|Founded||February 8, 1994|
|Commenced operations||July 5, 1994|
|Frequent-flyer program||FRONTIER Miles|
|Parent company||Indigo Partners|
|Headquarters||Denver, Colorado, US|
|Revenue||US$2.156 billion (2018)|
|Operating income||US$120 million (2018)|
|Net income||US$83 million (2018)|
Frontier Airlines is an American ultra low-cost carrier headquartered in Denver, Colorado. The eighth-largest commercial airline in the US, Frontier Airlines operates flights to over 100 destinations throughout the United States and 30 international destinations, and employs more than 3,000 staff. The carrier is a subsidiary and operating brand of Indigo Partners, LLC, and maintains a hub at Denver International Airport with numerous focus cities across the US.
In 2020, class-action lawsuits against Frontier were filed after the company refused to refund airfare for customers who could not travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company accepted part of the $25 billion in U.S. government funds to offset financial damage to the airline industry during the outbreak.
Frontier Airlines was the brainchild of Frederick W. "Rick" Brown, a United Airlines Pilot, his wife Janice Brown, and Bob Schulman, the latter two having worked at the original Frontier Airlines (1950–1986). In 1993, Continental Airlines was scaling back flights from Denver's Stapleton International Airport, and the three proposed a charter airline named AeroDenver Travel Services to fill demand on international routes, potentially in partnership with Condor Airlines. To run the company they brought in M.C. "Hank" Lund (ex-CEO of the original Frontier Airlines) as CEO and Sam Addoms as executive vice-president and treasurer (later CEO). As Continental's Denver drawback expanded in scope in late 1993, the proposed airline pivoted to fill regional routes, and adopted the Frontier Airlines name. The company was incorporated in February and went public in May 1994.
Scheduled flights began on July 4, 1994 using Boeing 737-200 jetliners between Denver and four cities in North Dakota. Around three-quarters of its 180 employees, and many executives, had worked for the original Frontier Airlines. By January 1995, Frontier had expanded its route network from Denver and was serving destinations in New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, Nevada, Nebraska, and Arizona. Like the original airline of the same name, the new Frontier operated a hub at Denver (DEN) and for the first nine years used the slogan "The Spirit of the West" which was displayed above the windows and just behind the cursive letters "Frontier" on the fuselage of their aircraft.
In 1999, Frontier signed agreements to begin purchasing and leasing Airbus A318 and A319 jet aircraft and had also added Boeing 737-300 jetliners to its fleet as well. Also by September 1999, the airline was serving destinations from coast to coast in the U.S., having expanded its route network to include Atlanta (ATL); Baltimore (BWI); Bloomington/Normal, Illinois (BMI); Boston (BOS); Chicago (MDW, Midway Airport); Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW); Phoenix (PHX); Los Angeles (LAX); Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP); New York City (LGA, LaGuardia Airport); Orlando (MCO); Portland, Oregon (PDX); Salt Lake City (SLC); San Diego (SAN); San Francisco (SFO); and Seattle (SEA), all served from its Denver hub.
Frontier took delivery of its first Airbus aircraft (an A319) in 2001 and simultaneously launched with it DirecTV in-flight television along with a new company livery. Frontier Airlines was the launch customer of the Airbus A318 in 2003. In mid-April 2005, Frontier officially became an all-Airbus fleet, retiring its last Boeing 737. Jeff Potter was appointed CEO in 2002.
As part of its plan to stay competitive in reaction to the entry of Southwest Airlines into Denver, the company underwent a reorganization early in 2006. On April 3, 2006, Frontier created Frontier Airlines Holdings (FRNT), a holding company incorporated in Delaware to take advantage of favorable tax laws in that state. The corporate headquarters did not leave Colorado. In 2007, Frontier established a commuter airline subsidiary, Lynx Aviation, Inc., chaired by Dr. Paul Stephen Dempsey. Also that year, Jeff Potter left the company and was replaced by Air Canada's Sean Menke as CEO.
