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Spirit ends Pittsburgh service to Houston, CEO says new routes planned

Theresa Clift
| Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, 3:30 p.m.
People stand in line Tuesday, May 9, 2017, to check in at the Spirt Airlines counter at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Getty Images
People stand in line Tuesday, May 9, 2017, to check in at the Spirt Airlines counter at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Spirit Airlines CEO Bob Fornaro talks about the airline's plans at Pittsburgh International Airport and Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity while meeting with reporters Nov. 6, 2017 at The Fairmont in Pittsburgh.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Spirit Airlines CEO Bob Fornaro talks about the airline's plans at Pittsburgh International Airport and Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity while meeting with reporters Nov. 6, 2017 at The Fairmont in Pittsburgh.

Spirit Airlines is ending its service to Houston this week after less than four months.

It will not mean the loss of a nonstop destination for the airport, as United Airlines and Southwest also fly to the Texas city.

Spirit CEO Robert Fornaro said he does not expect Spirit to follow the path of Frontier Airlines, which has already canceled three of the five routes it started in Pittsburgh last year.

"I think we're a little bit more patient (than Frontier)," Fornaro said Monday in a meeting with reporters. "I think the bulk of the things we started will work. I'm fairly comfortable with what we're seeing."

Spirit's remaining destinations from Pittsburgh are: Dallas/Fort Worth, Myrtle Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Fornaro declined to say what new Pittsburgh routes the airline might add, but said the destinations already in the Spirit network are the most likely, such as Minneapolis.

He also said the airline is planning to start flying to more destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America, which could include flights from Pittsburgh.

"There may be some opportunities for one of those out of Pittsburgh this year," Fornaro said.

Fornaro was in town partly to discuss the airport's plan to build a new $1.1 billion landside terminal .

Fornaro did not answer a question about whether Spirit supports the plan, but he did say the airline is "planning on being here."

"We're not pulling up stakes," Fornaro said.

Fornaro said low airport costs are an important factor in determining where the airline adds service, which is why the airline's largest base of operations is at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida.

That airport charges a fee to airlines at a rate of $5.84 per passenger in 2015, according to data from Moody's.

Pittsburgh International's rate this year is $12.85, with a planned drop to $9.73 in 2023.

The median rate for medium-sized origin and destination airports like Pittsburgh is $8.10, according to Moody's.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, tclift@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tclift.

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