South Florida-based Spirit Airlines resumed daily flights to Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 4. Regular passenger service to the country, considered an important market for the carrier, was suspended after the January 12 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation.
"Spirit has had daily service to Haiti before the earthquake hit and ever since the earthquake hit we have been working diligently to resume that service that was suspended due to the damage that was done due to the earthquake so we're very excited that has been able to happen and flights are now going daily between Fort Lauderdale and Port-au-Prince," said Misty Pinson, Director of Corporate Communications for Spirit Airlines.
Spirit is currently offering a $65.71 one-way seven-day advance purchase fare for travel between Fort Lauderdale and Port-au-Prince. Pinson says the announcement was well received by customers.
"They're just excited to have that ultra-low fare option available - there's other airlines out there charging twice as much as that and they haven't been able to afford that fare, so they are excited that we're back and offering that type of fare they can afford," Pinson said.
Passenger traveling to Haiti on American Airlines first commercial flight to Port-au-Prince after earthquake, 19 Feb 2010
American Airlines was the first commercial airline to resume flights to Haiti on February 19. Its fare for the same route (one-way) is currently $285. Jesus Cruz of American Airlines in Miami doesn't think the Spirit Airlines announcement will affect his company's business.
"With the years we have on the market, I want to say that it won't affect us that much," he said. "We have a good stronghold on the Haitian market so I think they'll be loyal to American Airlines because of the service we provide and the frequency that we provide."
Asked whether American Airlines would match Spirit's "ultra-low fare", he responded that the company is always monitoring market trends.
"Working from the airport I cannot answer specifically on pricing structure but we do from time-to-time monitor the market trends and we do match when necessary, the prices that are offered in the market," Cruz said.
Many Haitians complain that airline ticket prices between Miami and Haiti are way too high, making it difficult for them to travel back home to assess earthquake damage and bring aid to family members.
Father Reginald Jean Marie of Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic church in Little Haiti, Miami
Catholic priest, Father Reginald Jean Marie of Notre Dame d'Haiti church is very outspoken about the issue.
"American Airlines, Spirit, Air France ... should make an effort to lower their fares. It's really absurd to think that a trip to the Dominican Republic costs about $300-$350 while a one-way ticket to Haiti costs $400, up to $600. That is an injustice," he said.
Haitians in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood echoed that sentiment during interviews with VOA.
After the earthquake, Spirit airlines sent staff and planes loaded with humanitarian aid to assist with the relief efforts in Port-au-Prince and communities near the Haitian capital.
"We dedicated staff and aircraft to assist with the aid effort immediately following the earthquake," Pinson said. "We donated a couple hundred thousand dollars' worth of flights full of water and supplies that we took down to assist in the efforts and worked with Food For The Poor in distributing those supplies in Port-au-Prince and throughout the area. In addition, we ran several promotions through our web site, spiritair.com."
The airline gave 5,000 free frequent flyer miles to everyone who donated at least $5 to the Red Cross, UNICEF or Yele Haiti - singer Wyclef Jean's charity organization.
American Airlines is also offering free frequent flyer miles to AAdvantage members who donate to the American Red Cross to help Haiti Relief efforts through March 31.