On January 11, 2007, Frontier Airlines signed an 11-year service agreement with Republic Airlines. Under the agreement, Republic was to operate 17, 76-seat Embraer 170 aircraft for the former Frontier JetExpress operations. At the time the contract was canceled in April 2008, Republic Airlines operated 11 aircraft for Frontier Airlines, with the remaining six aircraft expected to join the fleet by December 2008. With the integration of Republic aircraft, the 'JetExpress' denotation was removed. Subsequent to the cessation of Horizon's services for Frontier in December 2007, all flights operated by Republic were sold and marketed as "Frontier Airlines, operated by Republic Airlines." The first market created specifically for the Embraer 170 was Louisville, Kentucky, which began on April 1, 2007. Service to Louisville was suspended in August 2008 but restarted in April 2010.
Flights operated by Republic Airlines offered in-flight snack and beverage services similar to Frontier's mainline flights. Unlike Frontier's aircraft and due to the nature of contracting with regional carriers, these Embraer 170 aircraft were not fitted with LiveTV.
Bankruptcy and Republic acquisition
On April 10, 2008, Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in reaction to the intent of its credit card processor, First Data, to withhold significant proceeds from ticket sales. First Data decided that it would withhold 100% of the carrier's proceeds from ticket sales beginning May 1. According to Frontier's press release, "This change in practice would have represented a material change to our cash forecasts and business plan. Unchecked, it would have put severe restraints on Frontier's liquidity..." Its operation continued uninterrupted, though, as Chapter 11 bankruptcy protected the corporation's assets and allowed restructuring to ensure long-term viability. After months of losses, Frontier Airlines reported that they made their first profit during the month of November 2008, reporting US$2.9 million in net income for the month.
On June 22, 2009, Frontier Airlines announced that, pending bankruptcy court approval, Republic Airways Holdings, the Indianapolis-based parent company of Republic Airlines, would acquire all assets of Frontier for the amount of $108 million. Thus, Frontier Airlines would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Republic. However, 5 weeks later on July 30, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced that it would be making a competing bid of $113.6 million for Frontier with intentions to also operate Frontier as a wholly owned subsidiary, but that it would gradually fold Frontier resources into current Southwest operating assets.
During a bankruptcy auction on August 13, 2009, Republic Airways Holdings acquired Frontier Airlines and its regional airline, Lynx Aviation, as wholly owned subsidiaries. On October 1, Republic completed the transaction, and Frontier officially exited bankruptcy as a new airline.
In late 2009, Republic began to consolidate administrative positions and moved 140 jobs from the Frontier Airlines Denver headquarters to Indianapolis, Indiana. Shortly after in January 2010, Republic Airways announced that it would move all of its executives to Indianapolis. Later in February, the Denver Business Journal stated that the headquarters would be moved "soon". Despite this, according to the Denver Business Journal, Frontier Airlines will still maintain a local headquarters in Denver to house Training, Marketing, Customer Reservations, and Scheduling & Planning teams after extending its lease on the building through 2020.
Merger with Midwest Airlines
As Republic Airways Holdings was in the process of bidding to acquire Frontier in 2009, it was also in the process of acquiring Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines. Through the fall and winter of 2009, Republic operated its two new acquisitions as separate brands. However, to improve efficiency by better matching aircraft capacity to route demand, Republic began to intermix the fleets of the two airlines, swapping a portion of its higher-capacity planes from Frontier with its smaller-capacity planes from Midwest and vice versa. However, the move caused some confusion amongst the public, as the two brands did not offer the same amenities and did not match the amenities mentioned on the airfare. As a result, in the Spring of 2010, Frontier and Midwest Airlines announced that their brands would merge, with Frontier being the surviving brand. This was a merger of brands only—no Midwest Airlines aircraft was ever operated by Frontier, as by this time, all Midwest Airlines flights were operated on its behalf by other Republic Airways Holdings subsidiaries.
On April 13, 2011, Frontier formed a new subsidiary, Frontier Express, that was planned to operate the airline's smaller aircraft with different services than those available on full-size aircraft.
Closing Milwaukee hub
After merging with Midwest Airlines, Frontier cut 11 out of its 18 flights leaving a total of just 7 from Milwaukee's MKE to Denver, Orlando, Rhinelander and Washington-National. At its peak, Frontier operated around 100+ flights from Milwaukee daily.
