Frontier to Put Internet on Embraer 170 and 190 Aircraft

Frontier, Inflight Entertainment

Ok, so Frontier and Midwest are uniting under the Frontier name, and now they’re trying to standardize the brand and offerings. So what do they do? They go out and decide to purposefully create a split brand offering by adding internet to the Embraer 170 and 190 aircraft only. I guess we did see this coming, right?

These guys are developing quite the variety of inflight entertainment options. It’s just too bad that they aren’t all available on every airplane. Instead, it’s a hodge-podge. I suppose that’s fitting since their largest competitor is probably United, the king of hodge-podge. Here’s how it’s going to break down.

Frontier Inflight Entertainment Guide

How do I feel about this? I really don’t mind not having anything but a window on the little Embraer regional jets. I mean, those are flying mostly (if not entirely) dedicated routes to small markets. They fly short routes and inflight entertainment just won’t be worthwhile for those.

But the Embraer 170s and 190s, I’m not thrilled. Those planes fly side by side with the Airbus aircraft. In fact, I’ll be flying one way out of Long Beach on an Airbus and the other way on an Embraer. So having differing products on planes that fly alongside each other on identical routes will be annoying.

I understand why they’re doing it. It’s a lot cheaper and easier to pop a wireless router and an antenna on an airplane than it is to put televisions in every seatback. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right decision.

Ultimately, none of this is a surprise. When I first wrote about the decision to consolidate around the Frontier brand, I said this:

I’m glad to see the TVs sticking around, but I’m wondering what’s coming on the rest of the fleet. I would hope that they’d put TVs on their Embraer 170/190 fleet since those go pretty long distances. But the way this is worded makes me think that their version of inflight entertainment may very well just end up being inflight internet. We’ll have to see.

Unfortunately, it looks like I was right.

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24 comments on “Frontier to Put Internet on Embraer 170 and 190 Aircraft

  1. I think it makes sense on the E190s. Flew them a couple of times DEN to MCI, and have to say that A) they are brand new and quite comfortable and B) you can actually get work done on one. Compare a 2×2 seating E190 and the same 2×2 seating on a CRJ700. The seats on the E190 are actually a little wider, and they have greater pitch. I can actually get work done with my laptop on the E190 – something I can’t say for the CRJ700.

    As I was looking up the E190, I pulled up JetBlue (never flown them) — which of course touts personal TVs in their E190 seatbacks. :)

    1. Totally agree with this comment: When Republic, Frontier and Midwest hooked up and their routes and equipment got all jumbled, I was initially upset to see (by chance) a lot of the routes I fly with E190’s instead of Airbuses. Until I flew one — the E190 is really a very, very nice aircraft. It really doesn’t feel like an RJ.

      And frankly, as much as I have enjoyed the seatback TV in F9’s airbus fleet, I’m much more excited about inflight internet. I could live without TV’s in the rest of the republic fleet, but hope internet makes its way to every plane eventually.

  2. I know several business travelers, myself included to a degree, that will book a flight primarily on equipment flown. Admittedly mostly it’s to avoid the CRJ’s, but I’m wondering if people will book Frontier flights specifically trying to avoid the Embraer flights, or vise versa. PTV’s usually don’t matter too much to me unless it’s an intercontinental flight, but to a family traveling with kids maybe. If the ticket price is the same I don’t see why it wouldn’t happen.

    Another thing that makes me scratch my head, and correct me if I’m wrong, but Frontier is supposed to be a LCC. So, Southwest here, and EasyJet and RyanAir across the pond, do just fine with absolutely nothing for IFE. Why go to the expense of adding anything to the E190’s? I understand that the Airbus fleet already has PTV’s installed, but is there money to be made in excess the expense of installing IFE in this market? Didn’t NW figure out years ago that people buy on price and price alone?

    1. And JetBlue was the pioneer in live TV, eventually buying the LiveTV company. So what does being a “LCC” (if that term really means anything these days) have to do with having or not having IFE?

  3. Hrm, the question is will the airbus fleet keep their TVs? I can see them losing it in the future, especially since Frontier has them as a pay option, so they need to pay their way..

    1. I can’t see RAH spending more money than they have to. Although I’m wondering how many people are actually paying for this service.

      I’m with Cranky though – you need some type of consistent service across the board.

  4. In a cost-cutting move a couple of years back, Frontier gave control of their TVs (plus servicing and all revenues) to DirecTV, per a Frontier employee to me. They honestly have no incentive to keep them on board financially, so why not either phase them out or just not put any new ones in?

