Spirit Airlines Will Delay Plane Purchases and Furlough Pilots

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Spirit Airlines said on Monday that it would delay delivery of new Airbus planes and furlough pilots to save money as it seeks to overcome several setbacks, including a blocked merger, engine problems and a lackluster recovery from the pandemic.

The budget airline said in a statement that the new steps would save the company $340 million over the next two years.

Spirit has made several changes aimed at cutting costs and improving its financial position since a federal judge in January blocked its plan to merge with JetBlue Airways. The judge ruled that the proposed deal would harm consumers. Spirit and JetBlue gave up an effort to appeal that decision last month.

Spirit plans to delay most of the Airbus planes it had expected to receive in 2025 and 2026 by about five years. It also said it expected to furlough about 260 pilots starting on Sept. 1. Those changes will help Spirit, which has lost money in each of the last four years, return to profitability, the company’s chief executive, Ted Christie, said.

“Deferring these aircraft gives us the opportunity to reset the business and focus on the core airline while we adjust to changes in the competitive environment,” Mr. Christie said in a statement.

The airline has also been contending with a problem affecting the engines that power the most popular plane in its all-Airbus fleet, the A320neo.

Last summer, Pratt & Whitney, which makes those engines, said it had discovered a manufacturing issue that would require them to be inspected well ahead of schedule, causing hundreds of planes to be taken out of service over the next few years. Its parent company, RTX, said an average of 350 planes would be grounded from 2024 through 2026, at a cost of about $3 billion to the manufacturer.

Last month, Spirit reached an agreement for compensation by Pratt & Whitney that would improve the airline’s liquidity by $150 million to $200 million.

Spirit was struggling even before the engine issue came to light. While most U.S. airlines have enjoyed a relatively strong recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, some budget carriers, including Spirit, have had a tougher time because of intense competition and higher costs in the places where they operate.

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