On September 9, 2011, Frontier notified the public of a 40% reduction of arriving and departing flights from MKE. Along with this reduction of flights, the company laid off approximately 140 employees from the MKE station. This includes but is not limited to: maintenance, grooming services, flight-line and gate.
In February 2012, Frontier Airlines cut five nonstop routes from Milwaukee. This move "reduced Frontier's daily departing flights out of Mitchell International from 32 to 18," or 56%. Frontier announced further layoffs in conjunction with this route change: up to 446 Milwaukee-area employees were affected by the job cuts that occurred between April 15 and 30, 2012.
Republic Airways spinoff of Frontier
In an effort to focus on regional contract flights for major carriers, Republic Airways Holdings announced in January 2012 its intention to sell or spin off Frontier. On January 26, 2012, Republic Airways Holdings appointed former US Airways and Gate Gourmet CEO David Siegel as President and CEO of Frontier Airlines. Republic also added new senior officers for Frontier's finance and commercial team, among other changes in the executive leadership team. Siegel and other Frontier executives moved to Denver where Frontier is headquartered in order to facilitate management of all aspects of Frontier during its separation process from Republic and continue its transformation into an ultra-low-cost carrier.
Trenton and Wilmington bases
In November 2012, Frontier started low-frequency service between Orlando International Airport and Trenton–Mercer Airport near Trenton, New Jersey, which, at the time, had no commercial service. Frontier later expanded service several times from Trenton, and as of June 2016 services 11 destinations. Frontier currently bases three aircraft in Trenton. Trenton Mercer Airport lies roughly equidistant between Philadelphia International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.
In July 2013, Frontier started service from Wilmington-New Castle Airport near Wilmington, Delaware to five destinations, which Frontier markets as Wilmington/Philadelphia. Again, this airport had no commercial service prior to Frontier's entry. New Castle Airport lies roughly 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia International Airport and 75 miles northeast of Baltimore–Washington International Airport.
Frontier marketed both the Trenton-Mercer and Wilmington-Philadelphia airports as low-cost, low-hassle alternatives to the existing nearby commercial airports. Frontier was the only commercial carrier at these two airports.
In January 2015, Frontier Airlines cut several flights from Wilmington and Trenton. It also resumed service to Philadelphia, casting doubt on the airline's existing bases. In late June 2015, Frontier announced it had ceased service in Wilmington, stating it was not profitable.
In January 2020, Frontier Airlines announced the resumption of commercial air service out of Wilmington-New Castle Airport with nonstop service to Orlando International Airport three times a week. This service was originally supposed to resume on May 14, 2020 but due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the resumption of service has been pushed to November 12, 2020
Acquisition by Indigo Partners
In October 2013, Republic Airways Holdings entered into an agreement with private equity firm Indigo Partners to sell Frontier Airlines for approximately $145 million. According to Indigo, the transaction would further Frontier's evolution into an ultra-low-cost carrier. In December 2013, Indigo Partners LLC, through an affiliate, completed the purchase of Frontier Airlines from Republic Airways Holdings. The airline's headquarters will remain in Denver. Republic Airways Holdings subsidiary Republic Airlines no longer flies Embraer 190 aircraft on behalf of Frontier, as of January 1, 2014.
In 2014, Frontier announced it would be transitioning into an ultra-low cost carrier. Frontier will also cut several flights and jobs at their Denver hub and transition them to different markets. On January 16, 2015 Frontier announced that it will close both its Denver and Milwaukee call centers, laying off 1,300 employees and outsourcing the jobs to call center company, Sitel, which operates a large call center for Frontier in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Frontier Airlines joined Spirit and Allegiant in June 2015 by eradicating its toll-free telephone number for customer service.
In May 2015, Indigo and Frontier announced the departure of David Siegel as CEO. He had already previously turned over the role of president to Barry Biffle, formerly of Spirit Airlines. Siegel was not immediately replaced. Instead, his duties were split between Biffle and Indigo chairman Bill Franke. Biffle cited operational issues in connection with Siegel's departure.
