Spirit Goes to Denver, But Why?

The next stop for Spirit’s growth train here in the US is in an unlikely place . . . Denver. Why would Spirit go into a market where there’s certainly no shortage of capacity? Something tells me that the airline wants to send Frontier a message.

Spirit Fights Frontier

Spirit will begin daily service from Denver to Ft Lauderdale and Chicago/O’Hare with twice daily service to Dallas/Ft Worth and Las Vegas. First flights are on May 3. Of all the places in the US that Spirit could tackle with its model, why go to Denver now, where three airlines continue to slug it out? It has to be at least somewhat about Frontier.

As we all know by now, Frontier wants to become an ultra low cost carrier and it has started making some big moves in its network to begin that process. While some airlines, like Allegiant, tend to stay away from competition when there are so many other opportunities out there, Spirit likes to get up in your face and let you know that it’s there to make life miserable.

Of course, this move won’t exactly make life miserable but more just be a pain in the butt. Spirit is only coming in with 1 or 2 flights a day and that’s barely going to make a ripple, but the airline is warning Frontier that it’s up for a fight. Need more proof? How about this gem in the press release from Spirit’s Chief Marketing Officer Barry Biffle (who I interviewed hear last year):

We understand that Denver has been looking for an ultra low cost carrier and we are here to satisfy that need. . . .

In other words, “Hey Frontier, this is our game. You try it, we’ll be there to fight you every inch of the way.”

So far, the two airlines seem to be taking different paths in their approach to ULCC-ness. Frontier’s new service looks more like Allegiant’s with sub-daily flights to smaller cities. But it still has its substantial existing service patterns which are more likely to overlap with Spirit.

Let’s take a look at the frequencies for this Friday in the markets that Spirit is entering:

Denver to American Frontier Southwest United

Chicago 5 3 (MDW) 9 (MDW) 10

Dallas 10 5 0* 6 (+3 DAL)

Ft Lauderdale 0 2 2 1

Las Vegas 0 6 9 5
*Southwest serves Love Field with a stop, but won’t begin nonstop until allowed in 2014.

Fares are already inexpensive thanks to the major competition, at least in some of these markets, but Spirit will still try to squeeze in below. Can it do it? Maybe, but you would think there would be better opportunity elsewhere. That’s why my guess is that Spirit wouldn’t have picked Denver next had it not been for Frontier making too much noise for Spirit to ignore.

[Original Frontier photo via Flickr user redlegsfan21/CC 2.0]

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