  5. I think that one of the larger parts of the IFE decision has to be the “high and heavy” performance issues on the E-170s (I can’t speak to the E-190s). Cranky, if you want to fly from LGB to DEN and have TV, be prepared to have your bags left behind and possibly be denied boarding due to weight restrictions. When Frontier was unwisely flying the 170s to Mexico destinations, those aircraft were CONSTANTLY weight restricted. Throw a bulky dome and heavy onboard system to include the TV, and you are going to hose a lot of customers in the mile high city due to performance issues.

    1. I don’t know about this. 16R/34L is 16,000ft long and was designed with an eye toward allowing 747/A380 aircraft to takeoff in the summer without a substantial weight penalty. Even the other 5 runways are 12,000ft; so “high and heavy” isn’t as much a concern at DEN as it is at airports like SLC or EGE.

      1. Yeah.. I know there’s plenty long runways. But I was working the ramp at the time when they were flying the E-170s to Mexico. I remember flights leaving with denied boardings to 10+ people and absolute mayhem on the concourse. The RW pilots calculated weight and balance and told us no go on x amt of passengers and that’s all there was to it. Granted, I’m not specifically sure of the reasons behind the weight restrictions, but it was definitely summer, and they were definitely putting a lot of fuel aboard for the haul down to Mexico (to say nothing of the oversized/overweight bags for people going to the resorts).

  6. I think they are just adding WiFi on the Embraers to compete with AirTran because they have WiFi on every aircraft. Im sure Frontier is going to keep most of the Embraer aircraft based out of Milwaukee so they can try to be on the same playing field Even though AirTran has XM radio.

  7. Given the present price of fuel – and the weight of the equipment – LiveTV might just be possible on the E190, but would be prohibitively expensive on the E170.

    Perhaps it isn’t so much of an issue for JetBlue on their E190’s because guess who owns LiveTV.

    I’m puzzled as to why Cranky is so cranky about this.

  8. As many people have mentioned, the best thing to do would be leave the LiveTV as is and add Gogo on the Airbus aircraft also. (and even the ERJ 135/145 if it won’t be too much weight)

  9. A related question (which may have been answered previously): is in-flight wifi actually any good or is the speed/capacity generally so crap it’s effectively useless?

    I’m already aware that access is restricted so you can’t use VOIP but can you do anything more substantive than just reading email?

    1. The speed is pretty good, but I’ve heard many complain that it’s not good enough for streaming video. So, great for email and websites, but not for anything more intensive.

  10. The window only option? GREAT!! That’s all I want (without the wordless flight attendant reaching over to snap the blind down).

  11. With so many people carrying their own on demand entertainment via iPods, iPhones and laptops with their own content ready and loaded I’m puzzled at how or if Frontier and DirectTV make any money from their service, or if the money comes from product awareness and knowing “They’re the ones” that have live TV. (on some flights now.)

    IFE is like my own cable at home, (which I’ve long since canceled,) – I’m not going to pay $5 a flight to watch whatever happens to be on Animal Planet at the moment, when I can watch my own movies on and shoes I’ve on my laptop.

    I appreciate movies on long hauls, but Frontier’s Denver flights are 3-4 hours tops and I’d much rather have power ports or wireless to use my own gear.

    Also I’m still enchanted looking out the window and enjoying the view. Last week I flew through some cloud canyon layers into Phoenix, then watched a somewhat close lightning storm en route to Denver. Still the best IFE around.

  12. It’s been a while since I watched a movie or TV on a flight, and that was on a long-haul flight. Domestically, Internet access is *way* more valuable than IFE, both for working or relaxing. As @james pointed out, most folks seem to bring their own entertainment (iPod, movies on laptops or iPhones) these days, just like we’ve learned to bring our own food. It would not surprise me if IFE has peaked, except for long-haul service.

  13. Another factor in Frontier’s decision is that apparently the WiFi can be installed literally overnight, while LiveTV in the 170s/190s would require each aircraft to be out of service for several days, and would also require expensive seat modifications.

    I think that once the WiFi installation is completed in the E-jets, it’ll be rolled out in the Airbii as well, so WiFi becomes the minimum IFE standard for longer Frontier flights, rather that “either/or” situation.

    1. “Airbii”? Seriously?

      First of all, the plural suffix for second declension Latin nouns is “-i”, not “-ii”, so your made-up word should be “Airbi”.

      Of course, this is irrelevant as the plural of “bus” is “buses” (when’s the last time you heard someone say they “changed bi”?) Therefore, the plural of “Airbus” would be “Airbuses”.

      Sorry, but misuse of Latin suffixes (not “suffices”, BTW) is one of my pet peeves.

  14. @Craig:

    Hmmmm? Frontier’s Airbus aircraft are out of service for four or five days for the installation of LiveTV.



    Thankfully, “Airbus” is not considered a Greek word, like octopus, because that would be a very fun – fake – plural.

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