Back in the day, Southwest was known for using a bracketing strategy around big cities. For example, it served Manchester to get the northern half of Boston and Providence to get the southern half. It did the same in Chicago with Midway and Milwaukee. That strategy disappeared when Southwest started moving into big cities directly, but Frontier apparently likes the plan and is now trying the same thing in Philadelphia.
Frontier recently decided to build up a good little operation in Trenton. Now, it is going to start flying into Wilmington, Delaware. This is the first commercial service to Delaware since Delta pulled out a few years back.
Starting July 1, Frontier will begin flying from Wilmington to 5 cities:
- Chicago/Midway – 3x per week
- Denver – 4x per week
- Houston/Intercontinental – 3x per week
- Orlando – 2x per week
- Tampa – 2x per week
Is this a good idea? It very well could be. Traditional airlines don’t fly to Wilmington because of just how close it is to Philly. It’s only 26 miles down I-95 from the Philly Airport. Since the other airlines already have good service to Philly, Wilmington would only make sense if it could generate a premium on small airplanes with lower frequencies. It hasn’t worked out yet.
But Frontier wants it for the opposite reason. It cut Philly completely last year when it continued to remake its network as an ultra low cost carrier. Now it has low fares and infrequent flights out of Trenton on the north side of Philly and it wants to do the same out of Wilmington in the south.
For Frontier, Wilmington might just work because people will travel for measurably lower fares. But right now, there are people around Wilmington who already travel for any fare… to Philly. So you can now look at people living in the southern part of Philly, northern Delaware, and northeast Maryland as potential targets to use the service.
Northeast Maryland? Surely they just drive to Baltimore and fly Southwest from there, right? Well, a lot do but remember, Southwest isn’t that cheap anymore. This target market is more likely looking to Baltimore or Philly in order to fly Spirit these days. For those who find Wilmington more convenient, this will be an easy choice. But even for those who don’t prefer Wilmington, they may still make the trip, because Spirit doesn’t serve any of these cities nonstop from Philly or Baltimore.
Even if they did, there might be room for both airlines to offer ultra low fares in an area packed with population. And hey, maybe they’ll end up being one airline in the end anyway. After all, Indigo Partners and Anchorage Capital are both apparently in the running to take over Frontier. Those names sound familiar? They’ve both been involved with Spirit.