Topic of the Week: Frontier and Southwest Brawl over Wisconsin Fliers

Frontier, Southwest

First, Frontier made a deal to allow its frequent fliers to transfer miles to Delta. Then Southwest struck back and said that anyone who donated miles to charity via Frontier’s program could get those miles matched in Southwest’s program. Then Frontier stopped its program that allows you to donate miles to charity. They all look like spoiled children right now, but who looks worse?

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21 comments on “Topic of the Week: Frontier and Southwest Brawl over Wisconsin Fliers

  1. Of course Frontier is going to look worse due because they were the ?bad guy? and stopped the program. But that was a D**k move on the part of Southwest. The really funny thing in all of this: Frontier didn?t have to let Wisconsin Fliers transfer, they did a customer positive move and now are stuck in a PR nightmare. Southwest will look like the golden child, Frontier will look bad and Delta will sit there looking confused. Truly brilliant move by Southwest though, bravo Canyon Blue bravo.

  2. How is it a d**k move by Southwest? Frontier is the spoiled brat who lost big time in MKE, and then decided to do a final “F you” to Southwest by trying to transfer their FF members directly to Delta. Southwest made an offer to MKE customers just like Frontier did. Frontier lost at its own game, which is something you’d think they’d be used to by now.

  3. The big loosers are the people that could have benefited from those miles that are no longer being given to charity. And for that Frontier will look bad no matter what any other airline did.

  4. Americans love to support an underdog. Southwest was always the airline that had to fight for every inch they could get. They were the little sapling in a forest of tall trees and I would go out of my way (even if it involved driving 50 miles to a different airport) to fly them. Now they are one of the tall trees and trying everything in its power to wipe out F9. Although I admire all of the hard working front line people at SWA, I don’t like their corporate tactics (like this one), and will change planes twice on other airliines to avoid flying them.

    1. See the problem here is Americans still think Southwest is the underdog. It isn’t. Its like the geek who grew up and how is messing with other people’s stuff because they can. Didn’t Kayak do a commercial about that?

  5. Brett Snyder, author of the air travel consumer blog Cranky Flier, and CEO of travel assistance firm Cranky Concierge, offered comment on Southwest’s promotion: “It’s a great way for Southwest to attract Frontier loyalists [in Milwaukee] while also encouraging charity – love it.”

    I’ll add that Southwest gets bonus points for its 2 free checked bags policy. If I were a MKE flier, I’d be firmly in the WN camp.

  6. I really don’t get the contention that WN looks like a spoiled child in this. They simply wanted to poach a few FFs who might have gone to DL instead, and so they came up with a marketing ploy to try and do so. What’s wrong with that? I’m also confused, Cranky, in that you call WN a spoiled child in the first paragraph, but then in the story you are quoted in, you basically say it’s a great move.

    F9 is the one that really looks petulant here, if you ask me. They want to give the Italian salute to WN, so they stop the ability of their FF members from donating miles to charity. That’s pretty cold.

    1. I do think it was a brilliant move by Southwest, but it really amounts to a lot of sniping at each other like spoiled kids. Doesn’t mean I don’t love the move.

  7. I wonder if F9 is canning the donations program because of the cost it’ll have. Is this one of those donations where the airline gives money to the charity, or is it just miles in a bucket charities can use?

    The other question is Southwest could be really devlish: Transfer your miles to Delta, then donate them from there, and we’ll still match it.

    I’m getting tired of Southwest being the bully, it doesn’t suit their persona well.

    1. Yup. I mean we are talking Milwaukee here. . . .I had some business in Wisconsin last year and was blown away by the number of flights in and out of Madison. That is two real airports for a small state. Oh yeah, something called ORD a few miles to the south.

