Frontier Adds Seven New Cities From Denver with One Thing in Common

Frontier, United

The folks at Frontier announced their summer schedule yesterday, and there are a whopping 7 new cities joining the Frontier network. You know what they have in common? Not a single one of them is served by Southwest. Ah, very smart.

Frontier Runaway from Southwest

Here’s the list of newbies:

  • Branson (Missouri)
  • Grand Rapids (Michigan)
  • Green Bay (Wisconsin)
  • Long Beach (California)
  • Madison (Wisconsin)
  • Newport News (Virginia)
  • Santa Barbara (California)

As you can see, not only are these not served by Southwest currently, but it’s highly unlikely that Southwest will start serving them any time soon. That’s a good strategy. And it won’t surprise you to know these are all being served by Embraer 190s. Those planes provide much greater comfort than the Bombardier regional jets that United flies on some of these routes and they’re much smaller than anything Southwest operates.

Long Beach is obviously the most exciting to me personally. Six slots were raffled off and Frontier picked up two. Allegiant also picked up two, and I find myself wondering what the heck they’re going to do with them (if anything) while SkyWest and JetBlue picked up one a piece. Southwest certainly won’t be coming in to Long Beach, though United could use commuter slots if they really wanted to fight Frontier.

Branson is the other really interesting one to me. When I visited those guys in 2008, Denver was one of the big markets they identified as being important to them. Sure enough, they’ve found their Denver entrant, the only flight that goes west from the new airport. It’s only operating four days a week for now, and I think it’s a good test. Even better, I know Branson has no qualms about offering exclusivity, so there’s no threat of competition coming in if it works out, at least not for awhile.

Newport News may seem kind of goofy, but I imagine there’s a fair bit of traffic on Lockheed Martin alone between the two cities. It just might work with all the military stuff going on there.

Grand Rapids, Madison, and Santa Barbara already see service from United Express, but that clearly doesn’t concern Frontier, and for good reason. They’re looking at different flight times and sometimes superior aircraft.

Grand Rapids sees a single daily Embraer 170 from United Express. Frontier will run it once a day at opposite times, so it provides a good balance. The equipment is basically the same on the inside, but the different times should help this out.

Madison and Santa Barbara are different. United flies Madison three times a day, but two of those are on cramped 50 seat CRJs and one is on an only slightly less cramped CRJ-700. That’s two long hours on those little tubes. Santa Barbara is similiar although it only sees two flights a day. So now Frontier can come in with one a day to Madison and two a day to Santa Barbara and provide a much better experience for a two hour flight.

E90 Better Than CRJ

They really are focusing on the onboard experience here, which is funny because they still haven’t addressed the fact that the onboard experience is much different on the Airbus aircraft with LiveTV than on the Embraers without. Why do I say they’re focusing on the onboard experience? The new routes are only part of the change here. They are also getting rid of their turboprops entirely – Lynx is toast. Yes, the 11 Q400s will go away and they will be replaced by either Embraer 190s or the smaller Embraer 170, something that hasn’t been seen flying out of the Denver hub yet. In the process, both Fargo (North Dakota) and Tulsa will lose Frontier flying completely.

Why are they doing that? In their words, “The transition to jet service will improve the Company’s ability to operate in highly contested markets in which the Q400 operates at a competitive disadvantage to jet service offered by competitors.” My guess is that they couldn’t find enough profitable markets in the West and figured the fleet was so small, they might as well just kill it off instead of trying to port it around the country looking for markets. Too bad. I like that plane.

They are also getting rid of their 7 orphan CRJ aircraft. They fly a boatload of Embraer regional jets, but they had this once 24-strong CRJ fleet buzzing around for Continental for awhile. It’s now down to 7, and there’s no reason to keep that either, so they can now unload one certificate (Lynx) and two aircraft types.

Lots of changes here, and I like what I see. Adding those non-Southwest competitive markets will not only strengthen the fares they get onboard the local flights, but it will also help with the mix on the flights to big cities. It will help them fight Southwest by not fighting Southwest. See, the more flights they have in these smaller markets, the more flights they can support in the larger ones even with the competition.

This is really the closest I’ve seen to a low cost carrier operating a true hub and spoke model. They have the large markets covered, and now they’re looking at the smaller ones. United should be concerned. I look forward to seeing their response.

Notes:
*Original Frontier Airbus photo via Flickr.
*I recently began a short term social media consulting stint with Long Beach Airport (full disclosure and all). It’s noted on my code of ethics page.

