JetBlue-Spirit merger will be great for Miami economy, workers tourists. Don’t block it | Opinion

·3 min read

South Florida has become an even more popular tourist destination — from within the United States and internationally — than it was before the pandemic. Warm weather, beautiful beaches, nightlife and cuisine make our region the perfect option for visitors looking to escape winter’s cold.

With tourism roaring back, it’s time for the government and airline industry to support Florida’s explosive economic growth by creating jobs, offering additional low-cost travel choices and providing more routes to and from South Florida.

That’s why I was disappointed to hear of the Department of Justice’s attempt to block the JetBlue-Spirit merger, which would increase competition, provide more travel options and expand our workforce in Florida. State Attorney General Ashley Moody rightly recognized these benefits when she secured thousands of new jobs for Floridians and hundreds of new, affordable flights at airports throughout the state in an agreement reached with JetBlue.

In the current marketplace, it has become the norm for airline customers who have so few choices to accept high fares and lackluster service. Lack of competition has resulted in lack of innovation, with little room for change. But that doesn’t mean things have to stay that way. Travelers are looking for more, and healthy market competition resulting from JetBlue’s merger with Spirit Airlines may be the answer.

The numbers speak for themselves. Economic studies show that when JetBlue enters a market with a nonstop route, the fares for legacy carriers drop 16% on average. For example, when JetBlue began flying from Fort Lauderdale to Port-au-Prince, fares dropped by as much as 14%, and traffic increased by 62%. This phenomenon has been referred to by the Department of Justice as the “JetBlue Effect.” South Floridians would benefit directly from a merger because legacy carriers would be forced to compete with lower fares and better service.

The JetBlue-Spirit merger would also increase affordable service for South Florida, resulting in more than 250 daily flights at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. By incorporating Spirit’s geographical footprint, the combined airline could continue to expand to even more destinations in the Americas and Europe — further fueling South Florida as a global gateway.

In addition to more options for travelers to and from the area, a combined airline means job creation and retention for South Florida residents. According to data reported by VISIT FLORIDA, visitors to the state contributed nearly $97 billion to the local economy and supported more than 1.6 million jobs for Floridians. With tourism to Miami growing at a record pace, a robust travel industry will be increasingly important to the residents of South Florida looking to capitalize on employment opportunities.

With almost 6,000 crewmembers in the region, JetBlue would be one of Broward County’s largest employers, building an even more sustainable job market for residents in the surrounding area. The acquisition would also build on the presence of JetBlue’s Fort Lauderdale Inspiration Center, driving innovation and growth for Florida’s economy. Additionally, the move would protect the jobs of Spirit crewmembers at the airlines’ new Dania Beach corporate campus.

By introducing travelers to more affordable flight options and providing residents with work opportunities in the fast-paced world of travel, the economic benefits resulting from a combined JetBlue and Spirit would provide a strong, lasting impact on this region. As legal proceedings continue, it is my hope that leaders from the DOJ and JetBlue can agree on a path forward that will allow a stronger JetBlue to better service our region and the people who call South Florida home.

Liliam M. Lopez is president and CEO of the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.