Spirit Airlines suspends New York-area flights following CDC warning

a small yellow plane sitting on a runway at an airport

Spirit Airlines will be the first mainland U.S. carrier to suspend flights completely to the New York area as it heeds a warning against traveling to the populous region by public health officials amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The South Florida-based carrier will end service to five airports in three states: Hartford (BDL) in Connecticut; Newark Liberty (EWR) in New Jersey; and New York LaGuardia (LGA), Niagara Falls (IAG) and Plattsburgh (PBG) in New York starting Wednesday, April 1. The move follows the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) advisory against non-essential travel to the three states.

Spirit hopes to resume flights to the New York area on May 4, spokesperson Field Sutton said Monday.

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The ultra low-cost carrier has the distinction of being the first mainland U.S. carrier to end all flights to New York. Hawaiian Airlines suspended its daily flight to New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) on March 29, according to Cirium schedules.

The move comes as U.S. air travel slowly grinds to a halt as officials work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Spirit plans to cut capacity by at least a quarter in April and May, while larger carriers including Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are suspending the majority of their schedules.

The five airports that Spirit is suspending flights to represented roughly 10% of the airline’s system capacity in 2019, Cirium schedules show.

New York is currently the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. The state had 42% of the country’s 140,904 confirmed cases at 4 p.m. ET on Monday, according to the CDC.

Spirit was pushing to expand in the New York area prior to the pandemic. Last November, the airline filed a suit asking a court to review the Department of Transportation’s decision to sunset 16 landing and takeoff rights previously held by Southwest Airlines at Newark airport. It wanted the rights available to other carriers to counter United’s dominance of the New York-area airport.

U.S. carriers are parking hundreds of jets across the country as the crisis drives demand to record lows. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported that only 180,002 travelers were screened on March 29, or just 7% of the number screened the same day a year ago.

Demand has sunk so low that airlines are reportedly ready to ask regulators to allow them to consolidate flights in order to fill planes, CNBC reported on March 29.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

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Related video: United Airlines slashing U.S. and international flights amidst coronavirus crisis [via USA TODAY]

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