The Saga of Catching The Spirit for St. Maarten.

Finally Spirit Airlines has announced it plans for St. Maarten. Exactly 2 years ago on January 19th, 2005, I emailed the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Lynne Koreman, about the publicized article in The Daily Herald regarding Spirit Airlines considering putting in flights to St. Maarten from 2006.

At the time of writing this first email to Spirit Airlines, AirStMaarten, operating as a virtual airline, was selling seats on the major carriers flying out of Europe into St .Maarten. As we get a lot of traffic to our website from US travelers looking for great deals to St. Maarten, especially time share owners and many repeat visitors, we would welcome the low cost fares of Spirit Airlines from the mainland USA to St. Maarten.

Therefore it was only logical that we would wish to enter into discussions with Spirit Airlines about how our companies can work together to sell tickets through our websites and book passengers to St. Maarten on their airline.

Mrs. Koreman replied that they don’t have any firm plans to serve St. Maarten at the time, so a discussion at this point would be premature. She thanked me for my email and asked me to keep an eye on the news and if plans become firm then we could open discussions at that time.

Again on October 28th, 2005, Spirit Airlines was back in the news with a possible plan for St. Maarten in 2006. Again, that proved to be also premature. But I foresaw the possibility that we could entertain the idea of either chartering Spirit Airlines to fly to St. Maarten or pre-purchase seats in advance and selling them as an AirStMaarten product.

AirStMaarten operates as a virtual airline and Spirit Airlines could be the operator of the AirStMaarten flights to St. Maarten from a departure point in the USA to be discussed at a later time. However, for the obvious reasons to me, Fort Lauderdale would be the ideal choice as we get a lot of requests for flights from that city into St. Maarten. Why? Exactly because of the low cost operators like Spirit Airlines and JetBlue flying into FLL.

On April 10th, 2006, Jeff Berger reported in a EverythingStMaarten.com newsletter that they've now confirmed from three sources that Jet Blue will start flying to St. Maarten late that year. Jeff considered this a move that over time will change the entire dynamic of flying to our favorite island of St. Maarten.

They had reports that Jetblue would kick off the service late that fall with their usual exceptionally low start-up prices. The question was “Where will they fly from?” Jeff had idea yet, but “we've repeatedly heard Boston and JFK, though 'when' on each we do not know. Would not surprise us if Boston is first since there is no nonstop competition there, only connections,” Jeff Berger was quoted as saying.

Then in December 2006 the news finally broke:

“Spirit Airlines Plans for St. Maarten Next”

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (December 19, 2006) – Spirit Airlines announces that it has filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin twice weekly non-stop service between its Fort Lauderdale hub and St. Maarten in the Caribbean starting in April 2007.

This new service will bring immediate economic benefit to both Broward County as well as St. Maarten by providing a low fare means to travel between the U.S. and the world’s smallest island to be shared by two governments.  In addition to non-stop service from its Fort Lauderdale hub, Spirit will also offer connecting service from its domestic network.

Subject to government approval, this new route would be served by Spirit’s new, all Airbus fleet of aircraft, the youngest in the Americas.

“We couldn’t be happier to have St. Maarten in our 2007 expansion plans,” said Barry Biffle, Chief Marketing Officer of Spirit Airlines. “This is a beautiful destination with no shortage of demand for travel.  Whether it’s a vacation in one of the Caribbean’s most unique settings, or a shopping spree in South Florida, Spirit’s plan is to offer an affordable option for travel to great destinations.”

“Spirit Airlines is currently Fort Lauderdale’s largest international carrier so we weren’t surprised that they planned for yet another Caribbean destination,” said Interim Aviation Director, Bob Bielek. “Spirit’s continued expansion is reinforcing Fort Lauderdale’s position as the gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America. We are very pleased that Broward County will continue to benefit from Spirit’s expansion plans.”

“We look forward to welcoming Spirit to our airline product line and in a true ‘St. Maarten Spirit,’ we know that this is the beginning of a long term partnership with the Island Government of St. Maarten,” said Commissioner Roy Marlin, Acting Commissioner of Aviation.

“As Commissioner of Economic Affairs & Tourism it gives me great pleasure to welcome Spirit Airlines to our shores,” said Commissioner Theo Heyliger. “Spirit Airlines will be an asset to our local economy and the people of our beautiful island.”

“On behalf of the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association, we are delighted to have assisted in the negotiations with Spirit Airlines,” said Emil Lee, SHTA President.  “Due to their lower cost structure, Spirit Airlines will be able to service our destination with very competitive air fares, which will be a tremendous boost for tourism as well as our resident population. Ultimately, tourism is the engine that drives our economy and anything that makes us more competitive is a blessing.” 

“On behalf of The Little Caribbean Alliance; the Directors of Tourism of Anguilla, St. Barths, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and St. Martin, we knew that we wanted to ‘Catch the Spirit’ since our initial discussions,” said Regina M. La Bega, Director of Tourism St. Maarten and Chairperson of the Little Caribbean Alliance.  “Attracting a Low Cost Carrier is an important objective in St. Maarten’s Tourism Master Plan, which will allow for cheaper air fares to the island, therefore allowing a higher per visitor expenditure on the islands that will assist with eliminating seasonal and increasing year round employment.”

Spirit Airlines recently announced new service filings for Caracas, Venezuela and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

About Spirit Airlines
Fort Lauderdale-based Spirit Airlines with hubs in Fort Lauderdale and Detroit offers service to 29 cities in the United States, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.

Spirit Airlines offers low fares without compromise. Spirit’s full-frills, low fare service includes new airplanes with all leather seats, coach and business class and also offers one of the most attractive frequent flier programs on the planet with no blackouts and seats available on every flight.

Published online on December 19th, 2006

Make your request your reservations here for a flight from Fort Lauderdale to St. Maarten with Spirit Airlines and win 2 free tickets on our Seaworld Explorer Coral Reef Tour in Grand Case, St. Martin.

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