Airline notes: Spirit expands Philly schedule, Tech upgrade calculates TSA wait times

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Spirit Airlines has announced a major expansion of service from Philadelphia International Airport.

With the expansion, Spirit will offer Philadelphia  passengers nonstop service to 20 domestic and international cities, with a total of around 23 daily departures. The new routes are:  

  • New Orleans – daily service beginning February 16  
  • Aguadilla, Puerto Rico – four flights per week beginning April 20  
  • Nashville  – daily service beginning May 11  
  • Houston – daily service beginning May 11  
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic  – four flights per week beginning May 18  
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica – three flights per week beginning May 18  
  • Oakland/San Francisco – daily service beginning May 18 
Philadelphia International Airport photo.

In addition to the new routes, Spirit will increase its PHL-Cancun service to daily departures beginning April 20.  

The service from the ultra-low fare airline will make the airport more popular with leisure travelers. The service puts a little more  fare pressure on the Phillly fortress hub of  American Airlines, which offers hundreds of daily flights.

 Also worth watching is the retirement of  the  former CEO of USAirways and American Doug Parker. His departure might  not be good news for PHL,  if sentiment within  airline brass and analytics leads to a shift of  flights to other hubs like Charlotte.

Like rival Frontier Airlines, Spirit offers lower base fares, with features such as checked luggage and seat assigments available at an extra charge. 

Frontier offers flights to a couple of dozen destinations from Philly. Frontier has twice weekly flights from Wilmington-New Castle (ILG) to Orlando.

Also in the mix is discount carrier,  Southwest Airlines. Stats since 2020 indicate that Frontier ranks second behind American in PHL  boardings, with Spirit third and Southwest fourth.

“This is wonderful news for PHL, our passengers, and our region,” said airport CEO Chellie Cameron. “In addition to offering more options to popular vacation destinations, Spirit will be the only airline at PHL serving Oakland and Aguadilla nonstop. This is especially important for our passengers wanting to visit friends and relatives.”  

When Spirit’s service to Aguadilla takes off on April 20, it will mark the first time Philadelphia passengers have been able to travel to that city nonstop. PHL passengers have not been able to fly nonstop to Oakland since October 2007.  American’s nonstops  fliy into San Francisco’s busy airport.

“I want to thank Spirit for recognizing our underserved markets and making the commitment to Philadelphia,” said Cameron. “We have much to look forward to in 2022.”  

TSA wait-time monitors installed at some Philly gates

In an overdue upgrade that will affect Spirit’s gates, Philadelphia International Airport launched the first phase of its Queue Management System.

The system will provide provide passengers with real-time updates at security checkpoints via in-terminal digital signage and on the phl.org website.

PHL’s Terminal D/E security checkpoint –  the site of nonoverseas flights from airlines other than American –  is the airport’s first to monitor and display passengers’ wait times in real-time.

Anyone who has used the D and E checkpoint, knows the lines can be long.

QMS Signage
Philadelphia International Airport photo.

Digital displays in ticketing and along the approach to the security checkpoint from all points of entry will let PHL passengers know exactly how long it will take to get through the checkpoint. Passengers can decide if they will have time to relax and grab a bite to eat or shop before their flights, or, if they are arriving close to boarding time, seek assistance or an alternate security checkpoint with shorter lines.

PHL selected LiveReach Media’s platform for the  program. The system uses sensors placed  from the start of the security queue through the entire screening process to measure passenger time. The data is fed to digital displays at key locations in the airport and to PHL’s website. Information is updated every 30 seconds based on the current checkpoint status.  

The data also will also feed a dashboard that can be used by airport operations, security and TSA staff to make staffing and operational decisions based on passenger volume.

There are nine monitors in place for the Terminal D and E pilot. Following the first phase at Terminal D and E, the airport  plans to install the technology at Terminals A-East and A-West, with all airport checkpoints completed by 2023.

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