left US Airways, where he was senior vice president of marketing
and planning, to become Spirits president and COO in January.
Senior editor Andrew Compart talked to Baldanza about the
transition and his vision for the low-cost carrier.
Q: Why did you leave US
A: I saw a huge opportunity at Spirit. The
winners a couple of years from now are going to be the ones that
can keep costs most under control and do the right things in
marketing. As we transition from the older MD-80s into the new
Airbus fleet, well take our costs even lower, and I believe by 2007
well be the lowest-cost airline in the U.S.
Q: A lot of what you talk about for Spirit
involves marketing and branding. What do you have to do in that
A: Bringing on new $30 million airplanes
with a two-class product gives us a platform to upgrade who and
what Spirit is to its customers. We also fly to international
destinations our low-cost competitors typically dont fly
Our business plan
includes serving more and more international destinations. By 2007
we expect roughly half our revenues will come from international
Q: Where do you plan to go?
A: We clearly have a goal to be the
leading low-cost carrier to Latin America and the Caribbean,
although at some point I expect well want to serve Canada, as well.
Canadians go to Latin America and the Caribbean, so it will be
important for us to take them there.
Q: Spirit has 33 aircraft now. How big can
your fleet get?
A: We could have 60 to 90 by the end of
Q: How is Spirit dealing with high fuel
A: Were accelerating the transition of the
fleet. We hope to be completely out of the MD-80s by early 2007.
Were rebuilding our business model to make money at $55 a
Q: With your redesigned Web site, do you
plan changes in distribution?
A: We sell about 70% direct. Because our
business model, however, suggests were going to fly more
internationally, we have to think carefully about our distribution,
to ensure we are realistic with the distribution models of the
international environment. As we expand in the world, fly maybe to
more ethnic-type markets, where some people still traditionally pay
cash or buy from brick-and-mortar distributors, we just want to be
cognizant of how the market buys.
Q: How does Miramar, Fla., compare with
Washington, D.C.? Have you been through a summer in Florida
A: Not yet, but I lived in Houston for
five years, and I lived in the tropics in Central America for a
while. So I think I can take the heat.