Spirit Airlines CEO calls airline industry a ‘rigged game,’ US consumers are ‘long-term losers’

Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie spoke candidly about the airline industry, likening it to a rigged game and saying U.S. consumers are “the long-term losers.”  

“Today, nearly all the profits of the entire U.S. airline industry are concentrated in just two companies, while the smaller non-legacy carriers scrambled to restore profitability in what seems ever more like a rigged game,” Christie said in an earnings call with analysts.

He added that “The Big Four are the beneficiaries of this new normal, American consumers are the long-term losers.” 

Christie explained that until recently, the carrier thought “the branding of the new facility might be blue.” 

He was referring to the failed $3.8 billion merger with JetBlue Airways earlier this year. Christie had argued that the deal to combine the carriers, originally announced in 2022, “would save hundreds of millions for consumers and create a real challenger to the dominant ‘Big 4’ U.S. airlines,” but it faced significant regulatory pushback.  

In January, a federal judge blocked JetBlue’s acquisition of Spirit after agreeing with the Justice Department that the deal would hurt the availability of low-cost air travel tickets. 

Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie called US consumers "long term losers."
Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie called US consumers “long-term losers.” Getty Images

“Looking back a couple of months, we still feel strongly, it was a serious misreading of both the evidence and the law for the Federal Court to enjoin our merger with JetBlue,” Christie told analysts. 

He said that “the fact that the DOJ even brought a case to block a merger between two carriers with less than 8% combined market share, just shows how uninformed the government is about our dynamic airline business, particularly in the post-COVID era.”