Spirit Airlines is expanding its Chicago O’Hare focus city with new nonstop service to San Diego and Philadelphia. Flights to both cities will commence April 16, 2015 using 145-seat Airbus A319 aircraft. The announcement of service to Philadelphia comes just one day after rival ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC) Frontier Airlines announced nonstop service between O’Hare and Philadelphia to begin in “spring 2015.” Both cities will be served with one flight per day and have flight schedules as follow:

NK 260 ~~ ORD – PHL ~~ D: 2045 A: 2345 ~~ Daily
NK 261 ~~ PHL – ORD ~~ D: 0610 A: 0725 ~~ Daily

NK 563 ~~ ORD – SAN ~~ D: 1044 A: 1259 ~~ Daily
NK 564 ~~ SAN – ORD ~~ D: 1350 A: 1940 ~~ Daily

Spirit will face indirect competition from Southwest, who serves both cities from its hub at Chicago Midway, and Frontier, who offers nonstop service between Midway and Trenton. At O’Hare, Spirit will face competition from Frontier Airlines (as mentioned), as well as from legacy carriers American Airlines and United Airlines.

O’Hare is one of Spirit’s largest focus cities, with nonstop service to 23 destinations (5 seasonal). Both routes have strong origin and destination (O&D) demand, but can also be viewed as a pre-emptive strike against Frontier, who is launching a major expansion of its operations in Chicago. By next spring, Frontier will offer nonstop service to 11 destinations at Chicago O’Hare, and there are still six months for the Denver-based ULCC to announce additional service. Given the increase in fares by both the legacies and Southwest Airlines in the Chicago metropolitan area, Frontier and Spirit can likely co-exist in many large markets. But it is increasingly clear that Frontier’s network strategy under the umbrella of Indigo Partners will brush directly up against that of Spirit Airlines.