Spirit Airlines has today announced plans to add three new routes out of New York LaGuardia Airport, though there’s one route in particular that I find to be fascinating.
Spirit Airlines’ LaGuardia transcon flight
As of June 12, 2021, Spirit Airlines will operate a Saturday-only service between New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Los Angeles (LAX).
This 2,469 mile will operate with the following schedule:
New York to Los Angeles departing 7:20AM arriving 10:30AM
Los Angeles to New York departing 1:30PM arriving 10:05PM
LaGuardia’s perimeter rule
You might be thinking “why on earth are you talking about a once weekly transcon flight on Spirit Airlines, of all airlines?” I find this route so interesting since it was last operated by any airline 15 years ago, in 2006.
This all comes down to LaGuardia’s perimeter rule. With this, airlines are prohibited from operating nonstop flights to points more than 1,500 miles away from the airport. Why does the perimeter rule exist? Well, it was put into place by the Port Authority to ultimately protect New York JFK and Newark airports.
There are two exceptions to the perimeter rule — flights to Denver, and flights on Saturdays. For anyone wondering about the Denver exception, that exists because when the rule was put into place in 1984, that was the only 1,500+ mile route operating, so an exception was made for that.
The perimeter rule doesn’t apply on Saturdays, given that LaGuardia is largely a business airport, so it’s a much quieter day for the airport. That’s also exactly what Spirit Airlines is taking advantage of here. Of course there’s a certain irony here — long term LGA to LAX would be an absolute prime business route, but now we’re seeing an ultra low cost carrier operate this route on the weekend.
Why don’t more airlines operate this route?
It’s possible I’m missing something obvious here, in which case please let me know. But why has no other airline operated an LGA to LAX flight on Saturdays within the past 15 years?
Airlines generally have some extra room in their schedule at LGA on weekends, and presumably American could at least route some of its A321Ts from LAX to LGA rather than JFK on Saturdays. So why don’t airlines do this? I can come up with a couple of answers, but I’m thinking I might be missing something:
- Is this because balancing slots at JFK and LGA is too complicated? Pre-coronavirus there were “use it or lose it” restrictions on slots, so would transferring flights from JFK to LGA on Saturdays get airlines below minimum slot usage requirements?
- Or is this ultimately about managing expectations? These routes are largely based around business travelers, so you don’t want to get people excited about flying between LGA and LAX, only to realize that only a small percentage of flights are able to operate this way.
Starting this summer, Spirit Airlines will operate a Saturday-only service between LGA and LAX. Spirit Airlines is the first airline in around 15 years to operate this route.
The reason this route largely isn’t served is because of LaGaurdia’s perimeter rule, which requires most 1,500+ mile flights out of the New York-area to operate out of EWR or JFK.
What’s your take on Spirit’s unique LGA to LAX flight? Brilliant, kind of pointless, or meh?