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Spirit Airlines Looking To Possibly Start Service Out Of MIA

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Miramar-based Spirit Airlines is in discussions with Miami-Dade County to begin regular domestic and international service at Miami International Airport.

Sources tell CBS4's Brian Andrews the deal has been in the works for almost a year. Spirit's first Miami flights could begin as early as this fall from Concourses F and G.

A Spirit spokesperson said she could not comment on the Miami deal, except to say, "Miami does qualify as one of the many airports that could benefit from our low fares, but there is nothing to announce at this time," said DeAnne Gabel.

Spirit has retained the services of Miami lobbyist Jorge Arrizurieta to help in the deal.

Arrizurieta said he was not authorized to comment.

CBS4 News has learned top executives from the airline met with the Mayor and other high level county officials last week, at which time the frame work of the deal was worked out.

"All that's left is some lawyering and signatures on the contract," said one County Official.

Commissioner Juan Carlos Zapata says he has had meeting with Spirit and has been told the deal is virtually done.

"I've spoken to them. I know there's been delays. I don't understand why it's taken so long. They've got a good platform and something that will benefit the citizens of Miami-Dade County. They won't have to travel to Broward anymore," said the Commissioner.

Miami-Dade Aviation Director, retired Army Colonel Emilio Gonzalez declined to discuss specifics, but did say the airport has been courting Spirit for months.

"The Mayor and I have been talking with the principals at Spirit Airlines, but the deal is not yet done."

Mayor Carlos Gimenez, in Tallahassee to meet with lawmakers on issues related to the county, said in a statement, "I would gladly welcome Spirit should they include MIA in their future growth plans."

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose Pepe Diaz said Spirit's expected arrival in Miami means increased competition among carriers and better airfares for residents.

"Miami-Dade residents need options in this economy," said Diaz. "This is all about giving them options, affordable options, when they fly out of our airport."

County insiders tell CBS4 Spirit's entry into the Miami market could lead to expansive growth for the carrier as the second largest carrier behind American.

A Spirit spokesperson said the airline has no plans to move their Fort Lauderdale hub, from which they operate 45 domestic and international flights each day and have a long-term lease agreement. Colonel Gonzalez says MIA is in discussions with a number of carriers about expanding service to Miami, since the Federal Government authorized more Customs and Border Patrol Staffers and TSA Officers to help ease wait times at the airport.

"We're also going to have a rebirth of Eastern Airlines with potential routes to the Caribbean and Central America in 2015," said Gonzalez.

This year, a hedge fund that owns the logo and brand of the former Eastern Airlines announced plans to begin charter service from Miami.

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