Spirit Airlines reports its third quarter 2017 results

Spirit Airlines Airbus A321-231 WL N671NK  (msn 7246) LAX (Michael B. Ing). Image: 936852.

Spirit Airlines, Inc. has reported its third quarter 2017 financial results.

  • GAAP net income for the third quarter 2017 was $60.2 million ($0.87 per diluted share), or $65.5 million ($0.94 per diluted share)1 excluding special items.
  • GAAP operating margin for the third quarter 2017 was 15.1 percent, or 16.4 percent excluding special items1.
  • Spirit ended the third quarter 2017 with unrestricted cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments of $964.4 million.
  • Spirit’s return on invested capital (non-GAAP, before taxes and excluding special items) for the twelve months ended September 30, 2017 was 18.1 percent2.

“Multiple hurricanes during the third quarter 2017 caused us to cancel over 1,650 flights.  In preparation for Irma, we relocated our Systems Operations Control Center and over 305 team members and their families to our backup facility in Detroit where we ran our operations for about a week.  I am very proud of how the Spirit team pulled together to assist our guests and employees in the regions affected by the storms while keeping the rest of the network running smoothly and still delivering solid financial results.  Excluding the impact of these storms, we estimate our third quarter on-time performance would have been 78.5 percent, a 2.2 percentage point improvement year over year,” said Robert Fornaro, Spirit’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  “It was a challenging quarter on many fronts and I want to thank our entire team for their dedication in going the extra mile to care for our guests and volunteering to assist with the relief efforts.”

Spirit carried over 3,000 guests and more than 800 team members and their families to safety, many of whom were elderly or at risk.  We have transported over a 100,000 pounds of relief supplies in joint efforts with the American Red Cross, Airlink Operation, Puerto Rico Care Lift and many others, have pledged to match donations up to $150,000 to the American Red Cross, and are committed to assist with ongoing relief efforts throughout the Caribbean.

Revenue Performance
For the third quarter 2017, Spirit’s total operating revenue was $687.2 million, an increase of 10.6 percent compared to the third quarter 2016, driven by an 11.2 percent increase in flight volume.  During the third quarter 2017, Spirit canceled over 1,650 flights related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  Spirit estimates these hurricanes, together with the revenue overhang from the pilot work action earlier in the year, negatively impacted third quarter 2017 revenue by approximately $40 million and operating income by approximately $39 million.

Total revenue per available seat mile (TRASM) for the third quarter 2017 decreased 6.3 percent compared to the same period last year, primarily driven by lower passenger yields as a result of aggressive competitive pricing action in many of our markets.

On a per passenger flight segment basis, total revenue for the third quarter 2017 decreased 0.5 percent year over year to $108.96 due to ticket revenue per passenger flight segment decreasing 3.2 percent to $56.48, partially offset by non-ticket revenue per passenger flight segment increasing 2.6 percent to $52.48.

Cost Performance
For the third quarter 2017, total GAAP operating expense, including special items of $8.4 million3, increased 20.0 percent, or $97.0 million, year over year to $583.1 million.  Adjusted operating expense for the third quarter 2017 increased 20.2 percent, or $96.4 million to $574.8 million4. The year-over-year increase in both GAAP and adjusted operating expense was primarily driven by an increase in flight volume, higher passenger re-accommodation expense (recorded within other operating expenses), and higher fuel rates.

Aircraft fuel expense increased in the third quarter 2017 by 29.9 percent, or $36.5 million, compared to the same period last year, due to a 12.2 percent increase in the cost of fuel per gallon and a 15.3 percent increase in fuel gallons consumed.

Spirit reported third quarter 2017 cost per available seat mile (“ASM”), excluding special items and fuel (“Adjusted CASM ex-fuel”), of 5.42 cents4, a decrease of 1.1 percent compared to the same period last year.   The decrease year over year was primarily driven by lower maintenance and salaries, wages, and benefits per ASM, partially offset by higher passenger re-accommodation expense and depreciation and amortization per ASM.

Spirit and its pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, remain in open contract negotiations under the supervision of the National Mediation Board.

Spirit took delivery of three new Airbus A321ceo aircraft and one new A320ceo aircraft and returned one leased A321ceo aircraft during the third quarter 2017, ending the quarter with 107 aircraft in its fleet.

Spirit Airlines is likely to replace its Airbus A319 fleet with newer A320neos by around 2023 (see fleet plan below).

Share Repurchase Authorization
On October 25, 2017, Spirit’s Board of Directors authorized a repurchase program of up to $100 million in aggregate value of shares of Common Stock, par value $0.0001 per share, from time to time in open market or privately negotiated transactions. The authorization will expire on October 25, 2018. The timing and amount of any stock repurchases are subject to prevailing market conditions and other considerations.

Recent New Service Announcements
Boston – New Orleans (11/09/17)
Minneapolis-St. Paul – New Orleans (11/09/17)
Newark – New Orleans (11/09/17)
Tampa – New Orleans (11/09/17)
Newark – Las Vegas (11/09/17)
Chicago – West Palm Beach (11/09/17)*

* Seasonal Service Operates 11/9/17- 4/11/18

Copyright Photo: Spirit Airlines Airbus A321-231 WL N671NK (msn 7246) LAX (Michael B. Ing). Image: 936852.