Topic of the Week: Frontier Picks Up Where Southwest Leaves

Frontier, Southwest

Frontier has been busy quickly picking up routes that Southwest has decided to have AirTran abandon. We’ll see nonstops from Orlando to Allentown (PA), Harrisburg (PA), and Bloomington/Normal (IL). Its flight from Orlando to Madison (WI) will go year-round. Is Southwest really missing out on an opportunity here or is this just the right move for both airlines?

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26 comments on “Topic of the Week: Frontier Picks Up Where Southwest Leaves

  1. Frontier is like drowning man that will grab on anything that floats by in an attempt to survive. Sure there is a niche market for routes like these, and southwest?s labor structure is such that it can?t take advantage of them, but frontier hasn?t had the best record of profitability. The changing to a Ultra Low Cost Carrier is great in theory but doing so in midstream with pissed off pilots is going to be more adventure than can be fit into an episode of undercover boss.

    More route opportunities like these should open up as southwest?s costs rise and less profitable markets are dumped (most likely to the benefit of Spirit, who at the moment seems happy kicking American while its down).

    1. The Frontier Airline Pilots are not upset at all.

      You’re confusing them (F9) pilots with the “Native” Republic (Republic Airways Holdings) pilots. “Native” RAH pilots work for Republic Airlines, Shuttle America and Chautauqua Airlines. All three operate under contract to Major airlines.

      The native RAH pilots, represented by The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 357, are in contract negotiations with RAH concerning four sections of their contract. The native RAH pilots and RAH Management have had a terrible relationship for years.

      Those pilots are very upset. The Frontier pilots are hopeful and optimistic.

  2. This seems like a good move for both airlines. Frontier’s structure allows for the sub-daily flying, and shrinking MKE to grow MCO doesn’t seem like a bad trade-off. By most accounts, MDT and ABE were nice markets for Air Tran, so a similar, if not better, product from Frontier should do well. I am sure there are some other small/medium markets that can benefit from this kind of service as well, as it looks like the “low-hanging fruit” has been picked.

  3. I agree with James. Southwest needs a lot of daily flights to make their business model work. Frontier’s is similar to AirTran’s (minus the whole Ultra Low Cost Carrier attempt). I think this will be a good strategy for Frontier and give them more stability going forward

  4. FL has shown the demand is there when the costs are low. F9 should be fine at these places as they already do charter work much like this leisure stuff. I’m really happy with MDT-DEN as it shows some risk-taking which Frontier needs right now.

    I agree with James that anything is better than MKE right now. Also, F9 has E190’s which are the perfect aircraft for most of these routes (I haven’t checked what they’re actually putting on these routes, but I think A319 is overkill)

    DL has been decently successful with its point to point strategy and Spirit is attacking everyone everywhere (latest being DL and SY in MSP) as the true ULCC. Let’s see how F9 does with its latest moves.

  5. Only time will tell, but as was said, WN needs to have lots of flights between cities to keep the style of flying it’s know for. As Allegiant has shown you don’t need daily service between two cities to do well.

  6. I think this is good example of gap filling by F9 but, until they really rationalize the republic, frontier and midwest operations and fleets into a cohesive strategy, it is just rearranging the deck chairs.

    Agreed with most of the “drops” by FL/WN but I am still surprised that WN dropped SRQ. Although much of FL’s service at SRQ overlapped existing service (ATL on DL, BOS and NYC on B6) and Chicago has already been replaced by UA, this still leaves BWI, IND and MKE without nonstop service and little prospect for replacing it. Interested to see if DL and B6 add frequencies on their new monopoly runs.

    1. Couple other thoughts on SRQ – I forgot that US flies to DCA so the only lost markets are IND and MKE. Also, since UA is going to open a station at SRQ to serve ORD, can service to IAH be far behind? Currently, SRQ does not have a single flight that flies east/west, IAH service could shave off lots of time for travelers going to and from the west coast.

    2. There is no Midwest fleet remaining – that’s long gone. The issue is really just the Republic fleet. Most of the smaller aircraft are gone so it’s really just the Frontier Airbuses and the EMB-190s from Republic. (Maybe some 170s too, can’t recall.)

  7. It’s only time that will tell if Frontier has made the right decision. I don’t think SWA is missing out on these routes simply because AirTran needs serious route restructuring which includes profitable routes (by revenues) rather than capacity (frequency).

    1. AirTran performed miserably in Huntsville and only was there because of the federal grant that supported the service. Could Frontier step in with a couple of flights a week to Orlando? Maybe, but I wouldn’t put my money on it.

      1. Daily HSV-MCO wasn’t a good idea, but there is surely a market for for 2 or 3 x weekly.

        In the short term I doubt Frontier ill pick it up – largely because there are so many other opportunities – but I hope it is on the list.

      2. As davywavy said, I think a couple times weekly would probably work well. All our business/.gov travel from HSV is taking legacies for various reasons. Getting the leisure traveler who doesn’t need a flight every day would probably help a lot…

  8. BMI is THE garden spot of central IL, it should have significantly more air service than it does. I can guarantee 8 seats each year (4 in and perhaps more importantly 4 out ;o).

  9. The only unknown here is what fuel is going to do. Filling an airplane is relatively easy. Making money doing it is a challenge. If fuel goes too high, it could really put pressure on some markets.

  10. I’d like to see Frontier pick up HSV – and several other routes to MCO.

    I’m getting what I’ve always wanted for Frontier, a developing focus city in the south-east – MCO. Now I’d like to see Frontier start MCO-PUJ, to tie in with all the (Apple Vacations) routes to Punta Cana.

    1. But MCO while high-traffic is low yield. JetBlue has a focus and don’t forget DL still has a huge operation at MCO.

      NK started real domestic operations partly so they could balance the seasonal Florida stuff. DL and the like can do 767’s to random places in Europe and park them in Florida in the winter. Now F9 mainly operates a year-round DEN hub with little fluctuation. Therefore when aircraft time is available they need a low-risk place to put them, whether it be these small cities with low costs or Florida with proven demand.

      1. Very few of the new Frontier routes to/from MCO are overlays with other airlines, except for a couple of Allegiant routes to SFB.

        There are several more than could happen. Assuming the new COS routes continue to book as well as they are I could easily imagine COS-MCO and if it is true that Southwest is dropping ABQ-MCO, that becomes a possibility and LIT has no service to MCO.

        There are still a couple of Airtran cast-offs that might work (I have an irrational fondness for LEX) and it is also possible that MCO is Frontier’s eventual way back into Canada, if only seasonally.

  11. One thing you have to give Republic is kudos for not idly sitting around waiting for others to collapse like AMR did. The recent quarterly operating profit is a sign the ULCC strategy may be a good one. Only time will tell.

  12. Southwest needs a lot of daily flights to make their business model work. Frontier?s is similar to AirTran?s (minus the whole Ultra Low Cost Carrier attempt). I think this will be a good strategy for Frontier and give them more stability going forward

  13. The take-home here is that United did a darn fine job over the conersion weekend. Period. They had additional staff available in the reservations centers, the basic ticket counters and at the gates. A few problems? Sure. FOr the most part, they did just fine. I checked a few of my future bookings – and those of some friends – and the 24 hour++ mark and ALL were correct. United probably did not make any profit over the weekend, for they kept most of their customers happy. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of United’s domestic service and I fly others when I can. (They still have a LOT to learn.) in the end, I think that they busted through the coversion with grace and darn good affect. Very few pax were dumped and most were accommodated very quickly. In the end, it was a DAMN GOOD JOB – and Thanks, United!

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