Get Posts via Email When They Go Live or in a Weekly Digest

22 comments on “Frontier Adds Seven New Cities From Denver with One Thing in Common

  1. I for one welcome our new frontier overlords into Grand Rapids.

    It has been exciting news for Grand Rapids and Gerald Ford Airport (GRR) recently… Allegiant has come in, Air Tran will be coming in and adding new flights (BWI for one), Allegiant announced they will be overnighting crews in Grand Rapids and now Frontier adds direct to Denver.

    The United direct to Denver is a nice flight, allows me to fly to the West Coast w/o going through ORD (which sucks) but Frontier will be nice for direct to Denver

  2. Good point on the operating one flight at the opposite time of the other guys one flight. Over the years I’ve seen two carriers with a single daily flight operate with in minutes of each other, or maybe in markets that have only three times a week service and both carriers operate on the same day. I always thought doing the opposite could benefit each carrier and they wouldn’t always have to fight each other for business. Naturally their are exceptions, but not operating at the same time as the other guy makes sense.

    Where they will compete with UA doesn’t mean that big brother will not put in a bigger mainline jet to compete against an embraer or add more flights. That’s a sad thing the majors like to do, if they see another carrier doing well on a one daily flight route (as an example), they will stick in five flights to grab the business and then when the smaller carrier goes away, those five flights go down to two and then none. All to just keep someone else from getting the business.

    Good luck to them.

  3. I am ECSTATIC about the DEN to MSN route. I try to get back there 2-3 times a year at least. United deserves whatever pain this causes them — not only are the planes on that route as miserable as you say (I agree the 700’s aren’t terrible, but that’s only one flight a day. Speaking of, I think United flies that route 4 times a day, not 3. Perhaps one of them is seasonal) but the prices have been insane: Even two months out it’s regularly $500+ round trip due to the lack of competition. Even if Frontier only undercuts that by 1/4 or 1/3, it’ll still be a bargain for a much more comfortable flight.

  4. The later point is what has happend in GR before. A discount carrier came in to try and break the stranglehold that NWA had on the airport and NWA dropped the rates on those flights to the point the discounter couldn’t live and left. Once the discounter was gone, the prices skyrocketed back up to normal costs.

    Like I posted, its nice to see and airport like GRR add more flights.

    Now we have: Continental (direct to Newark, Houston and Cleveland), Delta (direct to DCA, Atlanta, MInneapolis, Detroit), United (direct to O’Hare and Denver) and Midwest (direct to Milwaukee) Adding Air Tran (direct to BWI, Ft. Myers and Orlando) Allegiant (direct to Orlando, Tampa, Vegas and Pheonix) and now Frontier (direct to Denver) adds a lot more places to fly without a connection

  5. David SFeastbay wrote:

    big brother will not put in a bigger mainline jet to compete against an embraer

    Can UA fill a mainline? Costs a lot of $$$ to fly an empty plane.

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    they will stick in five flights to grab the business and then when the smaller carrier goes away

    That’s the business world. Why do you always see Wal-Mart and Target stores so close to each other? That competition is ultimately good for the consumer as it increases your retail options and lowers prices overall. If you don’t want to see the “little guy” squashed fly them and boycott the major, but don’t complain about the competition because it keeps ticket prices low.

  6. I grew up in Grand Rapids and visit frequently. GRR was recently listed (of course I forget where,) as being one of the highest priced airfare markets in the U.S.

    When my Mom comes to visit from GR she often finds a fare for under $200 from Chicago and takes the morning Amtrak train down for $30. Being retired with plenty of free time this is great, but for the rest GRR has been quite expensive the past few years.

    And many West Michigan folks choose to drive the two hours to the east side of Detroit where cheap fares are found, so if a little action between between carriers helps bring fares down to GRR as well that’d be well appreciated by myself and my family.

    I chuckled when I saw the Mlive.com article picturing a bulky Airbus A3something floating through the sky. Not likely I thought – but for a weekend trip I’ll take two hours in an RJ over a connection in Chicago.

  7. An interesting note on DEN-GRR vs DEN-ORD, both of which I fly often. Both are listed on UAL as 2:26 hours flight time. GRR is 130 miles past Chicago, (per GCM,) which shows just how much ATC padding is built into ORD arrivals.

    Also, as Jonathon probably knows many GRR-ORD flights have a lengthy ground hold for traffic- often finding us on the GRR tarmac for 10-30 minutes awaiting our opening.

    Two more reasons skip ORD.

