Spirit Airlines isn't considering Chapter 11, 'encouraged' by post-JetBlue plan, CEO says

Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie said Friday that the budget airline isn’t considering a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and is “encouraged” by its plan after a failed takeover by JetBlue Airways.

Spirit has been struggling with shifting travel demand, increased U.S. competition and a Pratt & Whitney engine recall that grounded dozens of its Airbus planes.

Earlier this year, a federal judge blocked JetBlue’s planned takeover of Spirit on antitrust grounds, raising concerns on Wall Street about the money-losing airline’s ability to address its debt. Spirit said in February it is seeking to refinance.

“We are proudly executing to our plan as we’ve exited the merger agreement with JetBlue and are encouraged by the initial results of our stand-alone plan,” Christie said at an annual shareholder meeting on Friday. “We are not evaluating a Chapter 11 at this time.”

S&P Global Ratings on Wednesday downgraded Spirit, raising questions about its ability to refinance. It pointed to a $1.1 billion loyalty bond due in September 2025 and a $500 million convertible note due in 2026.

“Given the constrained cash flow generation and operating performance, along with management’s public announcement of its decision to engage with lenders to assess options for addressing its upcoming maturities, we believe it’s likely the company will face a distressed exchange,” it said.

The company’s finance chief is leaving to become CFO at Hertz, the companies said earlier this week.

Spirit’s shares have lost more than 77% this year through Thursday’s close. The company has taken a host of steps to save and drum up cash including deferring some Airbus deliveries and sale-leaseback deals.

The airline also recently shifted its business model, ditching most flight-change fees and bundling perks that it previously sold a la carte alongside a cheap fare.

It has also softened other policies, extending the life of flight credits from 90 days to a year, and raising maximum weights of checked bags to 50 pounds from 40.

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