Spirit Airlines, Inc. (NYSE: SAVE) today reported fourth quarter and full year 2019 financial results.

Fourth Quarter 2019 Fourth Quarter 2018 As Reported Adjusted As Reported Adjusted (GAAP) (non-GAAP)1 (GAAP) (non-GAAP)1 Revenue$969.8 million $969.8 million $862.8 million $862.8 millionOperating Income$124.6 million $129.6 million $136.1 million $139.3 millionOperating Margin12.9% 13.4% 15.8% 16.2%Net Income$81.2 million $85.0 million $91.9 million $94.7 millionDiluted EPS$1.18 $1.24 $1.34 $1.38

"2019 was a year of many accomplishments for Spirit.  Our improving operational reliability, and the investments we're making to provide our Guests the best value in the sky are being noticed by our Guests and earning us international acclaim.  We once again achieved a fourth-place ranking for on-time performance among reporting U.S. carriers2.  Spirit also recently received several global recognitions:  Low-Cost Airline of the Year at the CAPA World Aviation Summit; Value Airline of the Year by Air Transport World; and, most on-time Low Cost Airline by Flight Global.  Our team also delivered strong financial results for 2019.  For the full year 2019, our GAAP pre-tax earnings increased 112.9 percent year over year.  Excluding special items, our Adjusted pre-tax earnings increased 15.3 percent year over year1,” said Ted Christie, Spirit’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  "I am very proud of the Spirit team for these accomplishments.  Looking ahead to 2020, we are focused on running a safe and reliable airline, leveraging technology and automation to drive further efficiencies, and executing on our revenue initiatives to deliver strong returns for our shareholders.”

Revenue Performance
For the fourth quarter 2019, Spirit's total operating revenue was $969.8 million, an increase of 12.4 percent compared to the fourth quarter 2018, driven by an 18.6 percent increase in flight volume.  Fourth quarter 2019 revenue includes approximately $7.2 million of out-of-period revenue related to the reclamation of over-remitted Federal Excise Tax.

Total operating revenue per available seat mile ("TRASM") for the fourth quarter 2019 decreased 3.6 percent compared to the same period last year.  Without the out-of-period revenue, the Company estimates its fourth quarter 2019 TRASM would have been down about 4.3 percent year-over-year.  The decrease in TRASM was driven by lower operating yields, as load factor for the period was up slightly.

On a per passenger flight segment ("PFS") basis, for the fourth quarter 2019 total revenue per PFS decreased 5.5 percent year over year, to $110.71, non-ticket revenue per PFS increased 2.3 percent to $58.033, and fare revenue per PFS decreased 12.9 percent to $52.68.

Cost Performance
For the fourth quarter 2019, total GAAP operating expenses increased 16.3 percent year over year to $845.2 million.  Adjusted operating expenses for the fourth quarter 2019 increased 16.1 percent year over year to $840.2 million4. Primary drivers of the increase in adjusted operating expense compared to the fourth quarter last year include increased flight volume and higher ground handling rates.

Aircraft fuel expense increased in the fourth quarter 2019 by 6.7 percent year over year, due to a 14.8 percent increase in fuel gallons consumed, partially offset by a 7.1 percent decrease in fuel rates.

Spirit reported fourth quarter 2019 cost per available seat mile ("ASM"), excluding operating special items and fuel (“Adjusted CASM ex-fuel”), of 5.67 cents4, up 3.3 percent compared to the same period last year.  Primary drivers of the increase on a per ASM basis compared to the same period last year included heavy maintenance amortization, maintenance, material and repairs and other operating expenses.

“Our team did a great job recovering from the operational issues we faced in the summer and finished the year 2019 with strong operational results.  Strong operational performance is key to our continued good cost management and we believe we are well-positioned as we enter 2020.  As we’ve noted previously, we have several inflationary pressures we are facing such that we expect our 2020 CASM ex-fuel to increase 1 to 2 percent year over year.  From a timing perspective, we face the toughest hurdle in the first quarter, but we anticipate the headwinds will ease as we progress through the year.  And, while we already have one of the most fuel-efficient fleets in the U.S., with our growing fleet of A320neo aircraft we should see even greater fuel efficiency this year, helping us offset some Adjusted CASM ex-fuel pressure,” said Scott Haralson, Spirit’s Chief Financial Officer.

Spirit ended the year with unrestricted cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments of $1.1 billion.  For the twelve months ended December 31, 2019, Spirit generated $409.2 million of operating cash flow.  After investing $294.5 million for aircraft purchases and pre-delivery deposits, and receiving $225.9 million of proceeds from issuance of long-term debt, Adjusted free cash flow for the twelve months ended December 31, 2019 was $340.6 million5.  For the twelve months ended December 31, 2019, net cash used in financing activities was $120.2 million.

Spirit took delivery of nine new aircraft (seven A320neo and two A320ceo) during the fourth quarter 2019, ending the year with 145 aircraft in its fleet.

Full Year 2019 Highlights

  • Launched service to the following new destinations: Austin, Burbank, Charlotte-Douglas, Indianapolis, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham and Sacramento.
  • Received global recognition as the Low-Cost Airline of the Year at the CAPA (Centre for Aviation) World Aviation Summit. CAPA, part of the Aviation Week Network, is one of the world’s most trusted sources of market intelligence for the aviation and travel industry.
  • Continued its commitment to invest in the Guest experience with an industry-leading technology to connect with its Guests via the messaging application WhatsApp.
  • Unveiled new, ergonomic and more comfortable seats that provide additional usable legroom as well as added comfort to its Big Front Seats, making the best value in the sky even better.
  • Announced a new $250 million global headquarters investment at a new campus in Dania Beach, Florida.
  • Announced an order for 100 Airbus A320neo Family Aircraft, with an option to purchase up to 50 more, to support the airline's growth and sustain one of the youngest, most fuel-efficient fleets in the U.S.  These aircraft are planned for delivery through 2027.