Milwaukee’s Getting a New Airline and New Nonstop Destinations

A new airline at Mitchell International Airport, means more options for where to fly.

Spirit Airlines’ signature yellow and black aircraft will start taking off from Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport this summer.

Spirit will launch daily nonstop flights to Orlando International Airport, Las Vegas McCarran International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport beginning June 24.

Once service begins, Spirit will offer the only nonstop flights to Los Angeles from Milwaukee.

“We’ve had our eye on Milwaukee for a long time and we’re excited to bring our unique value proposition to the Brew City,” said John Kirby, vice president of network planning for Spirit Airlines. “Badger State guests will get to enjoy convenient nonstop service to popular destinations and Spirit frequent fliers can experience Milwaukee’s great festivals and sports scene and enjoy fun outdoor activities just in time for summer.”

Spirit’s plan to enter the Milwaukee market comes as demand for air travel is increasing after months of deep decline due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo courtesy of Spirit Airline

 

 

In February, the carrier announced an accelerated delivery schedule for new, more fuel-efficient Airbus aircraft to join Spirit’s fleet, which is among the youngest in the industry.

“We know that Milwaukee residents love to travel, and adding a new airline provides even more opportunities to connect with friends, family, and business partners in other states,” Mitchell International Airport Director Brian Dranzik said. “Spirit’s legendary low fares will make it even more affordable for people from all walks of life to fly to and from Milwaukee.”

Miramar, Florida-based Sprit Airlines has built its reputation on low fares. It provides customizable travel options starting with an unbundled fare that allows travelers to pay only for the options they choose — like bags, seat assignments and refreshments — that the airline has branded as Á La Smarte.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley applauded the airport for landing a new carrier in Milwaukee.

“Attracting a new airline is a major accomplishment, and I commend the entire airport team for bringing Spirit Airlines to Milwaukee, which will create jobs and bring more economic impact to Milwaukee County.”

Mitchell International is owned and operated by Milwaukee County.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused dramatic declines in air travel at Mitchell International.

For 2020, those boarding flights at Mitchell (enplanements) plummeted to 1.3 million, a 62 percent decline from the prior year. Those disembarking from a flight (deplanements) fell 62%. Overall, 2.6 million people passed through the airport during 2020 compared with 6.9 million in 2019, a dip of about 62%.

Photo courtesy of Spirit Airline

As Spirit is set to enter the market, the dominant carrier at Mitchell, Southwest Airlines, announced Friday that it will offer new nonstop service from Milwaukee to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport in Florida.

The new flights to Sarasota will be offered on Saturdays from April 17 through May 8 and will be operated with Boeing 737-700 aircraft.

In addition, Southwest is converting Saturday-only Fort Lauderdale, Florida, service to daily nonstops beginning April 12. The new schedule features nonstop flights to Fort Lauderdale seven days per week, including two nonstops on Saturdays.

Southwest is also increasing flight frequencies on several existing daily nonstop routes from Milwaukee, including Phoenix and three Florida destinations – Fort Myers, Orlando and Tampa – beginning April 12.

“Florida continues to be the number one destination state for Milwaukee-based travelers, Dranzik said.

Southwest remains the dominant airline at Mitchell International. The Dallas-based carrier’s January market share stood at 47.3%. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is a distant second at 17.6%. American Airlines, which has its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, ranked third at 15.1%.

Chicago-based United Airlines held the fourth-highest market share at 11.3 percent. Frontier Airlines, with headquarters in Denver, was fifth at 6.3 percent.

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.