San Jose’s low-budget airline could boost tourism
An airplane departs from San Jose Mineta International Airport. Photo by Sonya Herrera.

    San Jose Mineta International Airport is adding Spirit Airlines to its carriers—and some say that’s not necessarily the best news.

    “I’ve flown on Spirit a couple times, and it wasn’t a good experience,” said Christian Hoang, a San Jose resident going to school out of state. “If you’re looking for the best price, they have it, but it’s often not worth it.”

    The budget flight carrier announced its arrival at SJC on Thursday alongside Mayor Matt Mahan and other local officials. San Jose is the seventh California city to host Spirit Airlines.

    San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan helped announce the addition of Spirit Airlines to San Jose Mineta International Airport on Feb. 16, 2023. Image courtesy of Spirit Airlines.

    The airline plans to launch three new routes from San Jose on June 7: Dallas, Las Vegas and San Diego. Spirit will be the only domestic low-cost carrier at SJC, airport officials said.

    “We’re excited to… boost competition with the introduction of our ultra-low fares (and) Spirit’s signature service in the heart of Silicon Valley,” said John Kirby, vice president of network planning at Spirit Airlines.

    SJC decided to add Spirit to its carriers because it wants to improve residents’ and other travelers’ experiences, according to Keonnis Taylor, airport spokesperson.

    “The market is shifting due to pandemic-related declines in business travel, which has expanded our focus and provided new opportunities to serve new markets,” Taylor told San José Spotlight. “We anticipate that this expansion will attract new travelers to San Jose and add to passenger traffic increases that we have been seeing over the past year.”

    The decision was not connected to SJC’s recent rebranding, she added.

    The COVID-19 pandemic caused business travel to decline across the nation, but San Jose was hit particularly hard. San Jose isn’t frequently a target of recreational tourism, so the airport largely relies on business travel to drive revenue.

    Travelers at SJC who spoke to San José Spotlight on Friday had mixed reviews of Spirit Airlines.

    Erik, a traveler from Seattle who declined to give his last name, said “low-budget” airlines like Spirit are known for offering a low price up front, but eventually saddling travelers with fees.

    “It’s a great price, but then you get to the airport, and it’s like ‘How much do I have to pay now?'” he told San José Spotlight.

    Spirit has been the subject of criticism and even mockery for allegedly offering less-than-stellar service over the years.

    However, not all travelers at San Jose Mineta International Airport are disappointed by the news. Santa Clara resident Shahzad Aziz has never flown with Spirit, but said having a greater number of airlines to choose from is a win for travelers.

    “The more airlines, the better,” he told San José Spotlight. “Competition is healthy.”

    Frances Wong, spokesperson for San Jose tourism and events bureau Team San Jose, agreed that more options mean happier residents and visitors to the city.

    “The additional airline options for visitors to travel into San Jose will support our region’s economic recovery,” Wong said. “We welcome new and returning visitors to enjoy all that San Jose has to offer.”

    Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.

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