Route system growth
In February 2015, Frontier announced that they will begin service to several destinations from Atlanta adding the airport as a focus city. In July, Frontier also began decreasing service from Washington Dulles International Airport removing the airport as a focus city. In early 2016 Frontier announced major route expansion from airports nationwide including Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Orlando, and Philadelphia. In June 2016, Frontier re-established service to Port Columbus International Airport. In May 2017, the airline announced opening a new crew base in Las Vegas in the fall 2017 to improve operational reliability and potentially create new jobs in Las Vegas. In December 2017, Frontier began service to Buffalo, New York, with service to Denver, Colorado, and Florida, including Miami, Fort Myers, Orlando, and Tampa.
Winter storm in 2016
In December 2016, a winter weather event disrupted fleet operations, causing Frontier to delay or cancel up to 70% of their flights during the peak of the crisis, many without any advance notice. On the weekend of December 17, the storm caused major delays at Frontier's Denver hub, and the effects of the storm were felt throughout the fleet. Flights were delayed or canceled at airports across the country, as in some cases, planes were ready to depart, but there were no rested flight crews available to service the flight. The head of Frontier's pilot's union issued a statement criticizing the companies' handling of the event, comparing the airline to a "house of cards". Frontier received over 30,000 refund requests for canceled flights resulting from the event.
Dave Siegel took the chief executive officer role in January 2012. Siegel's tenure ran through May 2015, when he left for personal reasons and was succeeded by the company's chairman, Bill Franke, who would manage strategy and finances. In April 2014, Barry L. Biffle was appointed as the company's president, reporting to Siegel; after Siegel's departure, Biffle was charged with managing the company's day-to-day operations.
Former regional carriers
Chautauqua Airlines operated up to 12 Embraer 135 and 145 jets out of Milwaukee. Frontier began branding these flights as Frontier Express in the spring of 2011. With the pull-down of the Milwaukee hub, the only route that continued to operate with a Frontier Express ERJ-145 jet was Milwaukee to Rhinelander. However, Frontier service to Rhinelander ended on January 3, 2013, and Chautauqua transferred the remaining aircraft to other partners.
In February 2002, the airline launched its first regional product, Frontier JetExpress, initially operated by Mesa Airlines using CRJ-200 regional jets. Similar to "express" operations of other carriers, Frontier JetExpress was targeted for markets to and from Denver that do not generate traffic sufficient to support Frontier's smallest mainline jet, the Airbus A318, but could still offer lucrative business with a smaller jet.
The initial JetExpress partnership with Mesa ended in January 2004, when Horizon Air was selected to operate the routes. Horizon utilized slightly larger CRJ-700 regional jet aircraft on these routes. In August 2006, Frontier and Horizon ended their partnership. While Frontier was generally pleased with Horizon's operation, the carrier decided that it needed to revisit the agreement and find a provider with additional regional jets to grow the operation. The last of the CRJ-700s was returned to the Horizon Air fleet on November 30, 2007.
On September 6, 2006, Frontier created a new division of the holding company, known as Lynx Aviation, to operate Bombardier Q400 aircraft beginning in May 2007. On December 5, 2007, Lynx Aviation received its operating certificate from the FAA. Lynx began passenger operations on the morning of December 6, 2007.
After commencing operations, Lynx added service to 12 regional destinations: Albuquerque, Aspen, Billings, Bozeman, Colorado Springs, Durango, Fargo, Jackson Hole (Seasonal), Oklahoma City, Rapid City, Tulsa, and Wichita. Two additional cities, Omaha and Salt Lake City, were served by Lynx Aviation along with Frontier Airlines mainline service.
In 2012, the Lynx Aviation operation was folded into Republic Airways Holdings subsidiary Republic Airlines. The remaining Q400 aircraft were withdrawn from Frontier service and placed in service for United Airlines flying as United Express.
In 1997, Maverick Airways was operating code share service for Frontier with de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7 STOL capable turboprops between Denver (DEN) and two destinations in Colorado: Grand Junction (GJT) and Steamboat Springs (SBS). However, the service was short lived as Maverick encountered financial challenges and then ceased all flights.
