

Spirit Airlines Cons

The airline was rated last on the Airline Quality Rating, which analyzes the performance and quality of the 10 largest airlines in the United States. The report examined mishandled baggage, consumer complaints, on-time performance and involuntary denied boardings.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
JBLU JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP. 8.85 +0.12 +1.32%

Spirit Airlines came in tenth place overall. The carrier ranked fifth for baggage service and sixth for on-time arrivals. It ranked seventh for fewest denied boardings. However, it had the highest number of consumer complaints with 11.45 complaints per 100,000 passengers, according to the data. 

The airline does not offer inflight entertainment. Passengers can watch a video but only if they have a subscription to a streaming service. 

Even though the airline has high-speed Wi-Fi, passengers must pay for it. 

The carrier does not offer free snacks or drinks. All food and beverages must be paid for using a debit or credit card. 

Any items beyond one personal item must be paid for. This includes another small personal item or anything larger like a standard carry-on. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
ULCC FRONTIER GROUP HOLDINGS 9.27 -0.15 -1.59%

Frontier Pros

Customers can pay for food and beverages during flights, but there is no complimentary food or snacks. 

"We would rather pass the cost savings on to our customers by offering the lowest fares possible," the carrier said. 

Customers can bring one free personal item during their trip.

The airline offers a subscription service called the Discount Den which gives passengers "exclusive access to Frontier’s lowest available fares (DEN DEALS) across our routes all year long," according to the carrier's website. 

Frontier Airlines

A Frontier Airlines airplane taxis past a Spirit Airlines aircraft at Indianapolis International Airport in Indianapolis Feb. 7, 2022.  (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The service costs $59.99 for the first year and $59.99 for every year after. 

"The lower fares are available for up to six people on your itinerary, as long as you are one of the passengers," according to the carrier. 

With Frontier Miles, passengers can earn one mile for each air mile flown. With the Frontier World Mastercard, passengers can earn up to 50,000 bonus miles in addition to a $100 flight voucher after qualifying. 

The card can also be used for flights and everyday purchases "for extra earning potential," according to Frontier. 

JETBLUE OFFERS TO BUY SPIRIT AIRLINES FOR ABOUT $3.6 BILLION CASH

Frontier Cons

Frontier does not offer in-flight Wi-Fi, movies, TV or other entertainment. The carrier reiterated that it would rather pass on these cost savings to customers. 

Carry-on bags cost extra. 

All tickets are non-refundable unless a passenger purchases WORKS when booking, according to the airline's policies. However, bookings are refundable within 24 hours of purchasing tickets for flights over seven days from departure, according to the carrier. 

The carrier was tied in third to last on the Wall Street Journal's list of the best and worst airlines for 2021. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
JBLU JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP. 8.85 +0.12 +1.32%

JetBlue Pros

The carrier does offer free on-board entertainment and snacks. 

Passengers are able to have one free personal item that fits under a seat, such as a purse, daypack, laptop bag or approved pet carrier. Certain fares also include a free carry-on bag. 

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Passengers can earn TrueBlue points when traveling on "JetBlue and select partner airlines and on the ground through everyday purchases," according to the carrier, which noted that even pets can earn points. 

Similar to Spirit, "the number of points you need to book a trip is based on the current fare for that trip — not some sky-high pre-set minimum," the carrier added. 

Passengers can earn double points when the book through the company's website or its app. The points don't expire and can be redeemed for any seat at any time, according to the carrier. 

JetBlue at LaGuardia

A man talks on his cell phone while looking at a JetBlue Airways Airbus A320-200 plane at LaGuardia Airport in New York. (JETBLUE/ REUTERS/Lucas Jackson / Reuters Photos)

You can also pool together points with up to seven people in order to earn rewards faster. 

Passengers can also earn up to 60,000 points after qualifying with the JetBlue Plus Card. 

JetBlue Cons

The airline ranked eighth overall on the Airline Quality Rating. The carrier ranked eighth for baggage service and ninth for on-time arrivals. 

It came in fifth for fewest denied boardings and had the second-highest number of customer complaints behind Spirit. 

The airline started to slip overall the past three or four years, according to Headley. 

Shareholders of Spirit Airlines Inc. are scheduled to vote June 10 on the Frontier bid, which is favored unanimously by the Spirit board. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.