  8. Worth pointing out that the parent company already has operations in (at least) MSN, GRB, and GRR (Midwest Connect service to Milwaukee), which presumably makes the startup and operations easier.

    I’ve been wanting an E170 or E190 in Madison for quite a while now; I’m thrilled that we’ll finally see one. (All 50-seaters except for Northwest/Delta’s mainline service.) The flight time for the MSN-DEN flight, at least, is a bit of a shame; arriving in DEN at 20:30 makes for a late arrival on the west coast for any connecting flights. I’ll take what I can get, though.

  9. @ James:

    That’s why I swtiched from United to another carrier, the ORD flight is always delayed due to being a smaller priority. Even with the padded time the delay usually causes this to run late

    Hopefully with all the recent additions/etc the prices will go down

  10. I wish they weren’t cutting the Q400. That’s a cool airplane and has a great cost advantage on some of Frontier’s shorter routes like DEN-Colorado Springs and would be better for Midwest’s routes to Appleton Grand Rapids, Green Bay, Madison etc. Perhaps Porter will buy them as they’ve got almost all of the planes they have on order.

    The only thing that kind of bugs me is that Frontier didn’t try to connect some of the existing dots, cities that Midwest serves but Frontier doesn’t. Boston, Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Raleigh Durham should be on F9’s radar. RDU’s only got Southwest as competition, Pittsburgh and Columbus only have United (although Southwest would probably add a flight if F9 went in). Boston and Cleveland have more competition but Boston’s a big, diverse market and Cleveland has essentially one carrier now that UA/CO have gotten engaged.

  11. Not exactly on topic but you do realize that in your graphic you have the talk bubble coming from the tail end of that Frontier plane instead of the cockpit. In other words you have Frontier talking out of their ass… :P

  12. YES! Another Westcoast-DEN-GRR option as a way to avoid ORD. If anything this will drive down UA’s DEN-GRR flights. And note that JetBlue and Southwest have both looked at and passed on GRR because they wouldn’t lower the landing fees (gotta pay for the fancy new parking garage and the related repairs needed for the leaky wave-shaped awning…).

  13. Wow — a lot of Michigan comments! I’m more interested in Long Beach. Where did the 6 new slots come from? The Press-Telegram says the new service brings the number of utilized slots to 41 (the maximum allowed), but I thought LGB was already operating at 41. So, who gave up slots? Was someone forced to?

    Personally, I’d be happy to see FedEx and UPS disappear from LGB. I don’t see how it makes sense to have a cargo operation with so few planes when there’s a huge cargo base 22 miles down the road at LAX, and getting rid of the cargo planes would free up slots for more passenger service. Besides, those 767s and A300s are the noisiest commercial aircraft at LGB these days (though they still pale in comparison to the C17s and F/A18s).

  14. David SFeastbay wrote:

    Good point on the operating one flight at the opposite time of the other guys one flight.

    You know, one market that especially bugs me in this regard is LAX–NRT. There are 7 daily flights on 7 different carriers (Korean, ANA, United, Delta, American, JAL, and Singapore), and they all leave in a span of less than 3 hours (from 10:25 to 13:10), including 5 flights leaving within 25 minutes (11:35 to 12:00)! With a 12-hour flight and 17-hour time difference, this means all flights arrive in Japan in the afternoon/evening of the next day, wasting two business days (of course, you compensate for that on the way back, where you land earlier than you leave). This market seems like a great opportunity for a flight that leaves around midnight and arrives early in the morning, wasting just one business day. But nobody does that.

    Compare this to TLV–NYC, very similar in terms of time traveled except for the international date line issue (12 hour flight, minus 7 hour time difference), where a typical day has a mix of day and night flights, though night flights are more common (Continental has one of each, Delta once nightly, El-Al twice nightly plus some day flights scattered throghout the week). Why the difference? I can think of a few reasons, but none of them seem like a good answer:

    1. The international date line difference, though I really don’t see what this has to do with anything.

    2. TLV–NYC is much more of an origin/destination market: there’s virtually no connecting traffic in Tel Aviv, and New York is a very popular destination, whereas LAX–NRT probably sees many connections on both ends. But I would think that a night flight is actually better for connections — flights from Tel Aviv to all other North American cities are overnight, in order to make use of morning connections at the destination hubs (I suspect PHL and ATL are mostly for connections, YYZ and LAX probably see more origin/destination). An overnight flight from LAX to NRT should allow for easy connections on both sides.