The key available trends for Frontier Group Holdings, Inc. over recent years are shown below (as at year ending December 31), although full annual accounts have not been published since Frontier has been owned by private equity firm Indigo Partners.
|Net profit (US$m)||−60||−248||17||140||146||200|
|Number of employees (FTE)||5,200||4,400||3,614||3,653||2,981||3,163|
|Number of passengers (m)||12.0||11.4||10.7||10.8||12.2||13.2||14.9||16.8||19.4||22.7|
|Passenger load factor (%)||79.6||80.4||83.6||87.1||88.8||90.6||90.4||88.0||87.2||86.4||85.4||86.1|
|Number of aircraft (mainline) (at year end)||62||51||55||52||54||61||66||98|
* Year ending March 31
In July 2017, Frontier announced 21 new cities and 84 new routes. These cities include Buffalo, Charleston, S.C., Pensacola, Jackson Hole, Palm Springs, San Jose, Reno, Little Rock, and Tulsa. Destinations that saw a significant bump-up in new service include Austin, Cincinnati, Long Island/Islip, N.Y., Miami, Orlando, Providence, San Antonio, and Tampa.
By Summer 2018, Frontier flew to a total of 314 new non-stop routes serving 82 cities, which aimed to serve 90% of the US population within an hour's drive from a Frontier flight. Frontier used planes from a $15 billion order to fly these routes.
|Rank||Origin airport||Seats||Annual change|
|3||Las Vegas, Nevada||1,797,154||33.7%|
|9||Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina||605,274||35.0%|
|10||Fort Myers, Florida||579,096||29.8%|
|Airbus A320neo||58||87||186||Remaining 85 to be delivered between 2021-2026.|
|Airbus A321neo||—||30||240||Deliveries from 2021 to 2026.|
|Airbus A321XLR||—||18||TBA||Deliveries begin in 2024|
During the 2011 Paris Air Show, Republic Airways Holdings ordered 60 A320neo aircraft and 20 A319neo aircraft for Frontier. In 2014 the airline ordered 19 Airbus A321ceos. In October 2016 Frontier Airlines took delivery of its first Airbus A320neo aircraft and became the second US operator of the type after Spirit Airlines.
On November 15, 2017 Frontier Airlines announced a $15 billion order for 134 additional A320neo family aircraft. The order, slightly revised under new owner Indigo, consists of 100 A320neo and 34 A321neo. The order also includes the conversion of the remaining A319neo to A320neo. With this order, Frontier Airlines fleet has industry-leading fuel efficiency. The fleet is also one of the most modern and young, particularly in comparison to other low-cost carriers,[nt 1] at an average age of 5 years as of 2018[update].
Frontier Airlines has operated the following aircraft types:
|Airbus A318-100 ||11||Airbus A320||2003||2013|
|Airbus A319-100 ||49||Airbus A320neo||2001||2020||Disposed to American Airlines|
|Boeing 737-200 ||12||Airbus A320||1994||2006|
|Boeing 737-300 ||19||Airbus A320||1995||2005|
|Embraer E-190||10||Airbus A320||2010||2013||Operated on behalf of Frontier by Republic Airlines|
|Bombardier Dash 8||11||Unknown||2007||2012||Operated on behalf of Frontier by Lynx Aviation|
Frontier was the launch customer of the Airbus A318; between 2003 and 2007, they took delivery of 11 of the type. Retirement of the type began in 2010 and was completed by autumn 2013. All of Frontier's A318 were parted out for scrap. At the time, the five youngest examples had spent less than two and a half years in active service, while the oldest two were just over ten years old.
From 1994 to 2001, the airline's livery consisted of green script "Frontier" titles on the forward fuselage, a small "Spirit of the West" slogan, and wildlife photography on the tail of each aircraft. Most Boeing 737 aircraft featured different imagery on both sides.
Beginning in 2001, a new livery was introduced on the airline's new Airbus A319s, with large silver "FRONTIER" titles on the sides of the aircraft, and the airline's "Spirit of the West" slogan, later changed to "A whole different animal." The animal tails were retained, although only one image per aircraft was now used. Though the airline's Boeing 737s remained in the fleet until 2005, none were repainted into this livery.
