“We are a leisure-based airline. ... Leisure is the fundamental, core traffic today,” Christie said in an interview.
Business travel and long overseas flights to places like Europe and Asia, which are core profit drivers for major carriers like Delta Air Lines, are expected to take much longer to recover.
Spirit currently uses a mix of gates across multiple concourses, including two “preferential use” gates on Concourse D and periodic use of seven to eight common-use gates on Concourse E for other flights.
“It can create some logistical issues,” Christie said. “We are very interested” in more preferential use gates
The airline has been in discussions with airport officials. “We’re really excited to continue to grow,” he said.
Hartsfield-Jackson said it has no available preferential gates right now, but it is adding five gates to Concourse T by December 2022. That will allow United and American to move flights to those gates, opening up several gates on Concourse D. It’s yet to be seen whether those gates will be designated for a particular airline or open to any airline as common-use gates.
Airport officials say steep international flight reductions amid the pandemic have reduced use of common-use gates on international Concourses E and F. If international flights don’t recover, the airport could use some of those gates for more domestic flights. However, international operations take precedence over domestic operations, the airport said.
Spirit is also rolling out facial recognition technology to match customers’ faces to photo IDs they scan at baggage self drop stations. It has rolled out a test of the technology at Chicago O’Hare and New York’s LaGuardia Airport that’s under evaluation by the Transportation Security Administration. The technology likely will be added at Hartsfield-Jackson at the end of this year or early next year.