JetBlue, which wants to close a deal to buy Spirit Airlines, cutting 12 routes from Fort Lauderdale airport

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JetBlue Airways is cutting 37 routes from its airline service network, including 12 from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

New York-based JetBlue, which in late July agreed to buy South Florida’s Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion in cash, confirmed Wednesday to the Miami Herald it was suspending the particular routes, because the reduction in flights would “ensure operational reliability.”

The flight cutbacks from South Florida for the fall and into 2023 come after a bumpy summer travel season for the airline industry, marked by delays and cancellations, often due to staff shortages.

The Points Guy, a consumer travel site using data from travel industry analytics firm Cirium, first reported that 12 direct JetBlue routes would be suspended from Fort Lauderdale, including several to the Caribbean, one each to Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago, and a couple to the West Coast.

“To ensure continued operational reliability, we’re planning a schedule change for this fall and into 2023 that will extend some of the market suspensions we put in place earlier this year,” JetBlue said in a prepared statement. “This summer has been more resilient because of the capacity pulldowns we put in place and we believe it’s prudent to plan similarly for next year.”

Before announcing the route cuts — which could be temporary — JetBlue was the second-largest airline at Fort Lauderdale airport based on market share. Discount airline Spirit, which on July 28 agreed to be sold to JetBlue ending a monthslong bidding war between Frontier Airlines and JetBlue, is the leading carrier there.

Combining Spirit with JetBlue would create the fifth-largest U.S. airline, if the transaction ultimately gains regulatory approval from the Department of Justice. It could take two years to occur and that clearance is no sure thing, as Spirit executives said multiple times when they urged the company’s stockholders to reject JetBlue’s hostile all-cash bid that emerged in April.

Spirit officials had urged stockholders to support the less lucrative cash-and-stock merger that Spirit and Frontier announced in February to create a national discount airline.

Airlines have been badly hurt by staff shortages throughout the country, after the worst of the pandemic from the past two years has waned and there’s been a resurgence of travel this spring and summer. Jobs like pilots, air traffic controllers, aircraft mechanics and Transportation Security Administration passenger screening agents at airports all require lengthy training, exacerbating the airline industry’s staffing woes.

JetBlue’s 12 route suspensions from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport:

Fort Lauderdale to Aruba

Fort Lauderdale to Cartagena, Colombia

Fort Lauderdale to Chicago (O’Hare International Airport)

Fort Lauderdale to Cleveland

Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman, largest of the Cayman Islands

Fort Lauderdale to Philadelphia

Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix

Fort Lauderdale to Turks and Caicos, Providenciales International Airport

Fort Lauderdale to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Fort Lauderdale to Portland, Oregon

Fort Lauderdale to Seattle

Fort Lauderdale to St. Maarten, Princess Juliana International Airport