Fron­tier Air­lines still sort­ing through mess

Some stranded peo­ple, bags en route to des­ti­na­tions

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Bruce Fin­ley and Tom McGhee

Week­end weather can­cel­la­tions con­tin­ued to plague Fron­tier Air­lines on Mon­day, as crews worked around the clock sort­ing through the mess left by arc­tic tem­per­a­tures and heav­ier-than-fore­cast snow in Den­ver that led the car­rier to can­cel 275 flights na­tion­wide.

The Den­ver-based car­rier com­pleted about 65 per­cent of its sched­uled flights Mon­day, and the num­ber will climb on Tues­day, as the air­line gets crews and air­craft where they need to be, spokesman Jim Faulkner said.

“We’re still work­ing to get crews back into po­si­tion who have been af­fected by the Den­ver weather,” he said in an email Mon­day evening.

Bags that piled up as flights ar­rived were be­ing sent on to their fi­nal des­ti­na­tions, and Fron­tier brought in ex­tra staff to help sort and de­liver bags to Colorado cus­tomers, he said.

Through Mon­day, cus­tomer ser­vice agents had re­ceived about 1,800 e-mails, Faulkner said. On Mon­day alone, calls to the air­line’s reser­va­tions lines were ex­pected to reach 16,000.

Cus­tomers were frus­trated Mon­day morn­ing by long lines at Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port ticket coun­ters that were tak­ing longer than nor­mal to re­solve.

Judy Michel and her hus­band ar­rived at 6:30 a.m. Mon­day for an 8:30 a.m. Fron­tier flight to New Or­leans, only to be told it had been can­celed, she said.

“The line didn’t move, and peo­ple were ar­riv­ing, and the line got longer and longer,” Michel said. When she fi­nally reached the counter, the agent of­fered to book them on a Thurs­day flight or re­fund the ticket.

The cou­ple took the re­fund and went to South­west Air­lines, where the last-minute fare for the flight was $1,000, twice what they paid for the Fron­tier flight.

All air­lines at DIA ex­pe­ri­enced trou­ble over the week­end be­cause of the snow, though most op­er­a­tions were back to nor­mal by 5:30 p.m. Sun­day.

Faulkner said Fron­tier was more heav­ily af­fected be­cause Den­ver, where about 60 flights orig­i­nate daily, is its largest crew base. Many pi­lots and cabin crew mem­bers were un­able to reach the air­port, spokesman Gil Ru­dawsky said.

In some in­stances, a plane was avail­able but the air­line had no crew avail­able to fly it. In one case, a Den­ver-based crew was sched­uled to fly from Las Ve­gas to Cleve­land, but the crew couldn’t get to Las Ve­gas, so the flight was can­celed.

The Air Line Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion blamed man­age­ment for the trou­ble at DIA.

“This most re­cent melt­down by Fron­tier Air­lines is due to the same ex­ec­u­tive mis­man­age­ment and mis­placed fo­cus on cost-cut­ting that has placed Fron­tier near the very bot­tom of the in­dus­try in op­er­a­tional per­for­mance and cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion,” said Capt. Brian Ketchum, chair­man of the ALPA’s Fron­tier Air­lines Mas­ter Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil.

Fron­tier’s union­ized pi­lots and flight at­ten­dants are cur­rently in contract ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Fron­tier called Ketchum’s state­ment op­por­tunis­tic.

“While this win­ter storm was worse than fore­casted, this rhetoric is com­mon­place in air­lines go­ing through contract ne­go­ti­a­tions with their pi­lot group,” the air­line said.

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