    3. Los Angeles and Tokyo are separated by an ocean with very limited possibility for connecting flights (Hawaii is pretty much all there is), whereas a whole continent lies between Tel Aviv and New York with many connecting opportunities, all of which are day flights. I’m not sure why this would create a preference for night flights on the nonstop, though.

    4. Cultural differences between Israel and Japan — not that I know which cultural factors affect the preference for day and night flights, but this can’t be ruled out.

    5. Competition: on LAX–NRT each carrier has exactly one flight, so they have to choose the optimal time, whereas on TLV–NYC carriers can serve the second best timing without compromising their share of the top traffic. This still doesn’t explain why the preferred time is different on the two routes.

    Anyway, going back to the topic of the post (sort-of), I’m still surprised that not a single carrier can make a profit by going against the majority trend and taking overnight traffic from L.A. to Japan (such service must be useful for some people). For the Michigan–Denver crowd, it’s good that they will have more choices.

  15. Your “size matters” picture is quite true. That is another reason that I totally avoid southwest and their 737s. I much prefer a 757 or 777 from DEN to ORD on United. The 737 at southwest is a very cramped airplane.

  16. Ron wrote:

    Where did the 6 new slots come from? The Press-Telegram says the new service brings the number of utilized slots to 41 (the maximum allowed), but I thought LGB was already operating at 41. So, who gave up slots? Was someone forced to?

    As Carl said, 5 came from Alaska and 1 came from UPS. Alaska shifted its 5 flights to only 4 on Horizon CRJ-700s so they use commuter slots instead (of which there are plenty). UPS just cut from 2 cargo flights to 1.

    Ron wrote:

    Personally, I’d be happy to see FedEx and UPS disappear from LGB. I don’t see how it makes sense to have a cargo operation with so few planes when there’s a huge cargo base 22 miles down the road at LAX, and getting rid of the cargo planes would free up slots for more passenger service. Besides, those 767s and A300s are the noisiest commercial aircraft at LGB these days (though they still pale in comparison to the C17s and F/A18s).

    It’s good to have UPS and FedEx here. We have over 500,000 people in Long Beach, and this gives people a later drop off time for urgent packages. I’m happy to see 1 from FedEx and 1 from UPS, but I’m glad UPS gave up the other slot. Besides, its nice to see the widebodies fly over around dinner time.

    Ron wrote:

    You know, one market that especially bugs me in this regard is LAX–NRT. There are 7 daily flights on 7 different carriers (Korean, ANA, United, Delta, American, JAL, and Singapore), and they all leave in a span of less than 3 hours (from 10:25 to 13:10), including 5 flights leaving within 25 minutes (11:35 to 12:00)!

    I think there are a couple of good reasons that you missed here. One, the airport is heavily slot restricted, so most of the airlines on the route probably don’t have an option for a late flight. Two, and probably most importantly, there is a curfew at Narita until 6a. A midnight flight would block in at 450a, so that won’t work. You’d really have to have the flight leave at 2a to make sure that you missed the curfew (if you had a slot), and that’s a pretty awful departure time.

    Jess wrote:

    I much prefer a 757 or 777 from DEN to ORD on United. The 737 at southwest is a very cramped airplane.

    That’s funny. Southwest offers 1 to 2 more inches of legroom than a United 757 or 777 and has the same width as a 757. The 777 is one inch wider per seat. I guess perception is everything, but I’d rather sit in coach on Southwest.

  17. Boy Brad Lorenzo Jr. is doing a great job at moving into the future with his newly aquired purchases, but once again brings up the at what cost scenerio. Another 175 employees that road out the storm and continued to provide safe and friendly service that will be applying for jobs at any airline or fbo that will give them a paycheck and company emails not filled with bs. Over and over again we watch money and mediocracy take over something that has merit and a sound structure. Maybe i’ll start fowarding the amazing Bedford files in so everyone can get a chance to glance at self rightousness and christian values while we seperately email out new pay scales and job ending warn notices.I might not be the most religious man but christ on a stick I understand that uprouting family’s and putting others on a Colgan Air Fo waitlist to make an extra quarterly profit doesn’t really fit my christian man moral checklist. Menke ran for the hills cause he couldn’t give us what he promised and hated it i’m sure, many will follow, until we are packed full of b scale workers that may or may not operate and fun loving safe flight. When you see the hungover 19 year old spraying the ice off your plane for 8.40 an hour, you look at the family beside you and wonder if Bedford’s move to make that extra quarterly profit is worth your safety?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!