Disruptions caused by Hurricane Dorian created more financial headwinds during an already sagging 2019 third quarter for Spirit Airlines, removing an estimated $25 million in revenue and pushing unit costs up, the Florida-based ULCC calculates.

In a Sept. 6 investor update, Spirit said total unit revenue, or TRASM, will be down 2.5%-3.5% year-over-year (YOY). Before Dorian, TRASM was on track to be down 1%-2%, which is below the ULCC’s previous guidance of down 1% to up 1%.

The airline’s 3Q CASM-ex fuel costs are expected to rise 9%-10%, a 2% increase from prior guidance. “This increase is entirely attributable to the loss of [capacity] and additional costs incurred related to Hurricane Dorian,” Spirit said.

Spirit said it canceled 768 flights because of Dorian. The hurricane made a slow track approaching and finally paralleling the US east coast for nearly two weeks before moving northeast into the North Atlantic Sept. 7.

Most domestic carriers have characterized 3Q trends as pointing to a strong US domestic market. Spirit is among the notable exceptions, even before Dorian’s disruption is factored in.

Analysts at J.P. Morgan suggest that Spirit’s struggles are a sign of how well its full-service competitors are doing in general, as basic-economy value pricing that targets Spirit and other budget airlines has proven successful.

“We are unabashed by our view that the ULCC is best deployed in markets where competitors are weak and share is easily seized—which is not how we would characterize the domestic market,” J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker wrote in a Sept. 9 note. “And we remain of the view that Basic Economy has caused ULCCs—typically accustomed to playing offense—to adopt a defensive crouch.”

Spirit joined New York-based JetBlue in issuing current-quarter guide-downs that cited Doran as a major contributor. JetBlue said Sept. 4 its unit revenue is now expected to be down 2% to flat. The previous range was up 0.5%-3.5%. JetBlue cited soft Puerto Rico demand a 1.25-point headwind, while Dorian contributed .75 point to the drop.

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviatonweek.com