Memphis International Airport (MEM) officials have continuously heard the need for more flights, and the airport received a gift right before the holidays with the addition of Spirit Airlines.
The airline is set to bring nonstop service from MEM to three destinations in 2022 and with those flights come local jobs.
Florida-based Spirit — which last month became the ninth airline serving MEM and the first new airline added since 2017 —will have daily flights to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) and Orlando International Airport (MCO) starting on April 20 and daily flights to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) beginning June 8.
Erik Hofmeyer, director of communications for Spirit, told the MBJ on Jan. 4 that the airline is planning to add about 30 new positions at MEM. Hofmeyer said Spirit is currently in the request for proposal (RFP) process for selecting a service provider to manage its airport operations at MEM.
The airline looks to hire between 15 to 18 agents to work with travelers at Spirit’s counter and gate plus 14 to 16 employees working the ramp, according to Hofmeyer.
John Kirby, VP of network planning at Spirit, said as its MEM operations expand the airline could need 100 to 200 staff. Kirby said Spirit made the decision about six months ago to come to MEM.
“We’ve been looking at Memphis for a while,” Kirby said. “We do particularly well in markets that are origin-destinations. We offer affordable fares, which allows a broader section of the population to travel more frequently as well. Memphis is a place that people want to come to and enjoy the vibrant nightlife in the Downtown area.”
In addition to Spirit taking off this year, American Airlines will begin nonstop flight between MEM and Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) starting June 9. Boston ranked No. 3 on MEM’s list of top unserved destinations, per airport officials.
Despite the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic on the airline industry, MEM has had seven new air service additions since March 2020. MEM officials said they have weekly air service discussions with airlines.
According to MEM officials, the top five unserved destinations are now Seattle, Baltimore, San Diego, Raleigh, N.C., and San Francisco.
Beverly Robertson, president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber, said getting additional flights is vital to attracting more businesses and industries to the area.
“Any asset, especially an airline, is going to give people a greater opportunity to get to some of those markets that have high demand, and likewise, it will have the opportunity of attracting those people from those markets to Memphis,” Robertson said. “Our business leaders have often talked about the need to have more airlines to provide services to the markets that they seek, so [Spirit] is one step in that direction of adding lots more flights and lots more cities. … Having any airline service to additional markets is going to be a big benefit, and we can use that as an asset when we recruit and attract new business to Memphis.”
According to Kirby, Spirit’s long-term goal will be to bring additional flights to MEM beyond those on the horizon for 2022.
Scott Brockman, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, said the hope is the Memphis market understands the importance of having Spirit in the area.
“This is an airline that will continue to grow, which is the most invigorating part,” Brockman said. “This also gives us exponential growth that we might not have without Spirit. They serve a lot of markets. A lot of [those markets] we don’t have, so this gives us an opportunity, if embraced by the community, to continue to grow the markets that we have available to travelers at [MEM]. The additional markets that we have presented to Spirit as options, they are looking at them, and we will continue to discuss those markets with them over time.”
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