What to know about Spirit Airlines in South Florida

You may know Spirit Airlines for its discount fares and no-frills service.

But did you know that the airline with the yellow planes is based in Miramar, in suburban Broward County, with plans for new headquarters among the bars and restaurants and shops of Dania Pointe?

And did you know that a Spirit plane fuselage and flight simulator were inside the Sawgrass Mills mall, part of the now-closed Wannado City kids’ theme park?

Here are six things you should know about Spirit, which is merging with another discount airline, Frontier.

The Spirit Airlines flight simulator at Wannado City. Bob Eggmie Miami Herald File

1. Theme park life: Spirit Airlines had a major presence at Wannado City, the career-focused theme park that opened in 2004 inside Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise. Kids could climb into a fuselage painted in Spirit colors and logo and work the flight simulator inside. Wannado City closed in 2011.

2. Travel to South Florida: Spirit Airlines headquarters moved from the Detroit area to Miramar in 1999, just before it began the shift to being a low-cost carrier. Spirit has been the largest airline at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. It employs more than 8,000 people including more than 3,000 in South Florida. They include pilots, flight attendants, ground teams and counter agents. A move from Miramar to Dania Beach has been underway for several years. The company broke ground on the site in January 2020.

A retired DC-9 is moved into Wannado City in Sunrise. MARSHA HALPER Miami Herald File

3. Arrival in the 305: Spirit made its debut at Miami International Airport in October 2021.

4. Everything for a price: Spirit was a leader in starting a no-frills, pay-for-service system that many airlines follow. Spirit passengers get a seat and a personal item for a base fare, and have to pay extra for just about everything else. Think a scoop of ice cream with extra fees for nuts, syrup and a cherry.

5. Fewer delays: In 2015, Spirit Airlines ranked last for on-time performance. In October 2018, the airline climbed to No, 1. In January 2016, the company’s board changed up its leadership and gave the new executives a mandate: Get the planes to their destinations on time.

6Meltdown’s galore: Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, there has been a dramatic increase in unruly passengers, and Spirit and Frontier have both seen more than their fair share of disruptive behavior. In some instances, people have become restless dealing with red tape at the airport, and have had tantrums in the terminal. Others have revolted against mask-wearing and caused a ruckus up in the air. Some customers even attacked flight attendants or twerked in the aisle. Drinking sometimes adds to the issues. Perhaps the oddest transgression was when an unnamed woman broke a law that went into effect more than 30 years ago, lighting up a cigarette while the plane was still taxiing at FLL.

This story was originally published February 7, 2022 3:59 PM.

Day Editor Jeff Kleinman, born and raised in South Florida, overseas breaking, public service and trending news coverage.

Profile Image of Madeleine Marr

Celebrity/real time news reporter Madeleine Marr has been with The Miami Herald since 2003. She has covered such features as travel, fashion and food. In 2007, she helped launch the newspaper’s daily People Page, attending red carpet events, awards ceremonies and press junkets; interviewing some of the biggest names in show business; and hosting her own online show. She is originally from New York City and has two daughters.

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