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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Nicon Andritsakis

A Bumpy Climb: Frontier Airlines Return to Viability

Updated: May 28

Frontier Airlines has been on a bumpy roller coaster ride for the last few years post-pandemic, its strategy of flying to leisure destinations on top of a decently strong Denver hub has run its course, and profit margins (say nothing of Wall Street's patience) are thinning.

From Best to Worst to...Respectable

Ever since Frontier came out of Chapter 11 and a disastrous period of ownership with Republic Holdings, it has transformed itself into an Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC), intending to provide the absolute lowest price to passengers, and unbundling fares so passengers would have to pay for extras such as seat assignments, checked bags, carry-ons, etc. Jobs would also be outsourced en masse. Both call centers were closed, first replaced by a third party, then completely shutting down all phone access to the airline, preferring to handle customer service duties over social media chat avenues.

Now, Frontier is doing an about-face. It's now trying to attract more business travelers as it revamps it's operation into a more focused out-and-back system throughout its hubs and major focus cities (like it had before it went down the ULCC path), introduces a new BizFare product that is only available to business travelers through their company's travel management systems or their online booking tools, and returns to hopefully being what it once was a great and affordable other option to flying the Big 3 domestically.

When Frontier first returned to the skies, its sole hub was Denver. Everything went in and out of Denver. In the early 2000s, a second hub was opened in Cancun, which served dozens of US cities. There were also rumors floating around in the offices on Tower Road in Denver that another hub in Orlando or Chicago/Midway would be next. That never happened.

Media Courtesy of Frontier Airlines

Fast forward to now and Frontier is all over the place, operationally. It's a point-to-point system on steroids. Planes (and crews) traverse between bases multiple times throughout a single week, a lot of times you'll see a certain tail do an old school hop like Southwest used to do, 6-7 flight segments a day, and if ANYTHING causes that plane to be late from the first flight, the effects snowball and the delays cascade from what was a small delay at first into hours long by the end of the day, depending on what the cause of the initial delay was, and if there was anything else that slowed the plane's progress down later that day.

As of a few weeks ago, Frontier decided enough was enough and will now reform its operations back into an "out and back" model, where planes from one base fly out to their destinations and return to base. Simple. Cuts down on reliability issues, improves utilization, AND here's the kicker, has more control over their pricing yields.

Photo Credit: George Andritsakis

Which brings me to the next part of Frontier's turnaround.

Frontier has unveiled a new fare structure. They've also turned the phones on again for any fliers who have Elite status, or anyone flying within the next 24 hours, or has recently completed travel. That's a great start. That was the biggest beef of all from travel agents who were stuck trying to find help for their travelers on chats on Social Media (where there have been reports of people scamming anyone who needed help and leaving a message on the various social media profiles (I have been targeted as well, but saw them for what they were).

The new pricing structure looks interesting too, especially with Frontier not charging and change or cancellation fees. The pricing looks like it is far more transparent under these 3 new levels (pictured below) than it used to be, and for kickers, Frontier is also throwing in a "For Less" price guarantee, where if you find a lower fare anywhere on the same route and same date you are searching for, you can receive 2,500 Frontier miles. The only caveat though is the miles don't get deposited into your Frontier Miles account until travel has been completed.

By the looks of things from this trained eye, Frontier is working hard to turn itself around. What I would have loved to see though, is a return of an in-house workforce instead of everything contracted out. When you actually belong the the company you represent, you work better, harder, and smarter. There's a loyalty aspect there. Granted loyalty goes only so far as it can be bought and sold, but still, I remember how I acted when I worked for the actual airline myself versus when I was relegated to off-shoot 3rd party contractors. HUGE difference.

The Travel Genius Opinion:

This Frontier Airlines (not to be confused with the original Frontier that ran from the 1940s to 1986), has been on a wild roller coaster ride throughout its now 30-year history. I have been a supporter of it since its inception, and even though I've seen and heard so much about them both good and bad, there's always a soft spot in my heart for them. I really hope this turnaround works for them. I do love the UpFront Plus seat selection, where if you book the Business Bundle Fare, you get automatically, a seat in the first two rows, either a window or aisle as the middle is blocked off. I just wish they'd do something about how awfully uncomfortable those Recaro slimline seat cushions are...ah well, maybe in the next fleet renewal.

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