July 29, 2022: -JetBlue Airways has hit a $3.8 billion deal to purchase Spirit Airlines in a takeover that creates the fifth-largest airline in the country and removes a fast-growing budget carrier from the market.
On Thursday, the airlines announced the deal hours after Spirit scrapped plans to combine with discounter Frontier Airlines. Spirit lacked the shareholder approval to win approval for the Frontier merger, which was first revealed in February.
If approved by regulators, JetBlue’s takes over of Spirit would leave Frontier as the biggest discount carrier in the U.S. It would be the initial major U.S. airline deal from 2016 when Alaska Airlines beat out JetBlue for Virgin America. Analysts say it could open the door to more consolidation, possibly among smaller carriers.
JetBlue executives have argued for months which Miramar, Florida-based
Spirit would help it compete with large carriers like America, Delta, United, and Southwest, which control most of the U.S. market and fast-track its growth by giving it access to more Airbus jetliners and pilots, both of which are in short supply.
The New York-based carrier said it would pay $33.50 a share in cash for Spirit, including a $2.50 prepayment if Spirit shareholders approve the deal and a 10-cent ticking fee starting next year until the agreement is approved.
Spirit’s agreement to sell itself to JetBlue caps a months-long bidding war for the Miramar, Florida-based airline.
JetBlue’s surprise, all-cash bid for Spirit in April had thrown Spirit’s plan to combine with Frontier into disarray. For months, Frontier and JetBlue competed for Spirit, each sweetening their offers until the Frontier deal was terminated Wednesday, clearing the way for JetBlue.
Spirit had said Wednesday it planned to continue talks to sell itself to JetBlue after finishing the Frontier agreement.
JetBlue plans to refurbish Spirit’s yellow planes with sparse interiors in JetBlue style, featuring seatback screens and more legroom.
Spirit rebuffed JetBlue’s bids often and expressed such a deal wasn’t likely to be approved by regulators, partly due to JetBlue’s alliance with America in the Northeast, which the Justice Department sued to block last year.
Spirit shares were up 4% in premarket trading after the deal was announced, while JetBlue was up 1%. Frontier was down 1%.