Ultra-low-cost Frontier Airlines has just unveiled an ambitious plan to add 42 new routes this spring — including nonstops between San Francisco and Atlanta (for just $79 each way!) — amid fresh speculation that it could be setting the stage for a possible merger with Spirit Airlines.
Denver-based Frontier was suffering hard times early last year as an ultra-low-cost carrier with dismal on-time performance and soaring passenger complaints. But last spring, Frontier replaced CEO David Siegel with Barry Biffle, who had been instrumental in turning around Spirit Airlines when he served as its executive vice president and chief marketing officer.
Since then, Frontier has made significant improvements in its operations, with better on-time performance and a drop in passenger complaints. To counter the image of Frontier as a airline serving just one market — the ultra-price-sensitive passenger — the carrier last summer came out with a new $49 add-on amenities package called The Works that targets business travelers. It includes a carry-on bag, a checked bag, beast available seating (including extra-legroom Stretch and exit rows), a waiver of change fees, priority boarding and full refundability.
Frontier has also been fine-tuning its route network, turning its focus to expanded operations at places like Atlanta and Los Angeles, while simultaneously shrinking operations from its Denver home base.
Added to all this came the news this week that ultra-low-cost rival Spirit Airlines has replaced CEO Ben Baldanza with Robert Fornaro, who previously ran AirTran Airways and shepherded it into a merger with Southwest Airlines. And the result is fresh speculation that a Frontier-Spirit merger could be in the works.
Anyway, to get back to Frontier’s big route announcement, here are some of the highlights: It includes new Atlanta-San Francisco and Cleveland-San Francisco service starting April 15, and Cincinnati-San Francisco beginning April 14. Other new routes from Atlanta and their starting dates include St. Louis, Memphis and Houston Bush Intercontinental (all April 14), and Raleigh-Durham, Phoenix, Milwaukee and Kansas City (all April 15). In most cases, flights will operate just three or four days a week — not exactly the kind of schedule that brings in business travelers.
Other new markets for Frontier include Raleigh-Durham to Philadelphia and Orlando; Phoenix to Detroit, Portland and Seattle; Cincinnati to Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles; Cleveland to Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Portland; Kansas City to Chicago O’Hare and Philadelphia; Portland to Chicago; Nashville to Chicago, Orlando and Philadelphia; and Milwaukee to Philadelphia and Dallas/Ft. Worth. You can see the full schedule of new services here.
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