American Airlines adds more flights to popular destinations after Spirit enters CLT

Hear about the new changes coming to Charlotte Douglas Airport

Deputy aviation director talks about renovations to Concourse A and B.
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Deputy aviation director talks about renovations to Concourse A and B.

American Airlines announced plans Wednesday to add flights at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, a move that came the week after Spirit Airlines said it would start service at the airport.

American said it would increase the number of average daily flights from Charlotte from 664 to 700 by the end of the year, including additional flights to the four locations Spirit announced it would fly to: Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Orlando, Newark, N.J., and Baltimore/Washington.

American also said it will offer more flights to Chicago, Los Angeles and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

John Kirby, Spirit Airlines’ Vice President of Network Planning, told the Observer last week that the airline wasn’t trying to compete with American. Crystal Byrd, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, said the airline’s strategy has been to grow in the Charlotte market.

Benefit to travelers

The competition could help lower costs for Charlotte travelers, who pay higher fares on average than other airports. The average domestic fare on a flight out of Charlotte Douglas in the second quarter of last year was $78 higher than the national average, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

“You have to be price competitive,” said Port Washington, N.Y.-based airlines analyst Bob Mann. “That’s kind of rule one.”

Mann said American sat on the sidelines when Spirit expanded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the carrier’s largest hub, and paid the price.

“My sense is that where Spirit shows up, they’ve learned to compete with them on frequency,” he said.

Joe Brancatelli, a New York-based editor of business travel website JoeSentMe, said the level of competition depends on whether Spirit brings in new customers, or takes existing fliers away from American.

“They will come hard against Spirit,” he said. “There’s going to be a nice little fare war.”

The announcements coincide with the airport’s $2.5 billion capital improvement project, which includes adding gates and a fourth parallel runway. Charlotte Douglas is still smaller than Delta’s hub in Atlanta.

But if the airport wants to compete with Atlanta, Brancatelli said carriers like Spirit are essential.

“If Charlotte wants to be Atlanta, it needs Spirit,” he said. “American doesn’t want Spirit. How vicious the competition will get depends on how successful the market grows.”

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