Who loses when JetBlue buys Spirit? Comedians

Travelers check in for a Spirit Airlines flight at Orlando International Airport on the Friday before Remembrance Day.

Paul Hennessy Lightrocket | Getty Images

An unexpected JetBlue cash bid of $ 3.6 billion for Spirit threatens the latter’s plan to merge with Frontier into a discount airline giant. It also threatens one of the comedians ’favorite sources of material.

“It’s kind of a nuisance to me. If the Spirit is gone, who are we going to make fun of?” Jimmy Kimmel joked on Wednesday in his “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” monologue. “Beware, Allegiante. You’re on deck. “

New York-based JetBlue wants to absorb Florida-based Spirit and replace the bright yellow Spirit aircraft, which have non-reclining seats, in line with JetBlue aircraft, which offer more spacious seats, screens for seats and free snacks.

The lowest ticket prices and fees for everything, including seat selection and hand luggage, provided comedians with perennial fodder and became a landmark for airline damage. Large airlines have taken the example of discounters with basic savings rates that do not include pre-selection of seats and force passengers to sit last.

Last year, “Spirit” accounted for just under 5% of passengers carried by American airlines. However, it was mentioned 40 times in nightly talk shows in 2021, which is 20% of the total number of airline mentions in these programs, according to an analysis conducted for the airline that saw CNBC.

Kimmel said Wednesday that JetBlue wants to buy Spirit for $ 3.6 billion “plus $ 55 for hand luggage.”

Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon also cited JetBlue’s offer in a monologue on Wednesday. “Right now Spirit is saying,‘ Guys, we better open a bank account. I think it’s time. “

“You must have oily skin”

No airline has gone unnoticed in the spotlight of night shows. Spirit analysis showed that last year American had 77 mentions, while Southwest – 50, and Delta – 34. There are also countless stand-up clips and memes that ridicule airlines and air travel.

“Every airline at some point has a story that at some point becomes a joke,” said Ross Feinstein, a former spokesman for American Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration. “To work for an airline, you need to have oily skin.”

Following reports that in late 2019 a man was expelled from a JetBlue flight for trying to bring on board an opossum, co-host of Saturday Night Live star Colin Jost said in the Weekend Update segment: “while at Spirit Airlines it’s that falls if you need an oxygen mask ”.

Spirit said that “contrary to the narrative stories, our airline is focused on giving guests a great experience, affordable fares that allow them to venture forward and discover more than ever before.”

He said he had approached the show before and was unlucky with the response.

Spirit said he understands that airlines are a target, “because jokes about air travel are constantly laughable,” and added, “We promise that opossums have never jumped out of the bulkhead.”

Spirit has made progress in improving punctuality in recent years and ranked sixth among U.S. airlines last year, above ninth JetBlue, according to the Department of Transportation. The level of complaints also declined in the years before the pandemic. He enrolled Disney Institute staff to improve customer service.

In 2019, Spirit unveiled new curved seats that he said were designed to give passengers more personal space, but still haven’t escaped ridicule from hosts who work late into the night.

“Congratulations, Spirit. We deny a lot of them the show, but it’s a significant improvement over their old seats, which were just a dirty couch they found on the street, ”Trevor Noah said in an episode of The Daily in December 2019. Show.

Representatives from Kimmel, Fallon, Noah and Saturday Night Live did not immediately respond to comment.

Pandemic problems

The pandemic was not easy. A shortage of staff and technical problems forced Spirit to cancel more than 2,800 flights in late July and early August 2021, which cost him about $ 50 million. In the fall, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines faced similar challenges.

The problems increased passengers ’complaints about Spirit to the Department of Transportation to 11.45 per 100,000 passengers, most from U.S. airlines, while DOT recorded 6.38 about JetBlue and 5.78 about Frontier.

Spirit said it appreciates JetBlue’s “undesirable” offer. The deal, like the planned merger of Frontier and Spirit, would have to go through with regulators at a time when President Joe Biden has instructed his administration to scrutinize competition. Frontier and Spirit earlier this year said they had not yet decided which airline brand would remain.

This has not yet prevented the comedians from delving into the Spirit.

JetBlue has “a real bathroom instead of a bucket around which everyone goes,” Kimmel said Wednesday.

Spirit told CNBC it welcomes everyone who works at night and their families to fly the airline.

“The Roots may even be inclined to write about us a love song after they fly Spirit!” writes the airline, referring to the house band for “The Tonight Show”.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal broadcasts “Today’s Show with Jimmy Fallon” and “Saturday Night Live.”

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