Spirit Airlines furloughs 260 pilots to save money

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Spirit Airlines said on Monday it has reached a deal with Airbus to delay all aircraft deliveries scheduled from the second quarter of 2025 through 2026 and intends to furlough about 260 pilots, as the company looks to save cash.

The low-cost airline said it would defer the scheduled deliveries to 2030-2031. As a result of the deferrals, along with quality issues with engines made by supplier Pratt & Whitney, Spirit is furloughing pilots effective Sept. 1.

Shares of Spirit (SAVE) rose about 5% in early trade.

A snag with Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan engines has forced Spirit to ground some of its A320neo aircraft, pinching the company at a time when it is already grappling with a cash crunch.

The agreement with Airbus would improve Spirit’s liquidity by about $340 million over the next two years, the carrier said, adding that there were no changes to its orders scheduled to be delivered during 2027-2029.

“[The] aircraft deferrals and pilot furloughs look positive, in terms of helping the carrier to reduce [or] defer some costs. However, among other factors, the carrier now potentially also reduces its revenue generation opportunities,” Citi Research analyst Stephen Trent wrote in a note.

Spirit, which has been losing money for several quarters despite strong travel demand, operates an all-Airbus fleet. As of December 2023, the company had a total of 205 Airbus jets.

Spirit now expects to end 2025 with a total of 219 jets in its fleet, with no additions of the A320neo aircraft. It had previously expected to add six A320neo jets in 2025 and increase its fleet to 234 jets.

The furloughs “are deeply troubling for our entire pilot group,” said Ryan Muller, chair of Spirit’s Master Executive Council at the Air Line Pilots Association.

The council and a negotiating committee were exploring voluntary measures that could mitigate the necessity for, or the number of, required furloughs and downgrades, Muller added.

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