Spirit Airlines plans to more than triple its current service out of South Florida by July, the company announced Wednesday.

The return of many of the low-cost airline’s pre-pandemic flights to its home base at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport came sooner than expected as demand has taken off, said John Kirby, Spirit’s vice president of network planning. The company, based in Miramar, had scaled down its operations to less than 10% of pre-pandemic capacity in May, and will be back to about 70% of capacity by July, compared to the same period last year, pending flight approvals from other countries.

“When this all happened we couldn’t take capacity out fast enough,” said Kirby. “The good news is albeit on a very low base, we are seeing demand start to come back.”

Spirit had FLL flights to 13 destinations in May and will have flights to 32 destinations in June, including international cities Guayaquil, Ecuador, and St. Thomas and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Virgin Islands never closed its airports, which are managed by the FAA. It did ban hotels from accepting guests, and on Monday it reopened its hotels to allow overnight stays. American Airlines and Delta added back flights to the islands in May.

“All of the major airlines have agreed to come back and most of them began flying back in May,” said Joseph Boschulte, commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands. “So what we’re seeing is, even though macro overview of travel is that people are going to be very cautious, what we’re seeing is right now, and not just for USVI, we’re hearing it in the region for those islands that were willing to reopen that demand seems to be high for traffic from the continental U.S.”

In July, Spirit plans to add FLL flights to 13 additional international cities, including Jamaica and Haiti. The company also plans to add back its service to Puerto Rico.

In January, Spirit announced new flights to Colombian cities Bucaramanga and Barranquilla that were supposed to start in April. That never happened. Kirby said the flights will start once Colombia allows for commercial service again.

“We have every intention to start it,” he said. Continue reading.

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