ANALYSIS: Spirit makes inroads at major western US cities

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Spirit Airlines continues to gain market share at major western US airports as the Miramar, Florida-based carrier expands its ultra-low-cost model outside the Sunshine State.

Though still a small player in the western US, in the last three years Spirit has launched dozens of routes from cities like Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, Denver and Las Vegas.

The expansion is part of the airline's plan to use its cost advantage to stimulate demand in some of the roughly 400 markets where Spirit executives have said the airline can be successful.

Spirit's westward migration is evident at places like Dallas/Fort Worth International airport, where Spirit will carry 3.6% of the airport's available seats in 2013, more market share than that held by United Airlines or US Airways, according to Flightglobal/Innovata data.

Spirit launched Dallas flights in 2011 and now serves some 25 destinations from the city, according to Flightmaps Analytics. It will operate some 8,700 flights in 2013.

Spirit will also operate more than 8,000 flights from Las Vegas McCarran International airport in 2013, carrying 5.1% of the airport's available seats for the year, according to Flightglobal/Innovata.

Just three years ago, Spirit operated only 1,319 flights from Las Vegas, carrying just 0.8% of available seats.

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Flightglobal/Innovata data

Spirit has increased capacity nearly four-fold in the three years at Chicago O'Hare International airport, where it will carry 2.8% of capacity in 2013, up from 0.7% in 2010. The airline has a dozen routes from Chicago.

Also in Spirit's crosshairs are Denver International airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport and Houston's George Bush Intercontinental airport, all of which the airline began serving in 2012.

Spirit now flies to seven destinations from Denver.

It has four routes from Minneapolis-St. Paul, but announced 19 August new seasonal flights from the city to Los Angeles, Orlando, Phoenix and Tampa beginning 7 November.

Spirit, which began service to Houston in 2012, will carry 1.5% of available seats at the airport in 2013, according to Flightglobal/Innovata. The carrier flies from Houston to Detroit, Chicago, Orlando, Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Spirit has also made inroads at Phoenix, announcing in late July it will launch flights from Phoenix Sky Harbour International airport to Dallas in October, and seasonal service to Denver and Chicago in November.

Spirit currently flies from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport to Dallas.

To manage its western expansion, Spirit in recent months opened crew and maintenance bases in Dallas, Las Vegas and Chicago.

At Chicago, the airline will have some 140 employees, including pilots, flight attendants and mechanics, Spirit has said.

Fort Lauderdale pullback

As Spirit has added flights it has cut capacity at some of its former strongholds, including its hub at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport.

In 2013, Spirit will operate roughly 15,600 flights from Fort Lauderdale, down about 24% from 2010, when Spirit's operations at the airport peaked.

Spirit's capacity this year at Fort Lauderdale will by roughly 2.5 million seats, down about 18% in three years.