Spirit Airlines leaving Phoenix-Mesa Gateway for Sky Harbor

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Even as Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport celebrates its 5 millionth passenger, one of its two airlines announced that it will move operations to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in October.

Spirit Airlines, which is based in Miramar, Fla., will end its flights out of Gateway on Oct. 23. The next day it will launch service from Sky Harbor to Dallas-Fort Worth. Within a couple of week after that, Spirit will launch flights to Chicago O'Hare and Denver.

Spirit's flights will leave from the north concourse of Terminal 3. Friday's announcement comes a month after Volaris announced its nonstop Phoenix-Mexico flights out of Sky Harbor. Those flights to Mexico City and Guadalajara will start Oct. 19.

Spirit's destinations are not new to Sky Harbor.

DFW is currently served by American/US Airways with 14 daily flights; O'Hare is served by American/US Airways and United with five daily flights; Denver is served by US Airways, United, Southwest and Frontier with 24 flights per day.

"These additional flights are evidence that the city and the airport have weathered the tough economic times and are ready for growth," Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos said in a news release. "With their strong presence in Latin America, we hope that these are the first of many domestic and international cities that Spirit will serve from Sky Harbor."

Spirit Airlines offer customers low base fares with a range of optional services. The idea is that travelers choose the extras they value. Spirit's all-Airbus fleet currently operates flights throughout the U.S., Latin America and Caribbean.

"Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport fits Spirit's growth strategy by continuing to take customers to the big cities they want to go to at an affordable price," said Spirit's Senior Director of Network Planning, Mark Kopczak. "We look forward to serving even more travelers to and from the Phoenix area with Spirit's ultra low fares and optional add-ons for a total price that's tough to beat."

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is among the top 10 busiest airports in the country, with more than 1,200 daily nonstop flights to 100 destinations.

"We are delighted to welcome the airline into the Phoenix Sky Harbor family, and to offer passengers additional options to some of their favorite destinations," Phoenix Aviation Director Danny Murphy said.

Spirit's departure from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, which was designated Arizona's airport of the year by the Arizona Department of Transportation in 2012, leaves Allegiant as the sole commercial airline there.

"Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is considered one of the fastest growing hub airports in the United States and has earned a reputation for being a convenient alternative to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport," reads a May 2012 news release announcing the award from ADOT.

It's not clear how Spirit's decision, on top of recent announcements from other airlines, will affect the airport, which announced an expansion -- the addition of two gates and an outdoor courtyard --  as recently as April.

Allegiant recently pulled the plug on it much-ballyhooed nonstop service to Honolulu, calling the move a seasonal hiatus. Allegiant's first Hawaii flight took off on Feb. 8. The route will be off the schedule in mid-August. Allegiant reportedly is suspending all of its Honolulu flights, with the exception of those out of Las Vegas. The Mesa-Honolulu route could return to the schedule next year.

Last summer, Frontier Airlines announced service to Denver from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, becoming the airport's third commercial carrier. Flights started in November and are slated to end some time this winter. The airline reportedly cited "poor performance" in it decision to leave Mesa.