      1. Madison is hugely busy (and has sky-high airfares) in large part due to Epic Systems, which is the vendor of an electronic medical record system that has a huge market share – something like 24% of a very fractured, fast growing market. I don’t work for them, but I do consulting work for hospitals that implement their system, and they are likely the largest and fastest growing company you’ve never heard of, mostly because they are privately held, and have so much cash flow that they are unlikely to do an IPO.

        Kaiser Permanente, Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Health System, Childrens of Philadelphia, Texas Children’s, Cedar’s-Sinai, Mt Sinai, Sutter Health, and HCA are all major customers of Epic. In almost every market, one of your local hospital systems is an Epic client.

  8. Ummm…Southwest didn’t dream this up. AirTran did exactly this to Midwest a few years back. And not only was it not something new they dreamt up, it took them 15 days to roll it out after the Delta/Frontier plan opened up. (Of course I know that Southwest took over AirTran, so the same people who devised this may now be employed at Southwest, but the point is this isn’t new.)

    Back when AirTran did this to Midwest, YX did not pull the charity plug. Reports later indicated about 210 people donated YX miles to charity during the period. Of that 210, it’s likely that some (perhaps many?) had already moved their business from Midwest to AirTran, so the number of loyal YX customers who swtiched their business to AirTran as a result of this promotion is likely quite a bit less. It may have largely allowed customers who already left YX to move their miles to the carrier they were already flying. Hard to know exaclty how many new customers FL got, but it likely wasn’t all that many.

    This is a somewhat different situation because Frontier has largely closed up shop here and their customers are looking for a new carrier to concentrate business with. But even if Frontier had not thwarted Southwest’s plan, they already lost a big chunk of potential because it took them 15 days to come up with something to counter the Delta offer.

    As for who is getting the back eye out of this, I think it is indeed much ado about nothing. The huge bulk of Southwest and Frontier customers are likely not aware of this, or if they do they’ll soon forget about it. For those who do catch and remember the story, there are undoubtedly some who will villify Frontier for suspending the charity program. Others will view Southwest as a bully for trying to manipulate the FF program of a weaker competitor. In fact, the number of purchase decisions affected by this dust-up is probably close to zero.

    Bottom line is that Southwest’s ace was trumped by Frontier. The sharp comments I’ve heard from certain Southwest supporters elsewhere supports this. And further confirmation comes from Southwest itself, as they are giving 5,000 RR points to people for proving they are Frontier Early Returns members. (I’m guessing this is a targeted offer, but I’m aware of a half dozen people who were offered this today.) Hard to know what’s really up here. Does Southwest really see Delta as reaping a lot of what Southwest left on the table in Wisconsin? Or is this more about ego and competitive adrenaline?

    1. Frontier has done plenty of status matching to other airlines, sure, but they’ve never been nearly as aggressive in the FF department as with this recent WN move. Which, by the way, is mildly entertaining considering that WN will be selling a lot of planes to DL soon.

      Also, when you do the math, WN is actually being very, very aggressive with this deal, when they could be more laid back if they wanted to be. Converting 25,000 Frontier miles to DL SkyPesos will net you a single round-trip flight…maybe. Converting to RR points would get you around $440 worth of air travel, plus or minus a few dollars due to the way Southwest calculates RR redemptions (e.g. a $109 all-in flight costs around 6K RR points). Granted, it’s not quite aggressive enough to make earning on Frontier and transferring over to Southwest completely viable (you’d have to buy flights that are ten center per mile or less to do that). But Southwest could have just as easily swapped each 25k of Frontier miles for a Standard Award (worth 19.2k miles) and called it a day. Though, hey, the Points system has more granularity so why not use it, I suppose?

    1. And that makes this an incredible no-brainer. If you have Frontier points right now, there is zero reason to not take advantage of this.

  9. Southwest has some of the best marketing in the business even though they have a sub-par product. Milwaukee used to have a wonderful airline with both marketing and product. It is quite sad with the limited choices available now. I make the drive to ORD to avoid Southwest. It takes an extra hour but I think it is worth it.

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