The Man Who Remodeled Spirit Airways: Ben Baldanza

Spirit Airways is famed for its ultra-low-cost operations in the US aviation trade. This strategy has largely paid off for the service over time. It was the arrival of Ben Baldanza that helped the airline stabilize with this mannequin out there. The service’s former chief govt officer spent over a decade with it since becoming a member of in 2005. Let’s check out his journey with the corporate.

Ben Baldanza served at Spirit Airways between 2005 and 2016, inserting it in a a lot more healthy place alongside the way in which. Picture: Getty Photos.

A veteran within the sport

In January 2005, it was revealed that Baldanza would depart his submit at US Airways as senior vice chairman of selling to move to Spirit. The businessman had been accountable for route planning, scheduling, and pricing, in addition to advertising and marketing for the veteran operator.

The Rome, New York-born economist, had been at US because the starting of the millennium, however his tenure within the aviation trade didn’t start on the service. He began his journey with American Airways earlier than heading to Northwest Airways and UPS. Baldanza additionally had senior positions at Continental Airways earlier than changing into COO of TACA Airways. He even served on the board of administrators of Frontier Airways whereas at TACA.

Ben Baldanza Spirit
Baldanza’s background within the trade undoubtedly helped Spirit Airways get heading in the right direction following his arrival on the firm. Picture: Getty Photos

Placing the experience to good work

This experience would show important for Spirit from the get-go. The preliminary positions that Baldanza held on the agency had been president and COO. Nonetheless, within the following yr, he turned the CEO. Throughout the interval of his arrival on the scene, the Florida-based outfit was reporting yearly losses of $79 million. Nonetheless, the manager had a plan to show issues round. He launched new sunny locations, upgraded plane, and introduced a contemporary staff to the fold.

“Prior to now [the airline was] not at all times a competitor whose choices had been simple to know,” Baldanza mentioned, as reported by FlightGlobal in 2005.

Now, with a targeted technique, we’re giving individuals a motive to decide on Spirit, to make the airline related. The site visitors is there. If we will provide individuals one thing greater than only a low value, they may catch the spirit.”

After a yr of hopping on the board, 1 / 4 of Spirit’s routes had been to locations exterior of the US. Furthermore, the US-Caribbean capability grew to almost 4%, making it the fifth-largest airline within the phase. The corporate in the end reworked Fort Lauderdale into a real connecting hub.

From January 2005 to March 2006, it added eight Caribbean companies from Fort Lauderdale. In complete, it was providing 22 routes from the airport. Inside a yr, Spirit developed from 50 city-pair markets to roughly 170 with the identical capability. Throughout this time, the airline transitioned from its MD-80 plane to a contemporary Airbus fleet. This transfer would provide the corporate appreciable financial savings by letting go of growing older, inefficient fashions.

Spirit MD-80
Spirit Airways was beforehand a fan of the Mad Canine. Picture: Ingvar-fed by way of Wikimedia Commons

A big shift

Although Spirit was heading a low-cost operation earlier than Baldanza’s arrival, it turned much more discounted within the years that adopted. The airline launched minimal fares and charged charges for a lot of further companies, equivalent to seat choices, baggage, and meals & drink.

These initiatives had been met with vital criticism, and Baldanza even confronted a US Congress listening to relating to the unbundling coverage. Nonetheless, he largely remained unapologetic and defended the mannequin.

The strategy proved to be worthwhile from a enterprise standpoint as Spirit turned worthwhile below Baldanza’s management. Notably, throughout a lot of his time on the high of the service, a number of opponents had been struggling financially amid market pressures and financial crises.

By the point 2011 rolled round, Spirit was incomes 40% extra per plane than its rivals. Nonetheless, it wasn’t simply pricing measures that helped it develop. Baldanza’s groups launched sensible methods that included the promoting of promoting areas the place doable on the aircraft. It turned the norm to see commercials on seatback trays, overhead bins, napkins, cups, and illness baggage. Even flight attendant uniforms had promotions on them!

Talking of adverts, the service additionally launched its personal commercials that always went viral. Leaping on popular culture tendencies and slipping in innuendos helped campaigns unfold internationally, saving cash on costly advert campaigns.

Spirit airlines A321
Spirit Airways modified its livery to vivid yellow n 2014, and right now, it holds a mixture of Airbus A319, A320, and A321 plane. Picture: Getty Photos

A distinguished determine

Baldanza stepped down from his submit as CEO and president in January 2016. This transfer got here as a shock throughout the trade. Nonetheless, he affirmed that there was a plan in place for this transition. Altogether, his work on the Spirit didn’t go unnoticed, and he acquired a warming farewell from the corporate.

“Ben was instrumental in transitioning Spirit right into a extremely profitable extremely low-cost service, a big achievement within the airline trade, which benefited our staff and clients,” Spirit chairman H. McIntyre Gardner mentioned in response to the change, as per a press launch seen by Easy Flying.

“On behalf of the Board and everybody at Spirit, I want to thank Ben for his contributions, dedication and stewardship these previous ten and a half years as Spirit’s enterprise mannequin has grow to be firmly established as a vital low-fare alternative that buyers respect when pondering of air journey. We want Ben and his household all the most effective.”  

Baldanza remained busy after leaving his submit. He presently serves as a director and chairman of the audit committee of JetBlue Airways. Furthermore, he’s on the board of Go Air and Six Flags Leisure. Together with these positions, he’s an working companion with Sterling Funding Companions, a non-public fairness agency, and likewise fulfills his function as Adjunct Professor of Economics at George Mason College.

What are your ideas about Ben Baldanza’s time at Spirit Airways? What do you make of his journey with the service over time? Tell us what you consider the manager’s function within the aviation trade within the remark part.


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