Ben BaldanzaBen Baldanza is a business executive and investor with over thirty years of experience. He spent eleven years at the helm of Spirit Airlines, a small struggling company-turned-powerhouse in the airline industry.
Through Ben’s creative and sustainable business development plan, Spirit Airlines flourished through high fuel prices, economic recession, and full preparation for IPO — emerging as an airline turnaround success story unmatched by any other in the past 30 years.
Ben Baldanza was originally hired as President of Spirit Airlines in 2005 and was elevated to CEO in 2006. Tasked with leading the airline to profitability (crucial both for the complicated business and for its investors), Ben began a full transformation process in finance, marketing, and operations.
As CEO of Spirit, Ben focused on growing the airline not just through high-level channels, but through innovative approaches to ancillary revenue. This ensured financial security even as Ben spearheaded major changes in Spirit’s aircraft fleet, defensible franchise network, unbundling of pricing, and full preparation for IPO.
By the time Ben concluded his tenure in order to complete his two year transition/relocation to the Washington DC area, Spirit Airlines had become the highest margin airline in the United States:
The company tactics had resulted in major recognition by the media (major US newspapers, radio, and TV news shows). Ben himself was twice named “one of the 25 most influential business travel executives of the year” by Business Travel News.
Prior to Spirit, Ben Baldanza had already built a storied career in the airline and transportation industry. He has held roles at American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, United Parcel Service (Atlanta, GA), Continental Airlines, the Taca Group, and US Airways. Ben’s work with Continental in particular encompassed his forward-thinking approach to airlines and his ability to execute full-scale turnaround plans. He was a key contributor to Continental’s “worst to first” restructuring, which improved market capitalization by over $2 billion, delivered eight consecutive quarters of profitability, and is known today as the most successful airline turnaround of the 1990s.
Current Career Ventures
Ben Baldanza is now the owner and investor of Diemacher, LLC. He is on the board of two highly innovative airlines: WOW Air (Iceland) and Odyssey Airlines (UK). Ben balances this work with his adjunct professorship in the Economics Department of George Mason University, through which he teaches an “Airline Economics” course. He is also an operating partner in the Connor Capital Transport Opportunities fund, a newly established equity fund to invest in transportation opportunities with significant upside.
Ben’s other academic achievements include publishing chapters in McGraw-Hill’s Handbook of Airline Finance, Handbook of Airline Operations, and Handbook of Airline Strategy. His chapter in the Handbook of Airline Finance, “Measuring Airline Profitability,” is used in college courses around the world.