Frontier Heads to Memphis, Waits for “Northwest Welcome”

AirTran, Frontier, Northwest, Schedule Changes

f9memThese guys at Frontier are just gluttons for punishment. Yesterday, the airline asked Memphis to “be their Valentine” by announcing flights to the city from Memphis, Orlando, and Las Vegas. What they really should have done is gotten on their knees and begged Northwest to not lay the smack down.

As you probably know, Memphis is the smallest hub for Northwest Airlines, but Northwest still protects it fiercely. While low cost carriers have flourished in other cities, Northwest hubs have been barren wastelands. Memphis is a great example. It’s a good-sized city that could support low cost flights, but AirTran is the only one that flies there (unless you count US Airways). AirTran only has six daily flights to Atlanta. That’s the extent of low cost carrier competition in Memphis.

How does this happen? Well, Northwest always gives a giant “Northwest Welcome” to any new carrier in its hubs. You’d think Frontier would know this, because last time they entered a Northwest market they got the beat down.

On December 18, 2003, Frontier announced two daily nonstop flights between Minneapolis and Los Angeles beginning April 11. Within a couple of hours, Northwest had already put out a press release announcing two additional daily flights between Minneapolis and Los Angeles as well as two daily flights between Frontier’s home in Denver and Los Angeles. Of course, they matched all fares as well. As you can imagine, that didn’t last very long for Frontier.

So why are they trying this in Memphis now? I have no idea. It’s possible they’re just getting more aggressive in trying to develop flying that doesn’t depend on the Denver hub. It’s becoming increasingly important for them to prove they can do that, and this might be their best option right now. No matter what, you can be sure that Northwest is planning a big ole’ welcome party, so keep your eyes open.

If that’s not enough, AirTran is also not happy about this. They’ve decided to start nonstops between Memphis and Orlando as well. Giddyup!

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