Major Airline Explores Refinancing Options After Biden Admin Suit


Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Will Kessler Contributor
Font Size:

Spirit Airlines is considering refinancing options to address its substantial debt after a suit from the Biden administration led a federal judge to halt a planned acquisition of the company, the Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

The budget airline owes around $1.1 billion in debt that is due by September 2025, having already sold more than two dozen planes in early January, immediately leasing them back, to pay down another $465 million in debt that was previously held, according to The Wall Street Journal. The consideration over refinancing from Spirit follows a federal judge on Tuesday blocking a proposed $3.8 billion acquisition of the company by JetBlue Airways after an antitrust lawsuit from the Department of Justice (DOJ). (RELATED: Cloud Hangs Over Commercial Real Estate As Trillions In Debt Set To Come Due)

Spirit has denied that it is exploring restructuring options, saying instead that it was looking for ways to refinance its debt, according to a person familiar with the matter. “Spirit is not pursuing nor involved in a statutory restructuring,” a spokesperson said in a statement to the DCNF.

“We are not (yet) predicting an immediate [Spirit Airlines] chapter 11 [bankruptcy] filing, just an acknowledgment that we cannot reasonably identify a viable return to profitability any time soon,” analysts at JPMorgan Chase wrote following the judge’s action on Tuesday, according to the WSJ.

Spirit has suffered increasing losses in the last three years as other competitors dropped their prices, snatching customers from the budget airline, according to the WSJ. Spirit has also had trouble adjusting to the rising labor costs in the industry following a new contract with pilots, boosting pay by an average of 34% over two years.

Spirit and the Air Line Pilots Association union came to the deal amicably in January 2023 amid growing competition for pilots in the airline industry, according to the WSJ. The deal noted that negotiations would restart if JetBlue’s acquisition was not approved by regulators.

The DOJ suit was filed in March 2023 in an attempt to preserve the independent airline and maintain competition in the ultra-low-cost carrier market, with the government claiming that a merger with JetBlue would raise prices for flyers by as much as 30%. The acquisition would have merged the 7th and 6th biggest airlines and created the 5th biggest.

“While we are disappointed with this outcome, we are confident in our strengths and strategy,” a Spirit spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We remain committed to delivering affordable fares and great service to our guests and providing excellent opportunities to our team members. Spirit has been taking, and will continue to take, prudent steps to ensure the strength of its balance sheet and ongoing operations.”

The DOJ claims that Spirit has a “unique and disruptive role” in the airline industry, which brings prices down more broadly. Spirit previously attempted to merge with another budget airline, Frontier, in July 2022, but that deal was rejected by shareholders.

The Biden administration has taken aim at a number of large companies over antitrust concerns, including tech giants Google and Meta, over claims of being industry monopolies. The Federal Trade Commission under Biden also unsuccessfully tried to prevent Microsoft from acquiring video game company Activision for $68.7 billion.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated in include comment from Spirit.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact