The economy may be slowing, but low-cost carriers are still growing, according to several airline executives that spoke at the annual Boyd International Aviation conference.
Spirit Airlines, which has expanded its service at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to 26 destinations within two years of launching in North Texas, expects to grow by 15 to 20 percent, said chief executive Ben Baldanza.
Baldanza said his airline's low-cost model makes Spirit the "McDonald's" of his industry and that in a sluggish economy he expects Spirit to continue to do well.
It's not just low-frills airlines doing well.
Virgin America with its premium cabin offerings has grown about 30 percent as it continues to add new aircraft into its fleet.
"Growing is very difficult in this environment right now," said Virgin America chief executive David Cush, adding that the growth will slow as its aircraft deliveries come to an end. However, he said that the carrier's corporate travel growth has doubled in the past twelve months.
JetBlue Airways chief executive Dave Barger said his carrier expects to grow between six to eight percent as it adds 10 aircraft this year. He described JetBlue as a "tweener" where it doesn't have the network breadth of the larger legacy carriers like United Continental and Delta Air Lines but it offers more services than the limited-service airlines like Spirit.
"People will pay a premium to fly on JetBlue," Barger said.