Welcome Spirit Airlines

With the price of gas and other travel expenses on the rise, vacationers are reevaluating plans for their summer trips. It’s a poor time for rising travel costs, since the economy is just starting to show signs of life.

That is why I was excited to learn last week that a new low-fare carrier was entering the Twin Cities market: Spirit Airlines. Beginning May 31, Spirit Airlines will offer four daily nonstop flights to Chicago O’Hare and one daily nonstop flight to Las Vegas. While I travel a bit, I have to admit that I have never heard of them. But it’s welcome news; a survey of the most recent data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport ranks among those airports with the most expensive airfares in the country.

Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines

Airfare at MSP International during the third quarter of 2011 averaged $406.25 compared to the national average of $306.73 per ticket, placing the airport as the 20th most expensive of the top 100 U.S. airports. Data from the first quarter of last year placed the Twin Cities market as high as 11th. (Cincinnati has the most expensive average domestic fares, while Atlantic City, N.J., has the lowest).

Whether Spirit will bring the average airline costs down any further in the Twin Cities, or really offers consumers a bargain, is yet to be seen. With a convenient link to O’Hare, Twin Cities travelers may have more economic flight options if they don’t mind a layover in Chicago. However, Spirit may have found a niche with their Las Vegas connections. Minneapolis-St. Paul is currently the 12th-largest provider of visitors to Las Vegas, sending approximately 700 travelers to McCarran International Airport each day, according to a press release provided by Spirit. That’s a lot of Celine Dion fans.

Spirit Airlines is the fourth new carrier to announce service to MSP International since 2008, proving that the Twin Cities has a healthy, thriving market of business and leisure travelers. Welcome. Here’s to healthy competition. Save me the window seat.