In April 2013, Frontier introduced a modified version of that livery, keeping the iconic animals on aircraft tails, but dropping its former slogan and replacing "FRONTIER" with "FLYFRONTIER.COM", the company's website, in support of new marketing that focused heavily on the airline's web presence. This livery was only painted on a few newly delivered aircraft. Aircraft in the older livery received "FLYFRONTIER.COM" titles on engine nacelles.
On September 9, 2014, Frontier introduced an updated livery, as part of a rebranding that saw the spokesanimals' roles increase. The new livery reintroduced a green "FRONTIER" typeface to the fuselage, featuring the stylized "F" designed by Saul Bass for the original Frontier in 1978. Each aircraft features the name of the animal featured on its tail near the nose of the aircraft for easier identification. Currently about twenty five aircraft in the Frontier fleet feature the new livery.
Animal concepts used in the livery extend into Frontier's marketing as well. Each animal has a specific name. Animal aircraft used in their radio and television commercials include Jack the rabbit, Grizwald the bear, Foxy the fox (for whom Jack has a crush), Flip the dolphin (who always gets stuck going to Chicago rather than the warmer climates the others are going to), Larry the lynx, Hector the sea otter, and Sal the cougar. New additions are Penguins Jim, Joe, Jay, and Gary, a barbershop-style quartet, singing the praises of EarlyReturns to an audience of Frontier's well-known characters from the "a whole different animal" campaign, Hector the otter, advertising Frontier's expanding service to Mexico, and Polly the Parrot, who won the new animal audition in 2012.
At 19″ wide, the middle seats in the airline's Airbus 321s, A320s, and A319s are wider than the window and aisle seats and, as of July 2015 when the airline began installing them, are the widest middle seats of any airline in the U.S. The A321ceo and A321neo, utilized on longer flights, features industry-standard seat pitch of 30"-32". The airline uses a seat pitch of only 28″-29", the tightest seat pitch of any airline in the United States, on their A320ceo and A320neo, typically operated on shorter flights. Frontier Airlines has 28"-31" on the Airbus A319, which they are phasing out. Main cabin seats are "pre-reclined" by the airline and there are no televisions mounted at any of the seats in order to save weight.
"Stretch" row seating, available for an additional fee or complimentary for Frontier Elite Program members, features an extra 5-8" pitch, full-reclining seat, lumbar support and diamond stitching.
Frontier Miles is the frequent-flyer program for Frontier Airlines, replacing the EarlyReturns program, which existed from 2003 to 2018. Frontier Miles can be earned by flying Frontier Airlines, using the Frontier Airlines World MasterCard, or by spending at partner hotels, car rental chains, cruises, and merchants. Frontier Miles can be redeemed for flights, magazine subscriptions, and car rentals. Since February 2019, hotel stays are also part of the redemption options.
Frontier has a three-tier frequent flyer status program. The tiers are Elite 20K (earned by flying 20,000 Status Qualifying Miles [SQM] or 25 segments in a calendar year), Elite 50K (50,000 SQM or 50 segments), and Elite 100K (100,000 SQM or 100 segments). Elite benefits include free carry-on and checked bags, advance seat assignment and family seating, priority boarding, redemption fee waiver, stretch seating, Discount Den membership, and mileage multipliers.
Concerns and conflicts
Customer satisfaction and airline ratings
In 2015, Frontier was ranked in an airline quality rating report by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State University as one of the five worst airlines in the United States, especially due to its rate of customer complaints and bumped passengers. The airline also had relatively poor on-time performance, and the waiting time for help when calling the airline on the phone was reported to have risen to two hours or more.
As of 2018, one review of Frontier Airlines found the carrier made noticeable improvements in mishandled baggage while expanding its route network.
- For comparison, fleet ages as of 2018: Southwest, 10.7 years; JetBlue, 9.7 years; Spirit, 5.4 years; WestJet, 9.7 years; Volaris, 4.3 years, Allegiant, 17 years, VivaAerobús, 5.2 years; Sun Country, 14.4 years. Information from Airfleets.net: Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, WestJet, Volaris, Allegiant, VivaAerobús, Sun Country. (listed airlines from List of largest airlines in North America)
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...discontinuing the toll-free number will save it $160,000 a month – or close to $2 million a year.
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