Spirit Airlines to open Atlanta crew base

Spirit Airlines plans to open a crew base in Atlanta this summer, adding more than 100 pilots and 200 flight attendants based at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit is the third-largest carrier at the Atlanta airport, behind dominant carrier Delta Air Lines and No. 2 carrier Southwest Airlines.

Having a crew base at the airport can give a carrier more flexibility during storms or other disruptions when it needs to find backup crews to fly planes. Last August, Spirit had mass flight cancellations that stranded passengers around the country. Spirit said it is adding a crew base in Miami as well this year.

The airline aims to increase staff at airports where it has a “high concentration of flight activity.” It has routes from Atlanta to Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Newark, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia and Tampa. It plans to resume service from Atlanta to Atlantic City and Boston on April 21 and to Austin on May 5.

The crew base will also help with hiring by allowing Spirit to recruit pilots who want to be based in Atlanta, and give its existing crews more options of where to be based. Some pilots and flight attendants will commute from other cities to the Atlanta base, but others will relocate to Atlanta and the airline also plans to hire locally.

Spirit’s move comes as it prepares to merge with another ultra low-cost carrier, Frontier Airlines, as announced last month, and compete more aggressively with the nation’s largest carriers. Frontier opened an Atlanta crew base last year.

Other airlines including Atlanta-based Delta and Dallas-based Southwest also have long had crew bases in Atlanta.