Spirit Airlines and Frontier join forces for Nickel And Dime You

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Photo: Joe Raedle / Staff (Getty Images)

America’s two largest low-cost carriers are joining forces to become a massive super-budget airline. Border airlines bought Spirit Airlines in a deal that will make it the fifth-largest airline in the United States.

Frontier is investing $2.9 billion in cash and stock in the deal, according to the Wall Street Journal reports. The deal – which the airlines value at $6.6 billion – has yet to pass regulators. Both airlines say the merger will allow them to better compete with the biggest players in the industry.

Spirit and Frontier are the choice of those who want to travel thousands of miles on as little money as possible. I still can’t wrap my head around the The $31 flight I took from Chicago to Denver on Spirit or the $60 flight that took me to Los Angeles on Frontier.

Image for article titled Spirit Airlines and Frontier join forces to nickel you and you

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

In exchange for cheap tickets, both airlines will charge you for just about anything, like a mobile game. Spirit charges you for carry-on baggage. Last time I flew Frontier, you had to pay for something more exciting than water. And forget the luxuries like screens or more comfortable seats than a city bus. But if you’re traveling without luggage, it can be a hell of a deal.

If approved, Frontier will own 51.5% of the combined airline and realize Frontier Chairman William Franke’s dream of a mega low-cost airline. As the WSJ notes, when Franke was president of Spirit and when Frontier went on sale in 2013, he wanted to combine the strengths of both. His private equity firm ended up with Frontier for $36 million.

Spirit and Frontier are also often the butt of jokes about their cancellations, silly fees and cramped cabins. Surprisingly, they are no longer the worst in the country. According to a recent study Noted per CNBC, that accolade now lands on JetBlue. Spirit is now second to last with Frontier tied for second to last with American.

They still have a ways to go, from the WSJ:

Still, the deal must go through regulators, who have taken an aggressive stance on antitrust enforcement under the Biden administration. Last year, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit challenging a partnership between American Airlines Group and JetBlue Airways Corp., describing their cooperation as a backdoor attempt to shore up the industry and alleging the airlines’ cooperation would remove the competition and lead to higher prices.

The Justice Department has worried for years about a reduction in airline competition and is under pressure from competition advocates to do more to prevent it. The Obama administration initially challenged American’s merger with US Airways in 2013, but later settled the case and cleared the deal in exchange for concessions from the airlines.

The merger would combine what airlines do best, Frontier with its western routes and Spirit with its eastern routes. The pair say they will create 10,000 new jobs by 2026. Time will tell if the new colossus airline will be able to make you nickel and dime on everything.

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