Frontier and AirTran Sitting in a Tree . . .

AirTran, Frontier

Greetings from the PhoCusWright conference here in LA. It’s nice to be a conference and still be able to sleep in my own bed at night. If you’re here, please come say hello.

I hadn’t planned on writing much today, but this place has wireless throughout and there was some interesting news involving AirTran and Frontier, so I’m compelled to write.

Today Frontier and AirTran announced a partnership involving two main areas:

  • If a customer goes to either airline’s website and wants to make a booking for a city to which only the other airline flies, they will transfer that person over to the other site for booking. This isn’t a codeshare. You can’t buy a ticket using services from both airlines under one code. For example, if you go to www.airtran.com and search for flights from Denver to San Jose, they will tell you that Frontier operates that and send you over to that website. But, you can’t search for flights from West Palm Beach to San Jose because that would involve travel on both airlines.
  • Anyone flying on Frontier can earn miles in AirTran’s program and vice versa on any flight.
    In addition, anyone with Frontier miles can redeem them in the AirTran program and vice versa.

This is a big deal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a sign of closer ties to come. Frontier has been backed into a corner ever since Southwest came to Denver. Though they have tried, they still haven’t been able to really build a viable business outside of Denver with the small exception of Mexican beach flying. On the other side, AirTran has hit some problems of their own. Their third quarter numbers were not good at all (they lost money), and they’ve announced they’ll be slowing their growth next year.

A real merger between these two, with the exception of fleet mismatch, might be a great opportunity for both of them. Let’s see if they go any further with this or if they think that they can gain enough from this limited partnership to make a merger not seem worthwhile. I would think that at least a true codeshare would be desirable, but it does add a level of complexity in every area from the technology integration to transferring baggage. We’ll see if they think it’s worth it.

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